Enabling independent students at secondary school

by Jodie Lopez

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Secondary students tend to feel that they are now all grown up. They want to take more control of their learning although it might not always seem that way! Often teachers find ways to enable this independence in the classroom via choices of output or pupil voice across the school and as part of input into lessons. Allowing a lot of freedom and creativity to students is not always possible, however. Time constraints, budget constraints, curriculum content, and external exam pressures can all play a part in how much students may feel like they are just there to jump through the right hoops. This can lead to a lacklustre approach to learning and less engagement from both the student and their parents.

Parents of secondary school are usually much rarer to see in school grounds than at primary level too. Older students tend to walk themselves to school or go with friends rather than parents. And even parents who managed to not work or who worked part time when the children were smaller tend to find themselves in full time jobs when their teenager is at secondary school. Which can make the parent feel less involved with their child's school, make the student feel that their parent does not have much time to support their schooling, and make it difficult for good home-school communications to happen organically.

Kinteract manages to solve so many of these issues by giving schools, who then ultimately give control to pupils and parents, the opportunity to let every key stakeholder in every child's education not only view results but take an active part in a student's learning journey even without setting foot in a school (though we are not advocating for that approach either as face-to-face can be so valuable!)

Many schools have asked other assessment platforms/apps to add parent or pupil logins and it has been met with resistance due to old systems or concern over how it might all work as a dynamic. But when we built Kinteract we decided to just make it possible straight away for all stakeholders to get logins. The school has choices to make over how much interaction parents and pupils are allowed to have on the platform but where the shared input works, it really works! 

Imagine a student is given a Next Step in maths which will have a big impact on their results if they spend extra time outside of school working on it. If that next step just sits on an assessment system visible to SLT at the school then what use is it to the student? Some teachers might print some out for students to keep with their books. But they go out of date fast (hopefully!) and it can be time consuming to keep making them, especially if every student has different targets and is progressing at different rates in terms of meeting them. 

In Kinteract when a Next Step card is added then all teachers who work with that student could see it, the parent could see it, and crucially the student will see it quickly. In a secondary school where a teacher might not see a student for a week this can make such a huge difference. The usual pattern would be that the student does some work in class, maybe hands in some homework later too, then waits a week or two for it all to be marked. Then they get their next step and maybe the teacher has built that into the lesson but, all too often, they need to move quickly on to new content and then the student feels like they have double the work this week to catch up. With Kinteract if the teacher teaches the pupil on Thursday and marks the books on Friday then adds a Next Step to Kinteract, the pupil and potentially their parent can see it, act on it and fill a gap before the following lesson next Thursday. Dynamic assessment which feeds directly into teaching and learning for everyone makes such an impact.

Go a stage further on and Kinteract actually makes it easy for the teacher to add documents and notes to the Next Step. They could attach the PowerPoint presentation they used in the lesson so the student could read it through again, or attach the worksheets or a photo of the questions in the book that they want the student to look at again, without having to wait and give the book back in person for the student to act on feedback. It also saves on writing out a lot of text or trying to find new activities in many cases so reduces teacher workload. If you have the app on your phone or tablet you can add a quick note, and the attachments, in seconds and not then need to write a huge amount in the book for feedback. All of that interaction is also then logged in Kinteract if you need to refer back to it for evidence during inspections or moderation.

For more independence you may want to make Kinteract only accessible to the students when they reach a certain age and put them in full control. The fact that students can also upload assignments, notes and other files from home also means their learning journey can populate with a wide range of media across all subjects. In MFL you could be adding audio files very quickly, in art maybe a range of photos, videos and digital artworks can be uploaded, and in science they could even be adding videos showing experiments completed outside of the classroom. The sky's the limit!