Teaching & Learning
A. Our guiding principles
The following seven principles guide our Teaching and Learning Policy:
• All learners are provided excellent teaching and learning opportunities that enable them to unlock their potential.
• while they gain mastery over core subjects and the subjects they choose at later stages of school.
• Creating conducive learning environments is as important as the pedagogical approach
• Teachers and students bring their unique abilities and cultural and social contexts to the classroom, which need to be acknowledged and harnessed.
• The school community actively seeks to remove barriers to learning and participation so that students with special education needs and disabilities have an equal opportunity to maximise their potential.
• Teaching practices must consider that not all learners learn at the same pace in planning and delivery.
• Teachers who are highly motivated and engaged in their ongoing professional
development are key to improving teaching and learning outcomes.
At Sancta Maria, we follow the three stages of planning to provide a robust program for the students.
• Long-term planning is done for the complete academic year looking at the scheme of work and allocating units to the three terms depending on the subject.
• Medium-term planning is the term-wise sequence of teaching activities considering students’ prior knowledge and skills. Learning objectives, success criteria and teaching
• Short-term planning includes creating detailed lesson plans to deliver the learning objectives for an agreed period of time, usually for a fortnight.
Our Planning Process
As part of long-term planning, the leadership team within each Program creates a broad structure for allocating teachers and developing appropriate timetables for the entire division. Subject teams get together to review and plan the syllabuses, resources and teaching and learning practices. The discussions take place within the section ( program ) but a vertical alignment of the program is done across the school involving relevant teachers.
Decisions related to homework schedule and assessments are made as part of long-term planning and are reviewed at the end of each term.
The most effective teaching practices and learning environments challenge learners´ thinking beyond what they could achieve independently. At Sancta Maria, we want our teachers to be more concerned about students in-depth learning, understanding of concepts and using the learning in their everyday life. The aim is to create life-long learners with knowledge and skills rather than a sole focus on grades. We use pedagogical approaches and teaching strategies that enable us to develop learners who are confident, innovative, engaged, responsible and reflective.
Beginning with Key Concepts
We believe in making the Key Concepts in the curriculum explicit to our students.
In doing so, we help our students make links between the different topics they are learning and also connect factual knowledge to specific context. We see the teacher’s role particularly important in directing the knowledge and the learning of the class.
Using Active Learning
Active Learning practices are at the core of teaching and learning at Sancta Maria and it is expected that all teachers, without any exception, understand and implement active learning techniques in their day to day lesson delivery. This is a shift from transmission of knowledge by the teacher to giving ownership of learning to the students to achieve deeper levels of understanding.
Active Learning techniques in our school include questioning, modelling, projects, think-pair-share, group discussions, gallery walks, silent debates, reflection journals and more.
Assessment for Learning for feedback and progression
At Sancta Maria, we follow Cambridge and the IB guidelines on assessment and feedback. Assessment for learning (AFL) or formative assessment is an approach, integrated into teaching and learning, which creates feedback for students and teachers in order to improve learning and guide their next steps. Therefore, strategies used for formative assessment are primarily meant to generate feedback which can progress learning. Our AFL techniques include self and peer assessment, worksheets, quizzes, open-ended questions, entry and exit passes, presentations, projects, etc.. We analyse data from AFL in order to identify student needs and provide feedback to students and parents. Our Assessment Policy also covers Assessment for Learning.
Metacognition means students monitoring and purposefully directing their learning. We believe that students can self-regulate their learning process by actively using planning, monitoring and evaluation techniques during learning. Self-regulation is the extent to which learners are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and the strategies they use to learn, for example mnemonics for memorisation, reciprocal teaching, self-explanation, distributed practice, etc.
The teacher’s role is to create a supportive environment in the classroom that allows for metacognitive talk by the students. They do so by modelling metacognitive practices, verbalising their own thinking and providing scaffolded tasks such as worked out examples. Understanding and implementing metacognitive practices is a vital part of teachers’ professional development plan at Sancta Maria.
Reflection is embedded into teaching and learning practices at Sancta Maria. Teachers are encouraged and guided to regularly challenge assumptions of their teaching practices in class and critically evaluate ‘what went well’ and ‘even better if’. This can happen during class as the lesson is progressing or after the lesson gets over. We believe that by using reflective practices and discussing their reflection with colleagues, our teachers can become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, and also respond better to students’ needs and preferences.
Reflective practices and tools used in Sancta Maria include self-questioning, discussing with colleagues and students, reflection journals, lesson observations, etc.
D. Learning environment
Sancta Maria has appropriate facilities, qualified educators, well-managed classrooms, learning resources and well-articulated policies to foster both formal and informal learning. The learning environment has both direct and indirect impact on learning and behaviour.We aim to provide a positive learning environment where learners feel involved, engaged and responsible for their learning while being confident and comfortable enough to fully participate in group and individual activities.
Physical School Environment
The school infrastructure which includes spacious, well-lit and ventilated classrooms, fit for purpose laboratories, well-stocked library, play areas, auditorium, dining spaces and activity rooms has been designed to:
- Contribute positively to the learning, well-being, attitudes, behaviour and motivation of our students.
- Provide a safe, caring and stimulating learning environment.
- Provide a safe, supportive and motivating place of work for all our staff.
- Reflect our values of respect, happiness, value creation and excellence.
All teachers take responsibility to ensure that their classroom is a stimulating and well-resourced place in which learning can happen with a view to:
- Engage the students and promote interest and motivation.
- Support learning in the topics being studied.
- Establish a cooperative and collaborative working environment.
- Show appreciation for the work and effort of all students.
- Recognize excellent work and help to promote high standards.
- Celebrate success.
Seating arrangements are decided by the teacher and are flexible depending on the lesson requirements. Display boards are regularly changed to represent what students are learning. Students participate in creating class rules and are expected to follow them once they are agreed. Teachers incorporate technology appropriately in their lessons to enhance teaching and make learning more effective. Classroom libraries are set up in the Early Years and Primary divisions as part of the school’s reading programme.
At Sancta Maria, we ensure each student has the opportunity for meaningful involvement in events like class presentations, assemblies, Sports Day, Annual Day, inter-house and inter- school competitions during the year. These events help in developing language skills, self- confidence, imagination, creativity and managing emotions. We welcome parents as guest speakers and also invite external professionals to interact with students on relevant themes.
Relationships among and between various stakeholders are effectively handled thereby creating a healthy environment. We use online platforms like the school IRP Fedena to share information with students, teachers and parents for regular updates. Parents are encouraged to engage with feedback given by teachers from time to time and help the learners at home or encourage them to discuss with the teacher.
Virtual School Environment
The Covid-19 situation pushed us to develop and hone our skills in a variety of digital technologies.
Online lessons and proactive use of meeting and collaboration tools such as Google Meet are now embedded in our curriculum planning. This also means that we are well-prepared for continuity in learning should there be any disruption that causes the school to close temporarily. Various CPD sessions have been organised to equip teachers with adequate understanding and practice of these tools for online classes, remote support and guidance and assessments. We firmly believe that conscious and focused use of digital technologies will enable us to make the right progress in the direction of our future goal to unlock the potential of every learner at Sancta Maria.
Inclusion is an on-going process that aims to increase access and engagement in learning for all students by identifying and removing barriers. Inclusion is about responding positively to each individual’s unique needs. With appropriate skills, training, strategies and support, the majority of students with special educational needs can be successfully included in mainstream education.
Please read our Inclusion Policy for more details about our practices and processes.
F. Monitoring and Evaluation
At Sancta Maria learning is closely monitored and evaluated across the school. The teachers are guided by a policy that has been created for maintaining parity in the school.
Through this Policy, we set out to answer the following key questions:
- Why do we monitor?
- What do we monitor?
- How do we monitor?
- What do we do with the monitoring data and information?
Why we monitor
We want to be sure that teaching and learning practices in our school are consistently high quality and meet expected standards. As a school offering the IB and the Cambridge curriculum, we engage in a formal school self-evaluation process every 2-3 years, and effective monitoring practices help us establish accountability and assess where we are along our improvement plan to fulfil our commitments to our stakeholders. Monitoring is also useful for identifying successful learning and teaching strategies and sharing good practices as well as identifying needs for CPD for the teaching staff.
The following table delineates what we monitor and how.
|What we monitor||How we monitor|
|Curriculum Planning||School leadership team participates in planning and review meetings to periodically monitor delivery of medium-term and short-term plans.|
|Lesson delivery including pedagogical approaches||Through lesson plans, lesson observations, learning walks, feedback from students and parents, students’ progress and performance, student and teacher reflection.|
|Non-negotiable tasks||Teachers are expected to carry out certain non-negotiable tasks including submission of lesson plans, student progress records, daily logs, etc.|
|Progress of students with special education needs and disabilities.||Plans agreed between teachers and the special educator and school counsellor are monitored. The program coordinators and period reports are shared with the parents.|
|Infrastructural support and class environment||Program Coordinators regularly take feedback from teachers regarding infrastructural support and resources required to facilitate teaching and learning. They may also observe classes in order to identify such needs.|
|Classwork and Homework tasks||Through sampling and checking for quality of student’s work and teacher’s corrections including quality of feedback.|
|Whole-school performance||Using data including academic performance results, formative assessment records, attendance and retention of students and teachers; feedback from stakeholders and visitors; self-evaluation surveys; social media perception reports and admissions data.|
Data generated as a result of the monitoring activities is evaluated in order to inform future planning and review of policies and practices for the whole school and individual divisions. This also feeds into the school self-evaluation programme and annual CPD plan, and serves as evidence based feedback for the school senior management.
G. Teacher development
Teacher development is central to school effectiveness and school improvement. It is key to student achievement and learning. Sancta Maria is committed to investing in teachers’ continuous professional development and this commitment is also reflected in the career progression policy for the school staff.
The different types of CPD available to teachers include but are not limited to;
- Cambridge and IB subject-specific and enrichment training – face to face and online.
- Cambridge PDQs in Teaching and Learning – to be offered within the school from July 2020.
- IB in- school training workshops
- IB Regional conferences and workshops
- Job – Alike sessions for teachers
- Short courses, workshops and longer self-study courses by other external providers.
- Conferences, seminars, webinars and similar events to enhance professional knowledge and skills.
- Inhouse systematically planned CPD throughout the year.
- Peer observation, mentoring and coaching opportunities within the school.
- Study Circles (within the division) and Subject Cliques (across divisions).
- Cambridge School Community meets and professional learning groups.
- Peer learning with other institutions within the Group.
- School partnerships and exchange programmes.
Teachers are expected to take responsibility for their own professional development. They identify their CPD needs as part of goal setting in consultation with their Program Coordinator at the beginning of the year.
CPD plans are agreed annually for the whole school and for each division, and reviewed at the end of each term. Sancta Maria has a well-articulated CPD Policy which lays out the details of funding and other forms of support. School maintains the records of Professional Development activity undertaken by teachers on a regular basis. Updates on CPD are shared during Parent Forums so that parents feel confident that their children are in good hands at all times.
H. Community Engagement
Relationships between the school and the wider community, especially between school and families have a huge impact on students’ well-being. We encourage and welcome the active participation of our stakeholders as partners in learning.
- Involving Families: Parents / Grandparents / Carers are invited to various school events like Parent Forums, Orientation Day, Curriculum Day, PTMs, Grandparents’ Day. We also welcome parents as speakers and facilitators for enrichment sessions for students and teachers.
- Subject Experts: People from other organisations who are experts in their subject areas are invited to share their knowledge with our teachers and learners. They guide students in their respective fields of study.
- Student internships: We assist our senior school students to get internship opportunities in various fields.