"I have been here for three days and everyone is so calm and engaged with their work. I haven't heard any teacher shouting or speaking angrily at children! It's a really happy environment and feels so different to many of the schools I work in."
Why would a consultant make this observation?
Because at Horizon we have a strongly Relational Pedagogy (approach to teaching and learning), based in our values of faith, hope and love. Jesus’ teaching was always relevant to his hearers, engaging them, challenging them, inspiring them, equipping them from where they were. He saw the individual heart and needs and often tailored his message accordingly. His message was directly applicable to the time in history, the culture of the day, the audience and their needs. This is our inspiration and challenge.
Does this approach just make nice kids who don't achieve though,
or does it raise achievement as well?
Evidence of improved achievement under the National Standards system showed that between 84-93% of our learners who have been with us for three years are working At or Above expectation in Reading, Writing and Maths, despite many of them coming into the school achieving below expectation.
Our 2019 learning data so far is looking very positive and your child's achievement will be shared with you in the next few weeks on completion of assessments.
What does Horizon's Relational Pedagogy look like in practice?
- Our teachers know that our job is to love each learner well
- This is very different from an environment in which a teacher's priority is to shovel particular set of concepts into a Year 3 or Year 7 class regardless of their ability or emotional capacity for learning at the time. Most of us have horror stories about the way our own teachers dealt with learners to minimise inconvenience to the teacher, to ensure the classroom looked controlled, or because no one was watching and the teacher could say what they liked. Relational pedagogy at Horizon is transparent, seen by and discussed with other teachers, and distinctly learner-centred.
- This happens by:
- knowing and loving your child
- spending around 20 minutes most days with homeroom teachers connecting with their learners individually and as a group to discuss, pray, be still, encourage.
- having Michelle as our Wellbeing Coach to work with our learners in small groups, helping them to notice their feelings and process them well, helping them to deal with failure and relationship issues and sadness well.
- Our teachers are learners, trying to understand each individual learner
- Regardless of the fact that some of them have been teaching for one or two decades, we require of our teachers a reflective and inquiring mind. Because we know that every child is different, and each year group is different, we need to respond to the learning and emotional needs of each child as well as we can.
- This happens by:
- talking to and observing learners, assessments, and working with them either individually or in small groups that might change according to the needs of those learners.
- teachers regularly reflecting on each child's achievement and progress, in discussion with management, and adapting their learning programme to suit
- teachers talking often with other teachers about what might work better for particular children or young people
- keeping abreast of the neuroscience of the last ten years which revolutionises our thinking about kinds of envrionments and teaching practices make for optimal learning.
- Our learning programme is strongly focused on developing self-management and learner agency.
- This seems strange and worrisome to parents who were brought up with a teacher at the front teaching all the Year 5s the same lesson. We tend to think that what we had is right (just as our parents said 'well I was smacked and it never did me any harm", so we can think "well I had a teacher up the front instructing me and it never did me any harm"). However, it DID do harm, and many of us have a sense of shame around failure or mistakes or not keeping up with others or being different.
- Research on the science of learning shows that when learners 'own their own learning', know what they need to do next to achieve and how to learn from a variety of people, sources, examples etc, have some choice, develop self-management skills and have real life outcomes, they are more likely to be motivated, engaged and therefore successful.
- Our experience of teaching this way for the last 6 years in Years 5-8 particularly, has completely shifted our learning culture to one in which it is common for our learners to be highly motivated to learn while being relaxed and happy with their teachers.