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A Wilmington Grammar School for Boys, Dartford 

A medium-sized selective school located around 12 miles outside central London, Wilmington Grammar School for Boys has, for some time, placed resilience, and academic agility at the heart of their ethos and ambition for their students. Their belief is that reflective learners are more likely to feel empowered, and determined to improve.  

Over the past 14 months, with its associated challenges of remote learning, ongoing uncertainty, and social isolation, these values have been put to the test.

Sarah Tame, Head of Science, signed up to pilot Collins Adapt in March 2021, to re-engage students with their learning, and encourage greater independence in their studies.

How did you use it?

We used it with our Y10s, predominantly with physics although we’ve also dipped into it for chemistry, in the following ways:

  1. For targeted follow up after a test. After every test, students are given a WWW (What Went Well) and EBI (Even Better If).  Based on a shortlist of five areas, students had to select a topic that they were weakest on, and work through it. This worked well: based on the percentage they’d achieved in the test, we told them which level to start on, and this meant that the learning pathway through the unit was set at the right level of challenge. 
  2. The Y10s also used it to revise for their mocks. Again, based on their end-of-term test, we’d given each student an analysis of their strengths and weaknesses by topic, and they self-selected the topic they wanted to revise. The purpose was to scaffold their follow up work, as they’re not good at revising by themselves at this age – they find it hard to know what they’re supposed to be doing.
  3. As weekly physics homeworks for our Y10s. All were given the same assignment although they could set the level of challenge themselves, to reflect their confidence. They’re expected to spend 40 minutes on their homework, although some chose to spend longer on it.

What Went Well?

Our high achievers felt it was tailored to them, and it offered that additional level of challenge, while those who were working at a lower level felt supported.  They’re also offered guidance and extra information when they need it: other platforms either give all the support at the beginning, or not at all. Allowing students to select their own level of challenge gives them autonomy over their learning; having the self-knowledge to select the level of challenge correctly rewards them by allowing them to progress through the unit within the allocated time allowance.

Uniquely, Collins Adapt requires students to rate their own confidence for each question they answer. At this age, students aren’t good at recognising and rating their own confidence and level of understanding, and at the start of the pilot, quite a lot of the kids couldn’t see the point of this. As the pilot progressed, we saw two positive outcomes emerge: firstly, our Y10 boys who don’t want to write down their answer if they think they’re going to get it wrong, had the confidence to ‘have a go’, because they were able to say they thought they didn’t know it. Secondly, some of the boys who lacked confidence realised that they knew more than they thought they did. One of our students said to me, “Miss, I didn’t know that I would get these right.” Some of our least-confident students were most positive about this feature of the platform.

From my point of view, one of the main benefits of the platform is that it won’t allow students to move on until they’ve got it right. I’m not that interested in the score they get at the end, it’s about knowing that they are secure in their learning, and giving that guidance when they need it. Some of our students struggled with this, and became frustrated because they kept getting it wrong, and that meant they had to keep going. This goes to the heart of what it means to be a resilient learner: developing that perseverance and determination.  

What are your plans for next year?

We’ll be using it for Y11 Physics homeworks. We structure our homeworks around a two-week programme. In the first week, they work through a topic, and refresh their learning. Using that, they create revision notes or mind maps. In the second week, they are set an online formative assessment, to check their understanding. It’s not necessarily related to what they’ve done in class; some of the content hasn’t been covered since Y9. I then look at the assessment data for gaps in their knowledge and work out who needs extra help. From next year, Collins Adapt will replace our existing online learning tool for the week 1 learning recap and assessment prep: it’s tailored to their level, it guides and supports their learning, and they have to keep going until they’ve got it right. We’ll then use another assessment tool to test them.

For our Y10s, we’ll use it as a follow up after a test, to revisit the areas they’re weak in.

We’re looking forward to continuing using Collins Adapt to continue supporting independence and resilience in our students. So are our Y11s.