Research School Network: The Meols Cop guide to self-regulation A collection of strategies from staff at Meols Cop High School to develop student independence.


The Meols Cop guide to self-regulation

A collection of strategies from staff at Meols Cop High School to develop student independence.

by Meols Cop Research School
on the

The sudden shift from traditional classroom teaching to the remote learning model impacted on everyone; not only the lives of people in the education profession but also the lives of parents, carers and guardians who have taken on the torch of teaching at home. From the perspective of education, the national lockdown can often be a topic of tragedy, especially in the media, with the catastrophising of children’s futures and the damnation of the disadvantaged.

It is true that there are links between academic achievement and socioeconomic background, but beyond the label of Pupil Premium’ lies a more subtle yet important characteristic: independence.

This period of remote teaching and learning has highlighted the correlation between a student’s ability to self-regulate and organise their own learning, and their ability to cope (both emotionally and physically) with the demands of online learning. Even as I write, with schools resuming face-to-face interaction in the near future, the remote learning chronicle has only exacerbated the link between independence and successful endeavours in school and wider-life.

Subsequently, this raises an important question – how can we improve the independence of our students?

At Meols Cop High School, metacognition, and effective thinking, is at the heart of our teaching philosophy.
We believe that if every adult provides students with opportunities to be independent, then students will become more resilient, more strategic, and, importantly, more determined to take on this challenge.

A team of experienced staff at Meols Cop High School have come together to present ten top tips for teachers who want to tackle the gaps by developing student independence.

1. Working Environment

As we already know, the working environment impacts significantly on one’s ability to concentrate and remain productive, but have these conversations occurred with students at your school?
Perhaps it is worth creating a student-friendly location check-list’ to share with students. Just as students need a quiet space for deep thinking, away from distractions, so too should they consider an environment to escape from work at the end of the day; this is also relevant for homework following the return to school.

2. Routines

Routines and regulations are essential for building good behaviour habits. However, students are more prone to breaking these habits without support. Encourage students to structure their working day, from scheduling regular breaks between lessons to the definitive close of devices at the end of the day.
Students should develop a routine that suits them, with special considerations for extra-curricular activities and time away from the screen. Naturally, schools provide a lot of structure for students, but are your students able to maintain this without constant support? That is the goal of independence after all.

3. Self-care

With the added pressure of assignment deadlines as students work from home, even the most studious and organised can forget to self-care. If emotions are not addressed, even the smallest of stress triggers can develop into a greater anxiety. One of the most effective ways to move from an overwhelmed and anxious state to a calm, controlled state is to remember the 3R’s: rhythmic, repetitive, regular. These types of sounds and movements actively calm the brain stem which is responsible for fight-flight-freeze responses. Also, active movements from walking, skipping or running at a steady pace to boxing, swinging, and rocking can help to alleviate stress before it becomes crippling.
In addition, are your students drinking enough water? Studies have shown clear links between hydration and mood. Our nervous system is more sensitive when dehydrated and one of the problems with dehydration is that it mimics many of the same bodily sensations that anxiety can cause. Drinking water helps us self-regulate our mood and think more clearly – essential for the working day!

4. Organise Learning

Despite the recent announcement to re-open schools and resume face-to-face teaching, the organisation of learning remains a priority. Teachers and students alike will be developing strategies from the remote learning period to take back into the classroom.
First of all, note-taking and booklets have become increasingly prevalent during online teaching, but how can we forget the past-efficacy of these tools in the classroom? Many teachers will be continuing to develop their students’ independence, putting organisation at the forefront of learning. The modelling of effective note-taking and the use of booklets can allow students to complete work with minimal guidance or support, allowing the teacher to focus on those who need it the most. Crucially, students can also be trained to make use of their notes during a demanding task, thus increasing their independence.

5. Independent Entry Tasks

Entry tasks are not a new concept, and waiting slides in the lobby have been a useful transition for a remote lesson. This is a perfect opportunity for students to not only activate prior knowledge of a topic, preparing them for learning, but also to provide their teacher with valuable feedback about their recollection of previously taught content.
For example, a teacher might provide 6 questions that link to the upcoming lesson. 3 of these questions might be to answer using information directly from last lesson, but the other 3 might challenge students to recall relevant facts from even further back. After all, how can students identify the number of protons in different elements if they cannot identify atomic numbers? How can students comment on the effect of a metaphor if they do not understand figurative language? As a pre-requisite, students need specific pieces of knowledge in order to access deeper concepts and ideas independently.

6. Deliberate practise

Since students have specific tasks at GCSE, it can be tempting to constantly focus on the big game’, and to continue trudging through entire exam papers or tasks to familiarise students with its demand. However, just as elite athletes hone in on individual processes to improve their final performance, so too must students focus on specific developments before excelling at the highest level – or rather, their GCSEs.
Mastering the basics in small-steps is essential to build confidence and resilience, irrespective of subject.
In GCSE art, students can deliberately practise the repetition of basic techniques to create foundations for more advanced skills. In primary maths, students can deliberately practise addition before calculating a perimeter. The examples are endless, but there is a constant – develop skills gradually before throwing novice learners into a task requiring expert thought.

7. Metacognition

Metacognition refers to the logical decisions and successful strategies used when completing a task that requires moderate cognitive demand. Before attempting a challenge, students can plan for success, considering their knowledge of the task (what success looks like), strategies (previously successful methods), and self (personal strengths and weaknesses).
Before an assessment, or any demanding task, give pupils time to plan and reflect on previous experiences. For example, a teacher might use prompts like: Remember the last assessment we did about… What went well for you in that attempt? … What will you improve on in this attempt?” Model the process of planning, monitoring, and evaluating before establishing high expectations for students to complete this process independently.

8. Student choice

If students are given choices, they develop an ownership of their learning. This encourages students to take more pride in their work, to put more effort into challenging tasks, and ultimately, to enjoy the learning experience more.
For example, in Textiles technology, students are allowed the freedom to explore various designers, products and materials to use in their own work.
Not only will this encourage students to consider the impact of their choices, but it also allows them to find relevance and feel more connected to the learning experience.

9. Regular reflections

Take regular opportunities to pause and reflect. It is tempting to race through the curriculum at full speed, in a desperate attempt to complete all of the content, but to what extent are students understanding and retaining the knowledge? Take time with your students to stop and think before writing/​applying knowledge; this allows them to reflect on their personal strengths and weaknesses, and to consider their strategy and confidence level.
In addition, teaching students how to self and peer assess is a worthwhile investment of time. Teaching students to hone in on specific skills, evaluate work, and provide feedback is an effective way for them to improve the quality of their own efforts. Students can even work together to learn a new piece of knowledge or develop new designs.

10. Extra-curricular opportunities

Finally, and perhaps above all else, our students should enjoy their learning. Not to say that learning is always fun – in fact, it can be frustrating and overwhelming, but the goal is for every student to embrace learning as a journey of fulfilment. If students are to become life-long learners, then what opportunities can we provide outside of the classroom to support this? Additional reading, podcasts, and videos might be provided for students to learn further outside of the classroom.
Ultimately, the goal is try to find something for everyone. There is a finite amount of time in school lessons, but there is an (almost) infinite amount of time to develop interests outside of the classroom.

What can you provide for your students?

To summarise: provide initial support, seemingly counterintuitive for independence development, but then fade out support and establish high-expectations; encourage students to reflect regularly on both their academic attainment and emotional well-being; provide additional choices for students to improve their ownership of learning and opportunities to engage in wider research.

A huge, special thanks to the staff at Meols Cop High School who contributed with their pearls of wisdom and expertise.

Together, we can share and collaborative to develop independence across the nation.

Special mentions:

Laura Compton; Katy Gall; Kate Holden; Ciara McLeigh; Josie Morgan; Andrew Norcross; Tim Roberts; Claudio Vinaccia; Holly Walsh.

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