High Performance Learning in the Senior School
As a High-Performance Learning School we focus not only on supporting students to reach academic goals, but to develop the vital personal characteristics that will prepare them for success, fulfillment and happiness.
Another vital area of focus has been helping students to be resilient in the face of challenges and to develop their ability to apply their subject knowledge to solve problems. Students are encouraged not to see problems as self-contained or subject specific, but to use their knowledge holistically to find solutions or complete projects. In order to develop their resilience, their thinking and planning strategies as well as vital digital skills, the students have undertaken a range of challenges and addressed questions of global relevance and importance.
Students studying the development of Castles in Britain used a wide range of subjects to design their own castle. They used their design and textiles skills to plan out their castle and to think about building materials, their knowledge of Geography to decide the location of the Castle and their artistic skills to decorate the interior.
An important aspect of HPL is that it encourages students to make their own independent decisions about how to realise their projects.
Some students drew detailed floorplans whilst others made models out of cardboard. Some developed their baking skills alongside their History knowledge by making a castle out of cake. Of particular note was the students’ willingness to use their digital skills. Given the encouragement to experiment, they used a wide range of programs, making films, animated sequences or even designing entire castles using Minecraft.
Eva G. created a castle on Minecraft (pictured above). She planned and made both the exterior and interior of the castle, thinking like an architect to design living quarters, storage and sources of food for the inhabitants. She showed excellent planning skills to collaborate with her friends during the lockdown and they helped record a soundtrack for the forces of the castle inhabitants. Molly C. chose to use film-making software to realise her Castle project. Her animation was beautiful and creative: it even included her pet guinea pig!
Equality and diversity
Issues of equality and diversity have increasingly come to the fore across the curriculum. This year students have studied questions of racial intolerance through studying the Slave Trade, reflecting upon the role of the British Empire in its development. Students examined the slave experience, undertaking independent research on the lives of slaves thinking about their living conditions, diet and the way that they were treated by their masters.
HPL encourages students to place their learning within the ‘Big Picture Questions’ of importance today. Students discussed this within the context of the Black Lives Matter campaigns. They reflected upon the treatment of statues of historical figures who made their fortunes through the slave trade, such as Edward Colston, and used their knowledge of slavery to pose and debate questions of vital importance: what should happen to his statue? Should it be removed? What are the issues with treating historical monuments in this way? In this way, HPL encourages students to understand alternative perspectives and then to have the courage to develop and defend their own personal viewpoint.
Leonie H. (Year 8) produced a particularly thoughtful piece of work that analysed the lives of slaves in the Americas. Her work stood out for the way that she intelligently combined her digital, creative and historical skills to realise the project.
Harriet C. (Year 8) created a very detailed analysis of the slave experience. What made Harriet’s work stand out was her desire to link the historical situation of slaves to the current issues facing the black communities in present day United States such as economic skills, attitudes and access to education and the importance of religion.
Another example of cross-curricular learning was the setting of a task for students to produce a Renaissance-era alarm clock. The students learned about aspects of the Renaissance including Art, Architecture and Science. They learned about Leonardo Da Vinci. Nicknamed ‘The man who wanted to know everything’ they discovered the thoughtful study habits and thirst for knowledge that led to Da Vinci making so many telling contributions in a wide range of subject areas.
They explored how Da Vinci noted down questions of interest wherever he went: truly a High Performance Learner! To end, students aimed to ‘be like Leonardo’ and use their scientific, creative and historical knowledge to make an alarm clock: of course, being designed in the Renaissance, they had to design a clock without electricity!
Grace P. (Year 8) produced a detailed plan of her clock but went further, building a working model of her design out of Lego, before presenting her ideas to the whole class.
HPL encourages students to engage in the wider world and to understand their role as active, responsible global citizens. The US presidential elections gave the students an opportunity to debate and discuss the issues of global importance and to understand further the unique issues of importance to the United States.
Students interested in politics presented the ideas about both candidates to their peers, helping their classmates to further understand the unique nature of American presidential politics. They dissected the campaign advertisements of the Republican and Democratic campaign, examined polling data and evaluated the messages of each candidate as regards the key topics of global significance including racial equality, gender rights and the response to Covid-19.
HPL encourages students to engage in the wider world and to understand their role as active, responsible global citizens.
Future-ready and resilent!
Showing resilience and persevering in the face of adversity are attributes that HPL encourages. Faced with the need to show greater autonomy when learning online, the students have positively flourished, producing work that has showcased their ability to think for themselves, plan independently and manage their time effectively. They quickly become adept at using Teams to work in groups with their peers, grasping the opportunity to share their learning with their friends and collaborating to produce work of the very highest calibre.
Faced with the need to show greater autonomy when learning online, the students have positively flourished, producing work that has showcased their ability to think for themselves, plan independently and manage their time effectively.
This academic year has been one of genuine challenge and students have been asked to think and to work in ways that would have been previously inconceivable. They have been asked to learn whilst being forced to consider the problems of global significance that no young person should have to face: problems that we did not even know existed. However, if there are positives to be taken from this year it is that they have shown truly impressive resilience in order to overcome these challenges. Teachers talk consistently to students about the need to be resilient, but nothing helps develop a student’s self-confidence than the feeling of successfully overcoming genuine challenges.
They have shown the type of genuine resilience that will serve them in good stead, and make a lasting, telling contribution to their ability to cope with uncertainty and pressure for the rest of their lives.
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