Reflection on COVID-19

Mark Richards | Director of Learning and Innovation

 “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is bitterest.” – Confucius

As the nights draw on and the frost sparkles in the morning light, it is a time of reflection at SCOTS PGC.  Feedback and reflection are an essential part of the learning process, not just in schools, but for every lifelong learner. Without constructive criticism it is very difficult to identify areas for improvement.  For learning communities, it is a vital cog; being able to use feedback to determine areas to work on and being resilient enough to keep going despite setbacks enables us to work towards academic and personal excellence.

This reminds me of my favourite inventor and engineer, Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb.  Edison placed great importance on reflection, seeing each failure as an opportunity to learn something new about the problem and about himself.   This was the key to his success and eventual breakthrough.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas A. Edison

As we welcome back our Prep, Year 1, Year 11 and 12 boys and girls it is important to take time to consider the seismic shift in education that has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  This period has seen a change in how we approach education, and there have been some great successes and some things that will need improvement.

These are my personal reflections on the past four weeks:

  1. Relationships are the key to excellence in teaching and learning

More than anything, this period of Learning from Home has highlighted the importance of the social and emotional aspect of learning.  Strong, respectful relationships, both teacher-student and within peer groups, are vital to motivation but also to enable a deeper level of learning.  The most common feedback I have had from teachers is that they are missing the personal interactions with their students, but also the peer-to-peer learning that happens within the classroom.  Teaching others what you have learnt shows that you have grasped the concepts and can apply them to new situations.  You only truly understand something when you teach it.  It is for this reason that the College made the deliberate decision to concentrate on the connections and relationships during this time, reducing curriculum content and assessments.

So, for now, distance learning cannot replace face-to-face.  I have found it very difficult to read a student’s body language through a screen and give the one-on-one targeted support through a computer.  However, there are aspects of distance learning that have worked and over the coming months we will be reflecting on the experiences and continuing some of the innovative and creative practices we have been using.

  1. The adaptability and passion of our teaching staff is exceptional

I often get asked what has the most impact on learning.  According to Professor John Hattie, the Chairman of AITSL (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership), the factor that has the biggest impact on student achievement is collective teacher efficacy.  This refers to a staff’s shared belief that through their collective action, they can positively influence student outcomes.

I have no doubt, having witnessed the incredible work ethic and care for every student, that our teaching staff has a very high teacher efficacy.  We know, from observations and from our outstanding recent results, that we can improve our boys and girls.  It is part of our mission, to constantly aim higher.

  1. The College is more than just the teachers and students

These past few weeks have proven that education is more than just the physical space of a school campus, but it has also shown the importance of the greater community.  The partnership between teachers and parents is vital, we would not have been able to provide the services we have without this support.  I am forever grateful to be part of such an empathetic and engaged collective and thank everyone for their contribution.

Hopefully, this experience will arm us with the skills and attributes to weather whatever storms lie ahead and continue to sail towards success.  As a College we will never stop looking for ways to improve and trying new things, I hope you will enjoy being part of this journey with us.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Thomas A. Edison