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Teaching and Learning at BCC

Our Director of Teaching and Learning, Elissa Vardy, writes...

After graduating as a teacher over 25 years ago, I quickly realised that teachers never stop learning. 

It is not different at BCC. Our teachers are natural collaborators, continually seeking new ways to motivate and inspire our students and deepen their understanding so they can participate in increasingly complex cognitive tasks. It is incredible to think that almost 8,800 hours of teaching time has already been spent this year within the classroom, and it is only June. Each of these hours is then reflected upon to hone teaching skills. It is a privilege to be able to walk into another’s classroom, and I am incredibly proud of the moments of brilliance I see. More often than not, I tuck these ideas away for my toolkit!

BCC uses Marzano’s The New Art and Science of Teaching: a robust conceptual framework that clearly outlines the importance of concentrating on we learn and teach rather than we learn and teach. As an example, the following should be visible in every classroom:

  • Learning goals with examples of what success looks like
  • Lesson pace that keeps the energy high
  • Clear transitions between lesson activities
  • Activities available for students who finish early
  • New content is presented in small chunks of knowledge
  • Teachers have a zest for their subject and love for their students.

We have entered the final weeks of term, and most of our students are faced with upcoming exams. So I want to share with you a new way students can organise their studies at home. This method is about ‘retrospective’ study, developed by Ali Abdaal (check him out on Youtube). The method works! I have seen students become more engaged and focused in their studies without the usual procrastination.

Traditionally, students would plan their study weeks, saying that Monday will be the Biology study day and Tuesday will be Maths, etc. Students predict in advance what type of topic they would want to be doing. This method is lacking, as you can’t control the events that pop up randomly on certain days, and you don’t know which topics will be the hardest and need more time spent on them.

In contrast, the ‘retrospective’ study method allows students to spend time with those topics which are the most difficult or haven’t been studied for a while. Thus, it gives an easy overview of a subject without having to predict anything in advance.

For a student studying Biology, they might set up their study timetable like this, concentrating on the topics rather than the dates:

With each of the topics written out, students can see clearly how many topics they need to cover. Then, when they sit down to study, they pick what they want to start with, and at the end of their study, colour code how confident they feel. For example, red: very difficult to understand and remember; orange: understood it but will forget it quickly; green: I know this and will remember it.

This is what the study timetable might look like after the first day:

When students next study Biology, they know to go straight to the more complex topics from before or start new topics. It would be best to leave green topics alone when they still have areas with a red colour code. Eventually, their study timetable may look like this. The plan should be to have everything shaded in green well before your exam.

In the following newsletter, I will be giving hints and tips for effective study. First, I will provide you with reasons why reading and highlighting don't work! Then I will give you several methods to choose from to quickly turn your 'red' topics to 'green'.