Engaging students in the reflective process

“I teach; you learn!” was very much the mantra of most of my teachers in my school days. Thankfully, it is very different now: not only is the idea that teachers should be constantly discussing and thinking about their work (the reflective practitioner, to use eduspeak) firmly embedded, but much good work is going on to ensure that students too are engaged in this reflective process. So what a delight to find myself at a Dunhurst Academic Forum, where Kathy Misson and Kate Olphert spend half an hour with Group 3s (year 6s) exploring a range of things to help them understand their own learning. First it’s learning styles: so the Group 3s are asked to put in rank order statements about how they learn – “I learn best by doing things/listening/watching.” Much good chat and discussion, with the children moving around the room to find others with comparable learning styles. This is followed by a class discussion about which subjects and activities they like doing best and then thinking about their learning styles to see what correlation there might be. Then, in the final section, they are looking at the (anonymised) work of the Group 2s, talking about what they tell about their learning styles, whether the book’s author has a similar profile to theirs and how useful or not the teacher’s comments are. A good debate then follows about whether there are any gender-based learning style tendencies. Striking how engaged they all are – and how thoughtful the comments. Students, whose increased awareness of the part they have to play in moving their own learning forward, are now joining the Dunhurst teachers’ Teaching and Learning group. At Bedales a similar process is underway, but this time with a student T&L group, chaired by Al McConville. From today they will be involved in interviewing for new heads of department, building on a long tradition of students being involved in an advisory role in staff appointments. They aren’t always right, but very often they are. As I go out of Dunhurst I find myself in a procession of betoga-ed Group 1s, on the way out to the fields, talking of discus and javelin – what’s going on? Silly me, your laurel wreaths, white vestments and trainers say it all – greetings, ancient Greek Olympians! 

By Keith Budge, Headmaster, Bedales Schools

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.