​New Beginnings

After such a bizarre start to 2020, with bushfires, followed by the pandemic, protests and the obvious economic and social pressures that have and will continue, it is important for students and parents to regroup and reset. 

It is important to be focussed in this life and to set goals to move forward. We already know the negatives of the first half of 2020 so let’s focus on the positives. Generally speaking, more people have spent more time together as a family. We have taken the time to reconnect. I know in my neighbourhood, there are now more kids playing together, families are riding bikes together and there are more groups enjoying nature and the beach in particular. Our emotional intelligence is developed innately through our inherent need for positive interpersonal relationships. When students and staff returned to school ‘full-time’ they were genuinely excited to see each other and their social connections could be rekindled. Even the temperature check at the school gate each morning is welcomed by students, staff and parents with a smile and a ‘good morning’. It is important not to forget these social benefits from our shared experiences.

We do however need to take some educational outcomes from 2020. It is time for students to set some personal goals for the remainder of the year. I am encouraging students to treat their return to school as a new beginning and an opportunity to re-invent themselves and to ‘be the best you that you can be’.

There are two key areas students can focus on for the remainder of this year. They are setting learning goals and asking for and using feedback effectively. 

Setting Learning Goals
There is a famous quote attributed to Antoine de Saint-Exupery that states ‘a goal without a plan is just a wish’. Most schools encourage students to use the SMART method. SMART stands for specific; measurable; attainable; relevant (and rigorous, realistic, and results-focused); and timely (and trackable). Learning how to write goals in this manner takes some practice and so I encourage students to use a template in the first instance and to set short timelines. Focus on some easy wins first and by growing in confidence work at setting the benchmark a little higher.

Educational research ranks the utilisation of teacher feedback as one of the most effective strategies for improving student learning and yet most students tend not to want to read the teacher feedback and learn from it. Feedback, however, informs a student and their teachers about the student’s performance relative to learning goals. Feedback redirects or refocuses teacher and student actions so the student can align effort and activity with a clear outcome that leads to achieving a learning goal. This feedback can be informal and come through classroom conversations and notes or it can be more formal through comments on written examinations or essays. Whatever its form, it comprises specific advice a student can use to improve performance. 

These two strategies will have a profound effect on the student’s learning experiences and their outcomes for 2020. I encourage all of us to use this new beginning as an opportunity to renew ourselves and to build our best selves.

Nick Johnstone

Hattie, J., 2020. Hattie Effect Size List - 256 Influences Related To Achievement. [online] VISIBLE LEARNING. https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement 

SMART Goals Templates - https://www.smartsheet.com/sites/default/files/IC-SMART-Goals-Worksheet-9237-PDF.pdf