FIS Approaches to Teaching & Learning

Excellent teaching, including the development of the learner attributes, is the single most significant factor impacting on learners’ academic performance and personal growth that a school can influence. Successful schools, and successful school systems, develop and nurture highly skilled teachers who are encouraged to be creative professionals working in a collaborative culture.

More information, please follow the link: Cambridge Approaches to Learning and Teaching 

The most effective teaching practices and learning environments challenge learners’ thinking beyond what they could achieve independently. The role of the teacher is to support (sometimes referred to as ‘scaffold’) student learning in what Vygotsky (1978) described as the ‘zone of proximal development’. This is
the area of challenge beyond what the learner can manage on their own but achievable with the help of a skilled other person.

Teaching and Learning Strategies

Teachers need to employ a variety of teaching strategies in the classroom. This will normally include carefully designed individual learning activities, group work and whole-class instruction. The key element is the quality of learner engagement and the opportunities provided for feedback between the learner and teacher to guide the next learning steps. Whole-class instruction can be a highly effective instructional approach if it includes discussion and learners have the opportunity to respond and contribute.

Attributes: Confident, Responsible, Reflective, Innovative, Engaged

The purpose of the Cambridge learner and teacher attributes is to support the development of five powerful and highly desirable learning habits that will inspire students to love learning and help them to lead fulfilled and successful lives. Students who demonstrate the attributes habitually and skillfully employ a broad range of cognitive skills and socio-emotional skills (including personality qualities such as resilience, self-motivation and self-regulation) towards effectively managing their performance.

The reflective attribute highlights the importance of learners understanding themselves as learners. This requires them to constantly reflect on their learning and accurately judge their own progress. They are able to employ a range of strategies to overcome the learning challenges they will inevitably face. Becoming a reflective learner also requires being confident, responsible, innovative and engaged.

Excellent schools support the development of interdisciplinary understanding by expecting teachers to plan collaboratively. Teachers need to understand what their colleagues are teaching to a particular year group in order to make connections with their own classes. Some schools identify interdisciplinary links in the curriculum. This may be done in an informal way with individual teachers sharing their teaching plans in the staff room, or during meetings scheduled for this purpose.

One simple example of this would be where students have learned some statistical skills in mathematics, and the geography teacher makes them apply this knowledge to their geography coursework, thereby reinforcing the concepts.

Curriculum planning is very important when it comes to choosing the activities, courses and qualifications that will enable learners to draw on their experiences across the curriculum in order to think in interdisciplinary ways. Learners need to be challenged, required to produce extended project work and make presentations on their findings, working collectively and individually on different assignments. This is the approach adopted in Cambridge Global Perspectives.

Concepts are a way of categorising things to make sense of a complex and diverse world. Through this grouping we create a shared framework for understanding, communication and action.

Part of effective teaching, supported by effective curriculum and assessment planning, is identifying which concepts are most important or ‘key’ for a particular developmental stage of learning. Cambridge syllabuses help scaffold learning through identifying important concepts. However, teachers need to adapt these to their own circumstances and incorporate them into their lesson planning and instructional design. Thinking carefully about key concepts can help teachers and heads of department to better understand their subject
discipline, and to support their learners’ progress. Key concepts help create an understanding of the structure of a discipline, providing opportunities to link, review and put knowledge into context.

Students need to learn to function effectively as team members and leaders, as this is an important ability in life and the workplace. They also need to learn to solve problems collaboratively.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2013, p. 6) defines collaboration as follows: ‘Collaborative problem-solving competency is the capacity of an individual to effectively engage in a process whereby two or more agents attempt to solve a problem by sharing the understanding and effort required to come to a solution and pooling their knowledge, skills and efforts to reach that solution.’

Collaborative problem-solving requires teamwork where individuals actively, responsibly and productively work towards a shared goal. Individual responsibilities may change as progress or obstacles are met. The skills required to be an effective collaborator are different from those required to be a good individual learner. Students need to be able to define the problem and make sure they have a joint understanding of what is being asked, think critically as a group, and communicate and reflect on how well the group is progressing towards solving the problem.