'Pupils must become creative and critical thinkers'

 Dwight School London

The playground of Dwight School London - Credit: Dwight School London

In the midst of the daily grind of school it is easy to lose sight of the end goal. What is education for?

With the demands of curriculum planning, assessments and keeping children safe in the midst of a pandemic we might forget the purpose that drives us in more lucid moments. Whilst qualifications open doors, they are not the end - just the means to the end. Education is to equip learners with the skills they need for their future lives. 

Access to knowledge is all too easy, so “remembering stuff” is no longer relevant. To be successful in the future, our children need to be creative and critical thinkers who can work both independently as well as collaborate effectively with others to solve problems. 

Alison Cobbin, head, Dwight School London

Alison Cobbin explains what student agency means in the International Baccalaureate - Credit: Dwight School London

A central tenet of the International Baccalaureate is student agency; students having ownership of their learning so they can influence what and how they learn. It is key to developing the skills that young people will need to thrive in the future. 

Student agency provides learners with opportunities to ask questions, pursue particular interests and create meaning from the tasks they are engaged in.

In the words of an astute 10-year-old: “We are in the driving seat of our own learning."

When students have ownership of their learning it promotes creative and critical thinking skills as they naturally look to solve problems.

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By making connections between concepts that are genuinely interesting and meaningful, students are actively involved in their learning and this builds deeper understanding. 

Promoting student agency requires a shift in classroom dynamics as teachers need to be comfortable relinquishing control. The teacher becomes a facilitator and a guide rather than the one who imparts knowledge. Facilitating means ensuring access to resources that are both culturally relevant and representative. It means helping students pose, and repose questions and make connections. When students are engaged in their learning in this way they are highly motivated and intrinsically rewarded when they find their own answers. 

By nurturing curiosity and promoting agency, we can help children to develop creativity,  confidence, independence and a lifelong love of learning.

Alison Cobbin is head of Dwight School.