What does it mean to thrive academically? For one student, it might be to simply pass a test. For another, it might be to achieve a near-perfect mark. For the teacher, the common goal is that both students remain positive about their academic progress and are empowered to continue learning. The Dalton Plan caters to both these types of students and enables the teacher to address their different learning needs, so that everyone thrives.
As a teacher, I know how difficult it can be to structure a lesson for all levels of learners. Under Dalton, teachers can use the Assignment and the Study to follow up and address each individual student’s requirements. This is a unique opportunity for both student and teacher. Competent students can stretch their knowledge with extension questions in differentiated Assignments and deeper discussions in Studies. Studies also provide the opportunity to follow up on challenging concepts and seek extra help for those who need it.
Dalton teachers have the benefit of greater insight into how each student operates and therefore they know how they individually need to be guided and supported. For me, supporting students and watching them gain confidence in their knowledge is one of the greatest joys of teaching. Of course, setbacks are a natural part of the learning journey. We are increasingly focused on the academic buoyancy of our student body—how they overcome the everyday setbacks and academic challenges that are a normal part of School life. We want our students to proactively move forwards as independent learners who take responsibility for their learning journey.
The academic buoyancy of students is dependent on judicious and beneficial feedback, whether that be formal or informal. At Ascham, feedback occurs regularly via the Dalton Plan, both through the marking of the Assignment, completing its corrections and in the Study. Being clear on where you stand academically eliminates confusion and provides a stable environment for learning. This ensures all our students have a greater chance of meeting their academic goals, which in turn enhances their wellbeing.
We all know that procrastinating is a part of life. A great strength of the Dalton Plan is that it helps students develop excellent time management skills. Managing workload and co-curricular pursuits is a common challenge for all high school students, particularly as they reach their final years. From an early age, Dalton teaches our students to break down their tasks and plan their time, empowering them to achieve better life balance when the busy final years of School arrive.
Ascham has high expectations of its students, and we encourage everyone to participate in co-curricular activities including sport, music, speech and drama, clubs, social justice, and charity events. Participating in these co-curricular activities is one of the great joys of one’s time at school, providing the opportunity to explore and develop new interests and make new friends. Ensuring there is a balance between academic and co-curricular activities is central to maintaining a student’s wellbeing.
The structure that Dalton provides means that there are no surprises regarding workload and timelines. Students can plan their lifestyle and hobbies around a weekly timetable. Studies offer flexibility within this structure as they choose which subject they need to spend more time on, as their learning needs change. This greater sense of control and freedom enables them to feel better about themselves as they proactively manage their workload.
As Head of School, I have the benefit of insight across the entire School, and it is my responsibility to ensure its multiple needs are balanced. We continually monitor the calendar of events to ensure we strike the right balance between academic and co-curricular activities and their competing demands.
It is a privilege to teach and an even greater privilege to lead a School. Focusing on our students to ensure that they all learn and explore their interests to the best of their ability – is one of the most important and fulfilling parts of my role. I feel incredibly lucky to be in my position at Ascham School where the system of learning, the Dalton Plan, helps students to do this. Because students who are doing well, feel well, and we want all our students to thrive.
Andrew Powell | Head of School