The School of Research Science in Dubai is an international school that delivers the British National and American Curriculum to over 3000 students from FS to Year 13. We caught up with Lisa Tooley, Director of Secondary Education, to find out how CENTURY is supporting staff and students at the school.
What initially appealed to you about CENTURY?
When we were first shown the platform, we could really see how well it aligns with our views on teaching and learning and our goals for the future.
There were two key purposes that we initially wanted the platform to serve. Firstly, we wanted to use the personalised pathways on CENTURY to secure the knowledge that has been lost over the last two years. Secondly, we wanted to use it to obtain really clear indicators of where students’ starting points are so that we could measure progress accurately and know exactly where a class needs to start each scheme of learning to promoted individualised learning.
It is also worth noting that our school is heavily influenced by the reliable findings of educational research, in particular with our approach to curriculum intent and implementation. We do a lot of curriculum interleaving combined with prior knowledge checks through low-stakes quizzing, both of which align well with the core principles that govern CENTURY. We are a curriculum led and data-driven school; hence we wanted to use the platform as a preparation tool so that teachers can use data to plan effectively, and therefore probe curriculum content more deeply in lessons.
In terms of when we use it, it is mostly used as a homework tool or set as a small task within lessons. This supports teacher wellbeing because there is no marking and the students can just log in and progress through providing accurate data for teachers to utilise in their planning.
How is the platform supporting your teachers?
The biggest thing that teachers comment on is the impact it has on reducing their workload, as there’s no marking involved. Before using CENTURY, staff used to have to start every scheme of learning right at the beginning, regardless of the students’ prior knowledge. They would just start with ‘lesson one’ and systematically work through the sequentially planned content.
Now what teachers can do is assess the students’ prior knowledge by asking them to complete appropriate nuggets on CENTURY before each new topic, and then they can start teaching at what would previously have been lesson three or four, based upon students’ knowledge of the curriculum area. This means that staff are not wasting any time covering content that the students already know. Indeed, staff have said themselves that the amount of progress being made and the depth of knowledge they are able to deliver has increased as a result of using CENTURY.
In short, it has helped teachers with workload and the consistency and quality of their planning. It has gone down really well with them.
How do students find CENTURY?
They love it. I think it’s because they understand it and they know it’s personalised to them. They can see where they’ve got something wrong, and they can then come back to it, watch the video, work through the questions and see the platform create a different learning journey for them compared to the student sitting next to them.
They're so much more engaged with it than with any other platform that we've introduced; one student actually answered over 1400 questions in one month in one subject. So that shows our students level of commitment to the programme. They can see the impact that it's having on their own learning, and that's why the levels of engagement are continuing to go up.
In fact, we’ve managed to convince the school to buy more technology as a result of the success and the positive feedback from the students on the platform. We already had one-to-one technology for secondary students, but the school has now decided to implement a similar model in Years 4, 5 and 6 as well. Hence, it has all been a really positive experience.
Using CENTURY to support non-native English speakers
In terms of our pedagogical practice, we've been focussing on embedding tiered vocabulary. If you’re not familiar with how that works, here’s a brief explanation: tier one words are basic language words that appear in everyday language, tier two words are high frequency words used by someone with a more mature language development set, and tier 3 words are words that belong to specific subjects, for example 'metaphor' in English or 'square root’ in maths. We make sure that we’re always asking our students to upskill and upgrade their vocabulary, so that they are able to talk like a mathematician or a scientist and so on.
CENTURY has been really supportive with developing students’ Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary in particular because of the use of important vocabulary that consistently comes up in the videos and question sets on the platform.
How does CENTURY align with your values as a High Performance Learning school?
Using CENTURY to identify and fill in gaps in knowledge helps to build students’ confidence within their educational journey and to develop a lot of high-performance learning’s VAAs (values, attitudes and attributes) and ACPs (advanced cognitive performance characteristics). For example, in order to reach that level of engagement I’ve mentioned, you’ve got to have resilience to keep going back to it, and you’ve also got to be developing your problem-solving skills if you’re answering that many questions.
I mentioned that adaptive teaching is important to us, and that is also part of the HPL vision. Rather than splitting students into three categories of least able, middle-ability and more able and separating them from the outset, we can use the data available to us to identify when each child can and can't do particular topics and to plan and adapt accordingly. This helps us to make sure that every child is able to become a high performance learner.
How have you found the ongoing support from CENTURY?
It’s been amazing. We're firm believers that if we embed something, we want to embed it properly. Our Account Manager has always been really professional and made sure that we've got everything that we needed on a timely basis, and has gone above and beyond at times. I know that our parents also really appreciated that she has communicated with them directly, so they can see how the platform works and how it influences their child's progress within school.
What is the area where you can see the greatest impact?
The number of questions being answered isn’t the be-all-and-end-all, but given how high that number is – we’re only halfway through the month right now and we’re already at 338,000 – it has to be having a positive impact on students.
It’s clear that it’s having a really positive impact on the progression of students throughout the learning cycle. We’ve just had the first data review come in, and there are very few students who aren’t making progress. That is evident by looking not only at the work they’ve done on CENTURY directly, but also the work that they're doing with their teachers as well to bring all of the pedagogical elements together.
What do parents think of CENTURY?
Parents are loving the platform. We’re getting lots of positive feedback about it, particularly in primary where the communication is probably a little bit easier because of ClassDojo. They like that the work is auto-marked, so they’re not having to wait for feedback from the teacher to see how their child is getting on.
It also allows them to support their children at home, so they no longer feel like they have to say “I don't really know Year 11 maths anymore, I can't help you” because they can also access the learning resources on the platform and work through it with them.
What are your plans going forward for CENTURY?
To continue to make sure that we beat our own usage every month and embed the programme deeply into our core curriculum – that's always the aim. Of course, there is going to come a time when we plateau and cannot possibly beat it without spending every moment of the day on it. We will then look to maintain consistently high-level usage of the platform.
So looking to the future, we want to embed it within all areas of the school, and of course we want our teachers to have a real comprehensive understanding of how to get the most out of the data insights available on the platform. At the moment, we know that we’re only scratching the surface of what CENTURY can do for us, because we're so new to it. Clearly, there is so much more that we could be doing with the data available to us, hence we’re going to have a talk with our Account Manager about how we can approach that.
As always, we’re also going to continue to review the latest pedagogical research to make sure that we're applying it in the most contextually effective way possible.
Book a demo to find out more about how CENTURY can help to enhance the teaching and learning at your school or college.