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Reflective learners

Former Head of Teaching and Learning, Will Ings, looks at the importance of reflection in learning for both pupils and staff.

Over the past 12 months the school has been preparing for its first five-year review of the IB and, as such, we have been scrutinising and reflecting upon how the IB Diploma is delivered at Bryanston. One of the principal areas of discussion has been the IB Learner Profile and how it fits with the Bryanston method of teaching and learning. The 10 attributes of the IB Learner Profile underline the whole IB endeavour and define the type of pupil (if such a thing is not too derived) an IB graduate ought to be. 

“As IB learners we strive to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.” 

It is the last of these, the need for proper reflection, which I think is most apposite to Bryanston, as regular reflection is a part of what our pupils do. Weekly tutorials and Correction Periods (work review sessions) rely upon it and thrive because of it. There is no ‘normal’ way in which it is done, that is part of its beauty, but it is an essential part of our weekly (even daily) routine. Plans for the forthcoming week are regularly updated by a pupil and tutor when discussing the successes (or not) of the previous week’s work. Similarly, in a subject Correction Period, an academic technique or exercise is analysed, reflected upon and refined, ready for the next activity and thus, progress is guaranteed. We are fortunate that such a system ensures that a pupil never just glances at the grade given for a piece of work before consigning the piece to a file forevermore. Instead, in-depth feedback is given there and then, in real time, allowing the pupil to benefit fully from their assignment tasks.

A truly world-class school will not stop there: it will encourage reflective practice not just in pupils, but also in teachers. Pedagogical forum will become an absolutely normal part of its teaching set-up. 

At Bryanston, departments devote time in their staff meetings to such debate and sharing of good practice every week and there are various other opportunities in which reflection is both encouraged and celebrated. The now-regular Teaching and Learning discussions set out with this aim firmly in mind. Staff meet once every half of term and discuss, over a delicious meal kindly supplied by our wonderful catering team (I know that this is a fool-proof way to people’s hearts!), an issue of pedagogical significance to the school. The meeting starts with a brief digest of recent research into the given topic, before opening up for discussion. Sessions are voluntary and have been well attended since the very first meeting two years ago and now we find ourselves wondering if the venue is big enough to house the growing numbers of enthusiasts. 

It is difficult to find an IB learner profile attribute that is not well-represented in the ways both pupils and teachers learn and develop at Bryanston, but reflection is arguably the first and foremost of our particular vernacular. It is the pivot of our shared philosophy, and that is for pupils and staff.