Key Priority Areas & Developing Self-regulating Learning Skills

Successful people and organisations implement their action plan “with the end in mind” (Covey, 2004). Having clarity about where we are going sets up the conditions for us to plan the best strategy to achieve that goal. In teaching, we call this Backward Mapping. We ask ourselves three basic but important questions, 1. ‘Where do we want our learners to be by the end of period of instruction?’ 2. ‘Where are the learners at currently?’ 3. ‘How do we close the gap?’.

At a broad level, at All Saints Grammar, we aim to have all our students gain “an appreciation of the fullness of an ethical life, in an environment that is intellectually rigorous and nurturing, where every person can be the better version of themselves”. We want “our students to grow into confident and articulate individuals of strong moral character, who are inquisitive and courageous, ready to contribute positively and responsibly in a globalised world” (ASG’s Mission Statement). This is what we refer to as holistic education at our school, summarised by the ‘Better Person, Better Learner’ idea. This is our aim, our aspiration.

If that is the answer to the first question, we then get to work on the other two questions. ‘Where the student is at’ and ‘how to close the gap’ in this learning journey are complex questions to answer. Students bring with them a set of influences, attitudes, dispositions, abilities, habits, manners, etc., acquired well before they come to school. As educators we work with young people to channel what they bring with them, enhance their ability to learn, and, in time, achieve the aim we are working towards.

Not surprisingly, research in education focusses on identifying better ways to enhance students’ capacity to learn – pedagogical practices -; and identifying the factors that influence student achievement – social, cognitive, emotional.

It is abundantly documented that teacher expertise is the most significant in-school factor influencing student achievement (35%). This is the reason why our school continues to identify Excellence in Learning and Teaching as a Key Priority in our Strategic Improvement Plan. This priority area focusses on developing an expert team of educators. This factor does not work in isolation because we also know that the MOST significant factor influencing student achievement is the student themselves (at least 50%). The other factors include, home environment, peers, and friends, etc. (Hattie, 2009).

The implication of this research for us educators is that students need to be guided on how to become better learners, how to become better self-regulated learners. The educational research shows that self-regulated learning is a critical factor influencing an effective learning process. A significant number of interrelated factors influence the extent to which a person, a student, can become a self-regulated learner, including, motivation, cognitive ability, metacognitive skills, self-efficacy. Achieving successful learning outcomes depends on these factors (Black & William, 1998; Graham & Harris, 1992; Hattie, 2009; Schunk & Zimmerman, 1994; Nunan, 1989; William, 2011).

Self-regulated learners take ownership and are active in their learning.  They set learning goals, monitor their goals, regulate their cognition, motivation, and behaviour towards achieving their set goals (Pintrich, 2000; Saks, 2014).

For this reason, another Key Priority Area of our Strategic Improvement Plan, focusses on enabling Student Excellence. Our aim is to use various pedagogical practices, our assessment approaches, our feedback processes, our co-curricular offerings, and our wellbeing programs, to best enable opportunities for students to become self-regulated learners.

For the school’s efforts to have the most impact it is necessary for parents, at home, to work in partnership with teachers in achieving our aim. We encourage parents to have conversations with their children about what is being learned at school in the various subjects. In a conversational manner, ask your children to explain concepts that are being discussed, skills that are being learned at school. This gentle, friendly conversation will enable you and your child to consolidate their understanding, clarify their doubts, and identify areas that require further assistance and support from teachers. This approach at home can assist greatly in minimising the emotional overload associated with schoolwork, anxiety around assessments, and stress over the workload.

Students who learn to self-regulate, become better learners. Self-regulated learning is a key ingredient for personal and academic success.

May you have a restful break and a blessed Easter.

Mr Jaime Rodriguez
Deputy Head of School & Head of Secondary