Academic Care in actionJohn Blois
Academic Care is an important part of Trinity’s ecosystem of support for students. The Academic Care team works hard to ensure that Trinity’s Academic Care strategy is carried out effectively.
Andrew Martin’s Motivation and Engagement Wheel underpins much of Trinity’s approach to Academic Care, while three crucial tenets underlie this wheel:
- Motivation is not purely inherent; it is influenced by external factors (like the learning environment)
- Fostering deliberate engagement behaviours can in turn increase the feelings and cognitions associated with motivation
- Ways of thinking or dispositions are learnable and teachable.
While Trinity’s Academic Programme has been shaped by a lot of pedagogical discussion and learning theories, it all comes to a head in what’s really happening in the classroom. Students are asked to answer three questions:
- How do you feel about your learning? (Affective motivation)
- What do you think about your learning? (Cognitive motivation)
- What are you doing about your learning? (Behavioural engagement)
“We really push back on the idea that the way students ‘feel’ about academic challenges is where the discussion ends,” Mrs Williams says. “When they say ‘I don’t feel good about maths’, we ask them to step into the routine of engagement behaviours to shift the way they think and feel about the challenges.
“We start with what they’re doing and then work backwards … how are your behaviours changing the way you think and feel?”
“We believe that self-efficacy is a key predictor of academic performance. Students can say ‘I believe I have the skills to step into the learning challenge.’”
For this reason, teachers also provide academic engagement feedback to students for every subject on every semester report to help guide them as they look to step into the challenge. Every semester, students receive feedback on the ways they are demonstrating the behaviours of self-management and task-management, as well as persistence and personal learning focus.
Mrs Jessica Ford, Head of Academic Care at the Preparatory campus wholeheartedly agrees with the importance of self-efficacy:
“We want all boys at the Prep School to be known, but also to know themselves. Academic Care provides a framework to foster this.
“One way the Preparatory school teachers have focused proactively on Academic Care is through understanding learner agency. Together they defined the characteristics of agency as learners who are persistent, self-aware, independent, resilient, and curious.
“Our teachers work together to create conditions to support learners, in their different contexts, to achieve these characteristics. We reflect on these conditions when we plan, teach and evaluate learning experiences. This process supports teachers in empowering agency, ultimately enabling a learner to know themselves well and understand how they can grow”
“Ultimately, the strength of Academic Care lies in our teachers. We value collaboration and it is during the time when teachers meet to discuss the students in their classes that the most powerful impact is made. In these conversations, we ensure that learning experiences are not just a repeat of previous years, but specific and targeted towards all learners in that cohort.
“Another strength of the programme is how data-literate our teachers are. Our teachers consistently and regularly compare different forms of assessment and data to monitor students, celebrate growth, and identify those who are academically or socially vulnerable.”
Ms Miriam Cross, recently appointed Leader of Academic Care at the Junior School, agrees that it’s this data that’s driving the Academic Care programme now, and into the future.
“We’re able to use data to look at the Junior School as a whole and then use it to celebrate the successes that we already have in terms of our growth and progress,” she says.
“As an individual teacher you look at your students and foster that growth, but then you pass them onto the next teacher at the end of the year – instead, we’re looking at the whole picture so that we can pass on all the information as they student moves to the next stage of their learning. All the data travels with them when they head to the Middle School.”
For teachers at the Junior and Prep campuses, it can be easier to get that full view of a student’s academic journey, but teachers in the Middle and Senior Schools rely on the data from the younger years to know how best to tailor their teaching and spot any ongoing patterns.
“We’ve got so much data and we’re always collecting more – but it’s important to have someone like Ms Cross in the Junior School and Mrs Ford in the Prep School to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Mrs Williams says.
In the Middle and Senior Schools, the Academic Care team is working to help visualise key pieces of academic engagement and performance data for every student.
Mrs Williams says that all of this work surrounding data is helping them hone their understanding of what data monitoring can do so that they can build all teachers’ capacity to use that data and teach students the skills to thrive on their own learning journey.
“We have to make sure that we’re creating the conditions that students can be the best learners they can be.
“Academic Care is about zooming in and zooming out. When we zoom in on the data, we can understand more about the individual student and when we zoom out, we can also understand the needs of a particular class or cohort of learners: Academic Care is about being responsive and agile.”
The Academic Care programme is contextualised at each campus – the care that students in the primary years need can be very different from those in the senior years, after all – but the programme holds the same weight across the entire School, with a focus on equitable care.
“In order for anything to grow, it needs to be cared for and nurtured,” Mrs Williams says. “Academic Care is about fostering growth for all students by promoting independence and reflection, monitoring individual progress, celebrating personal growth and providing opportunities for additional support. In these ways we can develop a rich environment of academic nurture and care.”