How Do You Get Students to Look Up From Tik Tok and Broaden Their Horizons?

To achieve our aim of educating truly inspirational and engaging young women, we believe our teaching methods should be inspirational and engaging too. TikTok, after all, provides stiff competition in terms of capturing the imagination of the young. That’s why we take a different approach to learning from most schools.

Part of our unique philosophy centres around a desire to go beyond the classroom and explore subjects that are not on the curriculum. In this article, we will cover two of our recent initiatives: our recognised Nudge for Learning programme and the Highest Intellectual Potential (HIP) Programme.

Giving our students a gentle nudge

Based on the concept of the world-changing impact of behavioural economics, our teaching staff have been using techniques based in ‘nudge theory’. This bold thinking presents our brightest students with many of the ingredients of an elite university education while still at school.

Nudge for Learning has led to St Helen’s becoming the only school in the UK to be shortlisted for T4’s inaugural World’s Best School Prize for Innovation.

So how does it work?

We complement classroom learning with weekly sessions where a teaching mentor will immerse a small group of students in the conversations driving a rapidly changing world.

There is no sense in which we should ever burden the children, but that actually their learning experience should be one of stimulation and should propel them to want to learn more and to expand their horizons.

Glenn Bezalel, Director of Teaching & Learning.

This unique educational nudge sees our students working collaboratively to ‘learn for its own sake’. It is an exercise in critical thinking that drives the curiosity of our students and introduces them to new study techniques. The programme also includes pastoral care and specific academic challenges.

How the HIP Programme unlocks potential

Complementing Nudge for Learning, and based on the same principle of looking beyond the curriculum to broaden the horizons of our students, we have our HIP Programme.

When our Head, Alice Lucas, first arrived at the school, she conducted some data analysis that revealed the most able children were somehow making the least progress. This was something we needed to change. That’s why we introduced our HIP Programme, which is aimed specifically at high achieving students.

It’s for students who just want to be pushed a bit more. They want to step outside their comfort zone and really explore things they might not be able to explore in lessons.”

Aadya, student.

After a rigorous selection process, each HIP student shares their ambitions and inspirations which form the basis of a personalised mentoring programme. This includes supervisions to develop their own special area of interest and encourage them to explore new areas of thought.

The programme also includes a series of events, lectures and activities to stimulate self-learning and promote ambition.

Surprising results

From the feedback received, our students enjoy pushing themselves in these new and unexpected ways, and the results have surpassed expectations. While our original vision was to generate a life-long love of learning, our nudges have had the welcome side-benefit of developing core skills and learning strategies that better equip our girls for their lives beyond school.

By moving away from the process of simply learning for exams, our innovative approach is also generating real change in our school community.

The data supports this view and proves what we always believed: “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Indeed, we have seen value-added increase in educational outcomes for all bands of students within the school and that is certainly something to celebrate. TikTok, eat your heart out!