Grounded in the concept of the world-changing impact of behavioural economics, our teaching staff have been using techniques based in ‘nudge theory’ to offer our brightest students the best of an elite university education at school.
We complement classroom learning with weekly sessions in groups of 5-8 mentees, to immerse students in the conversations driving a rapidly changing world. In these groups, students are set an academic paper to read and prepare for the next week’s discussion.
This unique educational nudge sees our mentees working intensely and collaboratively to ‘learn for its own sake’: a celebration of critical thinking and curiosity as ends in themselves.
As one student who won a place at Oxford University to read History said:
The biggest benefit of the mentoring supervisions was the discussions where I learnt how to articulate my views on topics which I was unfamiliar with or had limited knowledge of in a cogent manner. They likewise taught me to be more flexible in my thinking, as the very nature of our discussions would show the diversity of opinions and perspectives in the room, encouraging me to sometimes adapt my view in the light of other people’s insights.
[These] skills equipped me with the intellectual confidence and curiosity necessary for the Oxford History interview.
Altering the teacher-student dynamic to one of a mentor-mentee relationship has also been crucial in empowering our students to develop their learning in their own way.
This coaching and pastoral nudge is especially effective for girls who typically undervalue themselves.
We empower students to set their own task-specific goals, nurturing their confidence. This in turn leads to changes in their behaviour, as they become reflective thinkers. They become more able to draw on metacognitive tools to help fulfil their potential.
Each term, students are invited to take up academic projects to fuel their individual interest in their chosen discipline, with appropriate mentoring. We provide booklets with all the relevant information and links posted to them for ease of access.
This nudge is particularly effective for enrolling students on a course or activity, and helps minimise unnecessary cognitive demands as we recognise the huge pressures made on our students’ time.
By utilising global course providers in the classroom, including universities and industries, we create an environment for digital learning that can be replicated across different locations and platforms.
Under our Teaching to the Top framework, teachers now plan lessons with their most able students in mind and scaffold down to ensure access for all.
Our data proves our belief that “a rising tide lifts all boats” as we have seen value-added increase in educational outcomes for all bands of students. This increases ‘ratio’ in terms of lots of students thinking hard in our lessons.
Encouraging students to develop their critical thinking skills, moving beyond simply learning for exams, we’re generating tangible results and real change. Internal data for Years 11 and 13, including teacher-predicted grades and mock exams, show that the brightest cohort of students has now made the most progress over the last three years at school.
Students are giving us wonderful feedback, and while our vision is to generate a life-long love of learning, our nudges have an inevitable side-benefit of developing core skills and learning strategies crucial to their lives beyond school.
As one student put it:
I really enjoy the supervisions, and I find that it broadens my learning and deepens my knowledge through challenging me. It also gives me opportunities to extend my work and do more of the subjects I enjoy.
You can learn more about our Nudge for Learning Programme on the TES website.