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Case Study

Supporting students through school and university

GEMS Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi explains why GCSEPod is one methods used to nurture independent learning students need in school and when they move on to their next level of study.

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GEMS Cambridge International

GEMS Cambridge International School is a high performing private school in Abu Dhabi teaching the British curriculum to children from around the world.

A sad statistic of our time is that university drop-out rates continue to rise for the fourth successive year.

Figures on the increasing rate vary, with some universities reporting that the number is nearer one in ten, while others such as data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that almost one in five students don’t make it beyond their first year. In some institutions, that figure is as high as one in four. In America the issue has been termed a ‘crisis’, with the New York Times reporting that approximately one in three students who enrol in college never earn a degree.

This ‘crisis’ leads us to the question of the causes and of course how these can be addressed. David Craggs, Head of Secondary education at GEMS Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi, explains how the school is helping its students optimise their learning through both school and university.

Most universities and related associations have given their view of the causes as a mix of financial, academic and personal reasons: choosing the wrong degree course, not having the necessary skills for the higher academic expectations, an inability to manage their own learning and time management, too much freedom to avoid studying and missing classes, a lack of learning structure, social issues including being away from home and struggling to make new friends, and managing their money effectively. 

In summary these students are not effectively prepared for university life. So, who should take responsibility for this problem?

Several education spokespeople including Marguerite McNeal, former senior editor at EdSurge state that many higher education institutions “point fingers at high schools for sending them underprepared students…They can be doing more to help students succeed even before matriculation.” 

The Times Higher Education points out that “others are disoriented by the change from the structured school environment to the more autonomous university world.” And it is this key aspect of university preparation that we try to address at GEMS Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi.

GCSEPod takes this one step further by directing each student to a bespoke playlists of curriculum content specific to their learning needs.

Independent learning

Our school’s strength lies in its many different faces of success: academic, leadership, sporting, creative, innovative and life experiences. The life experiences we offer include our close relationship with universities such as Harvard along with a trip for the students, which starts to give them an understanding of University life. However, it is during the students’ later years of GCSE study that we start to teach them one of the most important skills necessary for a successful transition to university; independent learning.

Our head of Key Stage 4, Niall Morrissey is a big advocate of this aspect of their learning while they are in our care. He said, “we want to ensure that each of our students’ learning experience prepares them for a successful next stage of their learning: for many of our students this will be at university. Part of this involves ensuring they develop as independent learners, but it has to be balanced with us carefully tracking and managing their development.”

GEMS Cambridge International School Abu Dhabi uses a variety of methods to nurture the level of independent learning they need in school and when they move on to their next level of study. GCSEPod is one example. The resource is used as a supplement for in lesson learning, revision and as a homework platform. It covers all areas of the curriculum with short three to five minutes video ‘pods’ to visually ‘teach’ or ‘revise’ key aspects of each learning objective. Students can autonomously go down the proverbial ‘rabbit-hole’ of pods to discover and gain information and knowledge. The key to our success in using GCSEPod as a school, is giving our students the freedom to do this while also being very specific in the tasks we give them, to ensure they’re on the right learning journey.

Our EPIC reading system is another example of a resource that provides all of our KS3 students with access to a variety of books; content is differentiated by ability so each student can work with their teacher to select the titles most appropriate for their development and then read them independently.

Systems such as Linguascope (which we use for learning various languages including French and Spanish) offer practice questions for the students and self-marking tasks and worksheets. Not only does this reduce teacher workload, but students can become more autonomous, managing their own learning by understanding where they need to focus further work to maximize their progress. GCSEPod takes this one step further by directing each student to a bespoke playlists of curriculum content specific to their learning needs.

I recently asked one of our students, Tiana G for her thoughts on learning to study independently. She said, “I actually enjoy studying on my own. I have learned to recognise and revise the topics that I struggle with. I also do quizzes on my own; not just the ones that our teachers upload as assignments, but I also add pods to my own playlists that cover areas where I know I need a little extra focus. I like learning tools that summarise topics, but with detail; getting all the information I need, in a shorter period of time.”

Tracking their development

For us the real key to achieving this balance between carefully managing their learning while giving them invaluable experiences of independent learning is using platforms like GCSEPod that allow us to effectively capture student performance data. The ability to track their progress through data provides each teacher with the information they need to monitor, assess and engage with student learning on a very detailed level. It gives them insights into their work patterns, areas of strength and improvement. We use this data to cross reference with our own internal data and GL/Cat 4 data to ensure we have an in-depth analysis of each student’s learning needs.

Conclusion

As Niall concludes, “such online learning resources allow our teachers to target specified areas of the curriculum in a straight-forward manner, which in turn gives the learner a more direct approach to their own learning.”

We not only offer each of our students the most effective learning for their own development needs while at school, but we also ensure that once they leave us, the students will be much better equipped to make that successful transition to their next level of learning.

For us the real key to achieving this balance between carefully managing their learning while giving them invaluable experiences of independent learning is using platforms like GCSEPod that allow us to effectively capture student performance data.

What could we help your school achieve?

Are you a high achieving school with record results, is your Progress 8 score currently below average, or maybe you somewhere in between? No matter what your current standing, all types of schools are finding huge GCSE learning and revision success using GCSEPod. Let us show you how GCSEPod could help reach your school goals.

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