Approaches to the Senior School Curriculum: Promoting effective learning
Central to our Senior Curriculum is a commitment to a liberal and humane education such as has underpinned the development of Western civilisation for centuries. We are fundamentally conservative in our educational outlook and we believe in the primacy of the traditional academic subjects as essential devices through which our pupils can build an understanding of the world.
Although we recognise that the acquisition of skills is of critical importance in the fulfilment of our School Aims, we hold also that the assimilation of knowledge is of inestimable value. In order to support our pupils as they acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed, we reflect continuously on our practice in order to make our pupils’ learning more effective. Our work in this area is led by a dedicated Master in charge of Learning who works in concert with our Heads of Faculty and individual subject teachers in order to promote good practice and ensure a consistently high quality of teaching.
Underpinning our approach to the promotion of effective learning is a belief that pupils learn best when they actively process what they are learning. This approach aims to build pupils’ understanding rather than simply ‘spoon-feed’ facts which will be forgotten shortly after the examination. To achieve this, our teachers push pupils to think about where and how their newly acquired knowledge fits with their existing ideas, and build learning opportunities which require pupils to apply their knowledge in real-life situations.
Our teachers work continuously to develop ways to support our pupils. In this sense, our approach to teaching and learning is constantly evolving, taking as its frame of reference not just the latest findings in psychological and pedagogical research, but also from the longer view of history and its venerable dialogue on the makings of a ‘good education’.
Beyond the three processes, we further recognise that in order to be effective learners, our pupils also need to possess appropriate attitudes towards learning and to School. As such, we seek to create a school environment in which learning is understood to be of paramount importance. Here, our Tutorial Programme, our assemblies, our co-curricular programme and the very culture of our School are just as important as that which happens in our classrooms.
Mindset Aspects have become central to teaching and assessment at IPS. Mindset Aspects are five habits which we believe can be cultivated in our pupils to make them more successful learners and more effective people. There is much research investigating the habits of successful people, and we have condensed these into the five core factors we call Mindset Aspects. From the earliest opportunity we therefore exhort all our pupils to:
- Communicate with clarity and precision
- Think in a logical way, making connections as appropriate
- Consider the consequences of their actions on their academic progress
- Persist and show tenacity in the face of challenge
- Show initiative and to take calculated risks
These phrases and, even more importantly, these dispositions, suffuse our curriculum and inform our entire approach to learning.
Senior School Prep (homework)
At IPS we refer to homework as ‘prep’ because we see it as preparing pupils for the next stage of their learning. Prep is work accomplished at home or in Study Hall (following after school clubs); a positive experience and a valuable addition to the co-curricular programme. Prep has its place in a balanced education and helps give our pupils independent learning skills by developing responsibility for their own learning and self-discipline through the meeting of deadlines; skills vital for the world beyond School. Able pupils are inspired by their lessons and prep; without the opportunity to extend and stretch themselves in extra personal investigation and study they will be under-challenged.
School’s use of the Firefly teaching and learning platform allows prep set in the Senior School to be seen online by pupils and parents alike. Setting and marking prep enables our staff to assess pupils’ understanding, reinforce skills developed in the lesson and extend the work achieved in class.
As a guide, we expect Senior 7 pupils to do 1¾ hours prep each night, which rises to 2½ – 3 hours by PVI.
The Weekly Timetable
The School week is divided into 30 one-hour periods. This unit of teaching time is the optimum for an efficient timetable as it is neither too long for the younger pupils to sustain full concentration nor too short for the requirements of practical subjects. Sixth Form subjects can elect to have ‘doubles’ if it suits the needs of their teaching. Click here for a sample Senior 7 timetable.