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eNews.

– Be Connected. –

A message from the Dean of Teaching and Learning 8 Feb

The Importance of Independent Learning

One of the most important responsibilities of any good school is to provide an environment where young people can learn how to think and act independently. Good schools need to prepare young people not just for assessment, but for ‘jobs that don’t yet exist . . . using technologies that haven’t yet been invented . . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.’ (Richard Riley, Secretary of Education under Bill Clinton). Good schools need to teach students how to learn and to think. It’s a challenging task, given where education has been in the last 30 years.

I’m sure you remember the days when you were a student. There were hardly any workbooks, model exam questions or answers, or special student ‘workshops’ on examination techniques. Our teachers left us pretty much on our own to come up with solutions and answers. There were times when we had to make our own notes and devise our own questions. We developed into resourceful, creative and independent learners. Over the last thirty years, however, schools have been under enormous pressure to deliver content-heavy curriculum and implement testing regimes to ensure students are making demonstrable progress. The result has been that the skill of ‘learning how to learn’ has taken a back seat, but it cannot remain there any longer.

If we want young people to become self-directed, adaptable, and able to learn quickly, think critically, communicate effectively and innovate, we need to ensure that we take every opportunity to create more independent learning environments. To do this, we need to adjust our mindset – all of us; parents, students and teachers alike. This not an easy task!

As teachers, we tend to find ourselves instinctively helping the students we teach as soon as they have a problem. We want to ensure their learning journey is smooth and we want to do whatever we can to aid their understanding. However, excessive help does not support student learning. In fact, it achieves the opposite: it denies students the opportunity to think for themselves. It stops them having to work through difficulties or solve problems. The implicit message is that there will always be someone there to do it for them. There are also other problems associated with excessive support:

  • Students cram for exams with no understanding of content
  • Students do not learn the context of what they are being taught
  • Students have problems with higher-order cognitive processes – synthesising, analysing, evaluating and justifying
  • Students often wait for the teacher to teach them and won’t actively pursue knowledge or answers to questions themselves

Independent learning is about students being active rather than passive learners. It is about them working out the answers rather than being told them. It is about them wanting to study because they want to understand more, rather than because they want to pass an exam.

Independent learning is not an easy option – it is tough, and the role of the teacher is critical. In creating an environment that supports independence, teachers must decide whether or not to intervene when a student gets stuck. Sometimes it will be appropriate to intervene, but sometimes it won’t. There will be times when the student feels out of their depth, but as they develop new skills and greater resilience, they will begin to understand the subject and make connections. In our professional development days at the start of this year, we encouraged teachers to set challenging tasks but not to jump in straight away with the answers when girls find this difficult. Students need to recognise and understand their role as learners.

Thus, please support us as we encourage independence in learning. Please encourage your daughter to:  

  • Stretch herself - to appreciate that learning is often uncomfortable and messy and doesn’t always lead to the right answer straight away
  • Take responsibility for her own learning – to source information for herself and exercise her own thinking skills when creating study notes, and writing and editing her work
  • Take risks – to think, give it a go, stumble, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes

Ultimately, providing students with excessive help robs them of their true potential. In a future where the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, a critical mind and capacity to think quickly and innovatively are a student’s best assets.

Years 7 – 12 Assessment Information

Where do I access my daughter’s assessment information?  

Assessment dates for Years 7 – 12 are finalised at the end of the second week of every term. To locate your daughter’s assessment information, please select the Assessment tab in the SEQTA Engage menu and select Upcoming. You can personalise your view by selecting either “cards” or “list”.

The information listed on this page is your daughter’s personalised exam and non-exam block assessment tasks for Term One. If you feel an item is missing, please contact your daughter’s teacher. All assessment information has been reviewed.

What about the exam timetable?

Examination information for Years 10 – 12 will continue to be published as a PDF document and attached to the Middle and Senior Years Calendar. Years 10 – 12 examination timetables are published exactly one month before the commencement of the examination block.

For questions regarding assessment information, please contact your daughter’s teacher or the relevant Head of Department.

Ms Tonia Gloudemans
Dean of Teaching and Learning