Using CENTURY before, during and after teaching with GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail

Posted on 14th October 2021

Posted by Ben Cooper

My name is Ben Cooper, and I'm the Primary Principal at GEMS Wellington Academy - Al Khail in Dubai. We’ve been working with CENTURY for around two years now.

We started using CENTURY during a period of remote learning when we were looking for some quick fix solutions to support students learning at home, and we've now been back in school for just under four terms. So we've transitioned quite quickly away from remote learning into what we would call a hybrid or blended learning approach, with some students at home and others fully face-to-face. 

We approach blended learning in three stages – before teaching, during teaching and after teaching. In this blog post, I’m going to share how CENTURY is supporting each of these three different stages.

Before teaching

The idea of what we refer to as ‘before teaching’, often called ‘flipped learning’, is that children sometimes need to be pre-taught certain things before you actually teach a topic. This helps to provide students with the baseline knowledge they need to be successful in lessons, which will lessen the burden on their working memory, ultimately helping them to retain more of what is learned in the long term. 

To put this into practice using CENTURY, teachers set nuggets both inside and outside of the classroom that introduce content they will be covering in upcoming lessons. If they know they're going to be talking about using complex sentences in English, for example, they might find it really important for certain students to be pre-taught what a complex sentence actually is using a nugget on the platform beforehand. This would ensure that by the time the teacher teaches that lesson, those students already have the basic knowledge they need to understand it, without the teacher having to spend hours creating any extra resources for them. 

So ‘before teaching’ is really about allowing students to process certain aspects of learning ahead of time so that they're able to access the higher level content in lessons.

During teaching

When we talk about ‘during teaching’, the focus is on how we can allow students to retain new information. It’s really about what happens during the teaching process, not only in the classroom, but more broadly what happens both in and outside of school to allow that transfer of knowledge from the working memory to the long term memory. 

In terms of how CENTURY fits into that, some teachers use nuggets as the application of knowledge within their lessons. That is very straightforward to do – they can simply turn around to their class and say, “okay, I've set you guys this nugget on CENTURY, I’ve set another one for you guys, and you guys are going to work with me for a while”.

So while students are being taught, they're actively working through and engaging with those examples with their teachers. We also set nuggets when it's time for them to go away and apply or build upon their knowledge on their own, both so that the information is better encoded in their memory and so that they become more independent and self-directed learners. 

The dashboard is very accessible for students, which is really powerful. Student agency is one of our pillars at the Academy, allowing children to have voice, choice and ownership over what they do. CENTURY plays a big part in that, because it's so personalised and it gives the children immediate results and information on their progress. So our teachers are starting to look at how we use the dashboard as part of the teaching process – when children are in the classroom, we explicitly teach them how to use that dashboard to identify the things that they’re doing really well and the things they have made a few mistakes on, and they can then set their own targets from that. 

Another powerful thing is that our teaching assistants are gaining confidence in using CENTURY. A TA may not always be confident in delivering every topic across every subject that the children they are supporting need to cover, but they can get the children to log into CENTURY and help them work through the relevant nuggets. So the TA doesn't have to be the expert on how to teach everything, but can support them as necessary. So using CENTURY as an intervention tool can be powerful. 

After teaching

There's little point in assessing children straight away on what you just taught the day before, because the chances are they will probably remember about 75% of it. Four days or even weeks later, though, you’ll probably see that they'll remember very little of it unless the information is frequently retrieved. 

That is why, in order to make sure that learning is cemented in students’ long term memory and that it is freely accessible, providing students with regular opportunities for retrieval practice is so important. 

The most difficult things about this are figuring out when is the right time to assess and how we can provide opportunities for students to regularly retrieve information without it overloading our teachers. For us, CENTURY has already and will continue to play a key part in that process.  

We have found it really useful on CENTURY that once a nugget has been completed, the platform will automatically reset it in a few weeks, meaning that the student will automatically be exposed to opportunities to recall and recap previously learned content. 

Setting students a nugget on a topic that has been previously learned is also a time-efficient way for teachers to provide the children with multiple spaced out opportunities to retrieve what they’ve learned, be it during morning work, or joined to the beginning of their subject-specific lesson. 

As part of our as blended learning approach, we always ask children to complete a certain amount of nuggets per week, whether that be nuggets set by their teachers or just recommended nuggets from their personalised pathway, so they're also accessing content that's to tailored to their individual needs even outside of the classroom.

Book a demo to find out more about how CENTURY can help to enhance the teaching and learning at your school or college.