At ZSC we aim to make learning authentic, meaningful and purposeful for the 21st Century student. Consequently, our teaching and learning is characterised by principles that are informed by practices that relate to the needs and interests of the contemporary learner.
1. Crossover Learning
We provide opportunities for our students to learn in informal settings. For example, visits, field trips and also activities in extra-curricular clubs link educational content that students have covered on their courses with real-life experience. We recognise that students’ learning from the classroom can be complemented by experiences from real life, and informal learning from outside the classroom can be more deeply understood when students ask questions and apply knowledge learned in the classroom.
In this way we encourage students to make connections in their learning which increases their interest in what is being learned and inculcates deeper learning.
2. Learning Through Argumentation (Socratic Dialogue)
Although not a new idea since Socrates lived around 2500 years ago, researchers today are saying that students can enhance their understanding of the subjects they are studying by ‘arguing’ (discussing and debating) in ways similar to professionals and academics. Argumentation helps students explore and understand contrasting ideas and opinions, and helps them to reflect on elements of others’ reasoning which deepens their understanding of what they are discussing. We use this approach to bring students’ reasoning out into the open. From a social skills perspective, argumentation also provides opportunities for our students to learn how to cooperate and participate with others, and develop their communication skills.
3. Incidental Learning
Incidental learning can be described as unplanned, or even as unintended, learning. Many teachers and Principals might think that such learning is unfocused and haphazard, and therefore not valuable. However, we know from research that it is a natural part of the way that our students process information and make sense of their world. Incidental learning relies on the strengths in the way that our brains are ‘hard-wired’ to collect information.
Our teachers use this to trigger students’ self-reflection and to make connections between what might be considered as isolated or ‘meaningless’ knowledge to bigger, coherent perspectives of content within the curriculum.
4. Context-Based Learning
Context is important for learning as it enables students to learn from their experiences. When students are given opportunities to understand new information within the contexts where they may use it, they make meaningful connections between knowledge, understanding and practice.
The problem with many classrooms is that the context is very confined to that room and to that particular period of time, and even to that particular teacher. This has implications for students’ autonomy and their independent use of what they learn in class. Our teachers contextualise learning so that students see and experience the practical applications of what they are learning.
5. Computational Thinking
Computational thinking has nothing to do with computer studies! We work with our students to break large problems down into smaller ones (a process called ‘decomposition’), because we recognise how these separate components relate to the problems that others have solved in the past (a process called ‘pattern recognition’). By engaging in computational thinking, our students learn to recognise that not all the information is required and so unimportant details can be ignored (which is called ‘abstraction’), so that they can identify and develop the steps that can be tried to reach a solution (in computational terms, this is called ‘using algorithms’).
6. Adaptive Teaching
All students are different. However, all curriculums, and most educational presentations and materials, are the same for all. In fact, a lot of what goes on in education is scripted, catalogued, sequenced and paced.
This creates a problem for the teacher when looked at from a learning perspective, as what goes on in a classroom tends to put a burden on the students to figure out how to engage with the content that does not ‘fit’ with their preferred learning style. The way learning is structured means that some students will be bored and others will be lost.
Our teachers engage in adaptive teaching which offers a solution to this problem. This is an approach where the ZSC teacher uses information and knowledge about each student’s previous and current learning to create a personalised path through the educational content, or in other words, the teacher adapts the teaching for each student.
7. Analytics Of Emotions
Students’ learning is affected by their mindsets (such as whether they see their thinking as fixed or changeable), by their strategies for thinking (such as reflecting on learning, experimenting with something or trying to formulate a principle or theory to explain an experience), and by their qualities of engagement (such as their persistence with trying to solve a problem). These play a significant role in students learning, impacting significantly on students ability to engage with the content of their courses.
All of our teachers are aware of, and respond to, students’ emotions and dispositions regarding how they see themselves when learning a topic.