12 November 2018

From the Head of Senior School

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest - Confucius

A key goal of assessment and feedback is to help students develop as independent learners capable of monitoring and regulating their own learning. In the Senior School we are currently trialling ongoing reporting and supplying increased feedback on assessments in Years 9 and 12. Improved feedback has been identified as a major factor in improving learning with different types of feedback working best depending on the individual's phase of learning - corrective feedback is suited for novices, process feedback is needed as the learner develops proficiency, and elaborated conceptual feedback becomes appropriate with highly competent students.

It is important to note that simply providing feedback alone does not achieve our key goal. It is only when learners actively engage with the assessment criteria and process of evaluating performance against those criteria that they are able to use feedback in a way that leads to improvement. By helping students better understand their own level of achievement, teaching students to be diagnostic in reviewing assessment results and thoughtful of the feedback supplied, they are afforded a greater opportunity to improve their academic performance.

Unfortunately, students' ability to self-assess and regulate their learning is often undermined by a lack of self-efficacy. That is, the belief in one's capabilities to organise and implement the course of action required to improve one's situations. Self-efficacy influences academic motivation, learning and achievement. Increasing student self-efficacy, therefore, is crucial to a student's success. As teachers, we can stimulate critical thinking and comprehension and thus increase student self-efficacy through a variety of strategies such as dialogic, open-ended questioning, positive reinforcement, increased availability and the flipped classroom. All approaches to teaching are encouraged at Scotch College. Reflection can build one's confidence (and self-efficacy) in one's ability to impact upon their role in improving their own learning outcomes. This, in turn, translates into higher rates of learning.

So, what does reflecting involve?

Student learning takes place through an iterative process of reflecting on how progress matches against learning outcomes, be it formative or summative. (It is also how staff review the outcomes of various programmes in order to continuously improve curriculum design and delivery). The aim is to ensure that students engage with their feedback and use it to improve their future performance. For student reflection to be meaningful, it must be metacognitive, applicable and shared with others. Metacognitive reflection it is not concerned so much with the assessment, but with self-improvement: Could this be better? How? What steps should be taken? Applicable reflection is particularly important given the nature of the Senior School curriculums. That is, the content or skills assessed will be required again, so it makes sense to address the problems identified. Finally, a reflection shared. By sharing their reflections on their academic work, students can both advise and seek help from their peers. Sharing their achievements helps those who struggled with that particular task, and sharing their weak spots helps them troubleshoot as they work through a problem set or have a peer edit a rough draft. While we do not currently ask our boys to complete this type of reflection upon the feedback they have received, there is clearly benefit in considering to in the future.

I trust you can see both the value of ongoing feedback and the corresponding reflection of it and encourage you to read the feedback supplied by your son's teachers if he is in Years 9 or 12 and, importantly, take time to read over your son's reflection.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School