Beyond the learning gap: seeking new horizons

| December 3, 2018 | 0 Comments

BY ALEX GITLIN

In a high stakes school environment, students are under immense pressure to perform.

To achieve academically as well as on the sports field, they are expected to constantly learn and grow, work effectively when fatigued and remain motivated and consistent over long periods of time. However, the school system is oftentimes ill-equipped to help students navigate the blocks and challenges they inevitably face, and many therefore falter.

Introducing Beyond the Gap

It was with this in mind that we at Uplands College, in White River, Mpumalanga, investigated Beyond the Gap’s High Performance Learning Course. The managing director of Beyond the Gap, Tim Goodenough, is an experienced high performance coach who has previously held workshops and presented talks at our school to teach our students high performance skills and principles. Goodenough has worked with elite athletes, sports teams, top entrepreneurs, corporate executive officers and other executive leaders to overcome their challenges and achieve at every level. With this online course, he adapted his best thinking and processes for students. He says he created the course “To help students level-up by developing an empowering mindset to overcome common student blocks and challenges like procrastination, self-doubt, stress and anxiety. It also teaches students how to learn more effectively in less time as well as how to accelerate and manage personal motivation.”

An eight-week experience

In a trial project, we opened the course to our senior students on a voluntary basis, and 85 signed up. Over eight weeks, they were exposed to a series of video tutorials, readings, exercises and extension tasks that unpacked the mindsets, study tactics and motivation strategies of high performers. They could measure their own progress with an easy self-tracking bar, which also meant that our staff could follow the process. Furthermore, an in-built awards system promoted real-time advancement and, because the course includes a completion certificate, the students received a tangible sense of accomplishment at the end. None of the learning was done in isolation, as a discussion forum allowed students to share their experiences and to discuss issues among themselves, or ask them directly of Goodenough. Weekly e-mails, sent by Beyond the Gap in addition to the course material, provided value-added content.

Looking forward to parental input

In a subsequent extension project at Uplands, we offered the course to parents whose children had already enrolled. The motivation was to encourage parent and child to undertake the course together. We hoped partnered study would promote deeper, shared learning, family discussion and role modelling. Parents had to complete the modules individually, but in parallel with the learners. At the close of each module, parents and learners received a series of questions/talking points to discuss. Unfortunately, we did not get the numbers we hoped for, as few teams could find the time to do the course together. We also trialed opening the course to younger (primary school) age groups, but the experience has taught us that the course, in its current format at least, should remain a high school intervention. With these experiments informing future action, we look forward to rolling the programme out to all Grade 10s in 2019 and will provide designated times when all are able to move through the course (a little more scaffolding, we feel, will reap more learning).

Positive feedback

The course has empowered our students; it informs them that their mindsets and choices are largely of their making and control. Their feedback has been encouraging and often inspiring. It can be life-changing when a student realises that “One bad test does not determine my value”, or that “The key to success rests on a powerful self-belief system”. And, when a student professes that “The course has given me the confidence and much required push in the right direction”, you know you are on the right track. In a changing, exciting world where our humanism will increasingly be the ticket to our future success, the educational value of this course is proving profound and long-lasting.

Alex Gitlin is deputy head: pastoral care at Uplands College. To contact Goodenough and his team, please e-mail: tim@beyondthegap.com.

Category: Summer 2018

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