Teaching and Learning Policy | The Arbor School, Dubai

Teaching, Learning and Assessment Policy

Introduction

Teaching and learning are the core purpose of what we do at The Arbor School. High quality learning, teaching and subsequently achievement are what we want for every pupil within the school. We believe that the more we havea shared understanding of what constitutes effective teaching and learning, the greater our success will be.

Aims
The key themes of our teaching and learning are:

The basics consistent expectations are our most powerful tool to ensuring a climate for learning in all classrooms.

A climate for learning – pupils make most progress when they feel respected and valued, and are developing a broad set of life-skills.

Lesson structure – clearly structured lessons promote learning.

Differentiation – our classes are made up of individual learners with a variety of needs; teaching and learning should take account of students from different cohorts and with varied abilities.

Assessment – assessment gives students clear guidance about the standard of their work and how they can improve.

Professional development – all teachers have both the right and the responsibility to engage in sustained and relevant professional development throughout their careers.

Procedures

The Basics
Setting the tone for a purposeful learning environment is critical. Students learn, progress and develop in a structured and stimulating classroom. Our shared expectations are set out below.

Punctuality and regular attendance are essential:

Sanctions for lateness apply if students arrive 5 minutes or more after the specified lesson start. Recommended sanctions can be found within the Behaviour for Learning policy.

  • Students should be dismissed no more than 3 minutes before the official end to the lesson;
  • Students must enter and leave the classroom in an orderly way at the instruction of the teacher;
  • Students should not enter the room unless a teacher is present;
  • Teachers should welcome students into the room;
  • Students must have books, planner and equipment on the desk and bags on the floor;
  • Students are dismissed only when litter has been checked and students are quiet;
  • at the end of the last session the chairs should be placed on desks in classrooms not designated for the school’s extra-curricular activities;

Taking a register sets the tone for the lesson

Aim to take a register within the first 10 minutes of every lesson:

If not formally, by calling out names, it is important that students know the register is nevertheless being taken.;

A formal record must be kept when students are absent check the absence list and inform division leaders/tutors.

A Climate for Learning:

Classrooms that are clean and uncluttered set the tone of a purposeful learning environment: a stimulating and engaging environment can be used as part of the learning process within a lesson.

Any graffiti should be reported, furniture moved to normal places at the end of each lesson, teacher desks kept clutter-free.

Displays are changed regularly (termly recommended), relating to current student work.

Appropriate health and safety procedures should be followed at all times; no teacher or student should ever stand on furniture to deal with displays.

Rooms should be kept well ventilated.

Students should be encouraged to drink water (except in Science lessons or where water may create a risk).

We believe that certain approaches improve students’ learning. They are part of our ‘The Arbor School house style’ and as such, students should be taught to:

  • Listen to each other;
  • Adopt various roles in groups;
  • Be prepared to volunteer their thoughts and opinions;
  • Respect the values, ideas, contributions and beliefs of others;
  • Give honest and positive feedback to each other;
  • Rewards recognise achievement and motivate learners;
  • And in addition, teachers should praise much more than criticise using formal and informal approaches.

Formal rewards include, but are not limited to: issuing house points; phoning/e mailing students’ parents; work on display; sending a postcard/letter home; inviting the student to see SLT for praise; ‘Breakfast with Principal’; achievement assemblies and school prizes. (Please see Behaviour for Learning policy, also.)

Informal rewards are: congratulating students privately or publically within a class; saying ‘well done’ to the whole class; positive written feedback on written work; positive comment in student planner.

Lesson Structure

Lessons, which are structured and well planned, create a purpose to learning. All lessons must be built upon the same underpinning foundations.

Effective lesson planning takes account of students’ prior learning. Dividing lessons into sections helps to maintain pace and challenge.

An appropriate structure will include:

  • A starter activity to engage students’ interests;
  • Lesson objectives that allow students to engage with the process of learning;
  • Teachers making learning objectives explicit to all students;
  • Introduction of new learning;
  • A variety of activities to embed learning;
  • A review of learning.

Lesson objectives can be discussed in a variety of ways: written or projected onto the board; orally; written by students in their books; printed on differentiated hand-outs and worksheets.

Using longer-term objectives across a topic, unit or series of lessons should be made clear and reviewed.

Opportunities for reflection upon lesson objectives and progress throughout and at the end of the lesson improves learning.

Objectives can be revisited throughout and at the end of the lesson by:

  • Students reviewing their learning against the lesson objectives;
  • Using differentiated teacher questions;
  • Students recording 2 key learning points (individually or in pairs);
  • Students being encouraged to explicitly reflect upon their behaviour: for example, positive and negative behaviour, their ability to concentrate and their motivation;
  • A range of teacher/student-led and student-centred activities.

Students should also have the opportunity to work in different ways, such as individually, in pairs, small groups and whole class situations.

Leadership, group work and teamwork should be promoted using effective models where students know their roles and which give students accountability, understanding of group dynamics, and opportunities to lead.

Differentiation

Differentiation takes into account the needs of all learners and plans to ensure that all learners are set challenging goals and make expected progress. We recognise that:

  • Different students have different needs, related to influences both within and beyond the classroom. Awareness of the needs of specific groups will enhance the provision for individuals.
  • Teachers will be aware of the needs of specific groups such as SEN, G&T and will provide the appropriate support.
  • Each subject area has a specific policy explaining the extra support and challenge that G&T students will receive.
  • Lesson planning should take into account the variety of students’ abilities and will aim to maximise progress for all.
  • Differentiation can take many forms and can often be grouped into differentiation by process (how students learn), and/or differentiation by content (what students learn).

Differentiation by process includes:

  • Providing a range of alternative tasks;
  • Deliberate grouping of students according to tasks (e.g. grouping all of the most able students together to work on a particularly challenging task; using ‘jigsaw’ grouping; mixed ability grouping for peer teaching);
  • Assigning roles to individual students (e.g. leader, scribe, Questioner, spokesperson);
  • Support provided by a TA;
  • Varying degrees of challenge within teacher questioning and response;
  • Developing and adapting resources to both support and extend students, taking into account all students’ needs.

Assessment

The aim of formative assessment is to give students clear guidance about how to improve their work and how they have been successful. Formative assessment allows the learner to reflect and then put in place strategies to improve.

Formative assessment works best when students are engaged in an on-going dialogue about their progress. In subjects with a largely practical component this dialogue will primarily be verbal; with systems in place to ensure that the feedback is understood and acted upon. Where there is less practical work, this dialogue will take place through verbal interaction and regular written feedback. Students should be actively involved in the assessment process, giving them ownership of their learning and encouraging independent learning. Formative feedback should encourage and support the individual needs of students in a constructive way and allow students to take ownership of their learning.

Formative comments should:

  • Be concise and accessible to students and highlight their achievements;
  • Indicate how improvement can be made, giving two targets;
  • Be personal by using the student’s first name;
  • Encourage and support the individual needs of students in a constructive way;
  • Refer to rubrics, mastery plans and/or mark schemes.

Students should also be given opportunities to act upon assessment. This could be done through class or homework, for example, or through time set-aside during a starter or a plenary activity to make improvements. Students can also set their own targets by themselves, or with the help of their peers/teacher; which may include further discussion, peer teaching and opportunities to redraft and improve work based upon feedback.

Moving towards mastery

Sharing understanding of assessment criteria allows students to know what they need to do to be successful and hence make more progress.

Teachers should aim to make assessment criteria explicit to students through:

  • ‘Translating’ exam board grade/level criteria into accessible language;
  • Ensuring mastery rubrics are available for each unit, and that they can be reflected upon, and ‘checklisted’;
  • Using modelling as a technique to demonstrate a range of abilities before each core piece of work or assessment;
  • Using peer and self-assessment routinely (students need to learn the skills of peer-assessment before they can assess their own work reliably);

Teachers should also be using effective and meaningful assessment records to monitor the progress of individuals over time and intervene where there is underachievement. They should also keep sufficient records of attainment to allow the planning of appropriately challenging lessons for all students and allow effective “hand-overs” if the teacher of a class or student changes.

Teachers should ensure that all this assessment information is recorded according to Arbor School policy.

A minimum of six “key assessments” each year will feed into the whole-school assessment records. The exact nature and timing of these assessments are decided by the subject team. Please see the assessment, recording and reporting policy for more details.

A key assessment should:

  • Indicate progress in a key area of the curriculum be used to provide high-quality formative feedback;
  • Have clear mastery criteria shared with students;
  • Be assigned a grade (which may or may not be shared with students);
  • Be entered into the appropriate departmental mark-book within the timescale decided by the subject leader;
  • Have high expectations and benchmarking against national and international “average” expectations;
  • Ensure that underachievement does not go unrecognized;
  • Take place both inside and outside the classroom.

Homework

Homework is an integral part of the curriculum and should be used to consolidate, extend and enrich students’ learning.

Homework should be purposeful and meaningful, and support achievement towards the aims of the current episodes of lessons. Where students are engaged in controlled assessments and other extended projects in school, they should be provided with opportunities beyond the classroom to develop the required skills further.

Teachers are expected to set homework according to the school’s Homework Policy.

Homework can take a variety of forms including answering questions, reading, extended writing, thinking, planning and researching.

Where large on-going projects are set over several weeks the teacher will ensure that students meet interim deadlines at the appropriate time. Subject and teaching tracking procedures should mean that students do not leave the majority of the work until the final deadline; regular feedback on their work as it is completed will allow faster progress. All homework must be assessed promptly after the hand-in date. Methods of assessment could include:

  • Marking by the teacher;
  • Testing;
  • Peer/self-assessment;
  • Oral feedback.

To ensure accurate recording, the setting of homework should take place in the first part of the lesson and could be revisited or fully explained at an appropriate time in the lesson if necessary.

Homework shall be set, monitored and assessed using the school homework system.

Professional Development

We recognize that our most important asset is our staff and that the effectiveness of a school is directly dependent upon the quality of teaching and learning within it. We understand that providing Continual Professional Development as well as creating a climate of pedagogical dialogue, where staff talk about and reflect upon their practice, are paramount in order to ensure that we are able to teach as well as possible and continue to improve our practice.

Our CPD vision is based on the idea of reflective and deliberate practice. While we are sure that there are certain essential elements of great teaching, we also recognize that across subjects and age ranges, there are a number of different methods and approaches. CPD at The Arbor School aims to provide staff with choice as to what they would like to develop and pursue in their own practice. Our CPD model is non-hierarchical and recognizes that different staff have different areas of expertise and interest, the ultimate aim being to disseminate these skills by creating a permanent and regular dialogue of teaching and learning.

Further reference to CPD at The Arbor School can be found within the school’s Professional Development policy.