There is a science to learning, and an art to teaching. At KHS, our teaching staff are expected not only to have excellent subject knowledge and pedagogical qualifications, but to commit to the professional learning culture we have established at the School, with such spectacular results.
There is an evidence-based scientific consensus about basic learning principles, which also highlights some common fallacies: there is no basis for different ‘learning styles’, for example, and novices in any field think differently to experts. It is a misconception to think that an 11-year-old can ‘think like a historian’; he or she may become one, but only through a rigorous process of learning based on well-established cognitive science.
To give you a flavour of our approach, we believe that pupils can only understand new ideas with reference to knowledge they already have. They retain information by connecting it with meaning, and through the right kind of regular practice in each academic discipline, coupled with effective feedback. Problem-solving in any subject is aided by a body of factual knowledge committed to long-term memory (Gradgrind wasn’t all wrong - you can’t do serious Maths if you don’t know your times tables!). The real trick is not to overload working memory (where we process new information), and to transfer that new knowledge into our long-term memories (and that is quite an art, where adolescent human beings are concerned).
Some of the most important research in the field is connected with pupils’ motivation to learn, and that is where the art of teaching really comes in. A child’s capacity to learn is intimately bound up with the beliefs they hold about intelligence, and their metacognition (thinking about thinking). That is why our entire reporting system is predicated on attitude to learning; good teachers will foster academic curiosity for its own sake, and if the attitude is in place, the rest will follow.
A teacher’s appraisal at KHS is based on the four areas of focus of our professional learning culture. These are: lesson intention, activities supported by cognitive science, modelling, and feedback. We have a collegial approach; the expectation is of sharing best practice, with teachers dropping in and out of each others’ lessons to develop their own expertise, with regular training and professional development opportunities.
As Headmaster, my academic research was very much based on the science of learning, and the art of teaching, and it is a joy for me to observe such excellence in my colleagues on a daily basis: they very regularly put me to shame, I can assure you!