Welcome Back To Anther School Year

Summer has flown by and it is the time of year that you love and loath in equal measures - the kids are going back to school. It always seems as if there are new buzzwords popping up in the educational field making it hard to keep track of the new teaching methods and efficiently track your children’s progress. This month, we have questioned experienced international teachers to find out what important educational movements we should be following.


Neuroscience is the study and science behind the brain and from the research that has been done, it has been proven that if kids have a “growth mindset” as opposed to a “fixed mindset” they will do a lot better as they know they are in charge of their own learning and can do something towards making themselves ‘smarter’ with the knowledge about the plasticity of the brain. They learn that they can improve their own abilities by giving their brains a chance to make more connections between their neurons.

What is neuroscience and how can it be of help in everyday learning and teaching?
Simply put, neuroscience is the study of how the brain functions. When teachers are aware of some basic neuroscience, it makes teaching and learning more effective. The most important fact is the knowledge about the plasticity of the brain because teachers view their students in a different light and notice things about how their students learn and behave that they wouldn’t necessarily have done beforehand. For example, knowing about executive functions and the fact that the frontal lobe is in charge of that can help students target controlling their behaviour. The frontal lobe can be compared to an elephant. An elephant can be controlled, but you need a good rider to keep it in control. Younger children, when taught about the frontal lobe, can imagine their rider, give him or her a name and tell the rider to stay in control of their elephant. If a child is beginning to misbehave, all that needs to be said is ‘rider’. Instant self-control.

How can neuroscience be incorporated into everyday learning and teaching?
It could be good to start off the year with a few neuroscience sessions, which include facts about neurons and how they connect, how you can grow more and more connections if you put lots of effort into learning and practice lots to keep the neurons firing, learning about the reptilian brain and how it is there to help us survive so we need to keep it ‘happy’ (they learn how to do so) otherwise it becomes very ‘angry’ and we go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Learning about how the memory works and how we can improve our memory is also useful – lots of movement and acting out or dancing about facts they should remember, works very effectively. These are only a few examples. Once they know these things, they can be referred to at any time afterwards. The students will understand more and more about how to help themselves to learn and behave more effectively, and in these days of instant gratification and stress in our lives, this is very useful for general wellbeing as well as success in learning.

How effective has the use of neuroscience in the classroom been?
Research done by Carol Dweck in the USA has shown that there is a significant difference between the success of those students who know about the plasticity of the brain compared to those who haven’t, even though they may have been given discrete lessons on ‘learning to learn’. It gives the students the reasons for why they feel the way they do and what they can do to help themselves. They take charge of, and are more responsible for, their learning. As part of a teacher’s everyday tools of the trade, neuroscience is invaluable.

Where can we find more information?
There is lots of information on the Internet, but reading about Carol Dweck’s research will give everyone a good background into why it makes sense to teach students about having a ‘growth mindset’ as opposed to a ‘fixed mindset’. When parents know about it too, that’s even better because their attitudes to learning will also change.

Building Learning Power

Building Leaning Power aims to help children become better learners both in school and in life by cultivating habits and attitudes that will enable them to face situations that they are not familiar with calmly, confidently and creatively. As a result, students who are more confident in their own learning ability learn faster and learn better. They concentrate more, think harder and find learning more enjoyable.

Why is BLP important and how does it differ to traditional teaching methods?
For so many years now, there has been one initiative after another introduced into schools, many of which just have not worked. ‘Learning to learn’ is one such initiative. Research has shown that if students are taught these skills in isolation, as a set of discrete lessons, the students do not transfer the skills they have been taught into other classes or in their lives outside school. What Building Learning Power does is include the HOW of learning along with the WHAT of learning – they aren’t separate. BLP aims to form habits through the ‘4Rs’ – Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reciprocity and Reflectiveness. Each of the Rs is then broken down into a few ‘learning muscles’ (17 in all) such as collaboration, noticing, questioning, perseverance and meta-learning, all of which are introduced slowly to the students, as part of their lessons. The WHAT of the lesson might be learning how to write a set of instructions. The HOW of the lesson might be ‘distilling’ (one of the learning muscles) information that they have gleaned from their previous research. They will be shown how to do this on many occasions in many different types of lessons throughout the school, and with all teachers, as well as at home, as the parents will have been informed about what learning muscle is being targeted. Eventually, these learning capacities become habits, allowing the students to become extremely effective learners and capable of taking on the needs of the 21st century workplace. This cannot be said for far too many students these days because too many education systems are not taking on board the fact that life is so much more complex now, and too many students just cannot cope. BLP ensures that they are ready for the tests of life rather than a life of tests.

How can we instil confidence into students in school and at home?
BLP helps do exactly this as students learn how to become resilient, and because they have learned how to think effectively, they have the confidence to try everything in a mature way.

Why are students not currently equipped for lifelong learning?
Life is so much more complicated now than it was when students’ parents and grandparents were at school. Because of all the choices, constant bombardment of advertisers, the speed at which technology has developed and the slowness on our brains’ part in catching up with all of that, leaves all of us slightly stressed – some more so than others. Education, in general, does not equip our young people to cope with the demands of all the changes around us. Too many education systems are geared more towards 19th and 20th century workforce needs, which were not as demanding as today’s needs. There is still far too much spoon feeding and scaffolding in today’s classrooms and homes, which does not allow for the type of thinking necessary for today’s needs and leaves many university students seeking counselling as they do not cope when all that scaffolding isn’t available. BLP isn’t a scheme so much as a habit-forming way of life in schools, where it is used to enable students to become lifelong learners much more readily than those who haven’t had the opportunity to learn in this way. In BLP classrooms, it is common to see students experiencing the joy of being absorbed in learning.


Back To School Back To School

Lunchtime Goodness

Your little one might not be able to wait until lunchtime to open their beautiful lunchbox. Multiple sets are available.
RMB 100. Cath Kidston. 268 Xizang Zhong Lu, near Fuzhou Lu. Web: www.cathkidston.co.uk


Treat your big kid to a high quality notebook with a difference. Their very first Moleskine will come complete with Lego, to grab their attention.
From RMB 208. Web: www.moleskine.cn


Instil a passion for reading early on. Allow your child access to a library of books on their small compact Kindle.
From RMB 499. Web: www.amazon.cn