Published on: 11 Jan 2016

The CAT4 is like a treasure map, and, increasingly, I see educators as treasure hunters

Helping children dig for their own treasure

By Matthew Savage, Deputy Head of School, Bromsgrove International School, Thailand

Back in 1996, Professor Michael Barber warned ominously of a swathe of young people who would, were interventions not applied, be either "disappointed", "disaffected" or "disappeared" before too long. In the subsequent decade, UK schools were tasked with implementing strategies for "hard to reach" students, partly in order to reduce the number of those who were NEET (not in education, employment or training). However, even today, a significant number of students remains similarly under threat, and my fear is that most schools have not yet spotted who they are.

If we are to have any chance of justifying a formal, regulated system of education, we have to be able to demonstrate its inclusivity; after all, a system which excludes (and failing to ‘spot’ students in need seems to me a significant and culpable exclusion) cannot, morally, be excused.

I am on a quest, in pursuit of #themonalisaeffect, a model of personalised learning which aims to ensure that every student believes their learning experience has been designed specifically for them, with all their strengths, needs, interests and passions in full and deliberate gaze.

I argue strongly that, within the 21st Century classroom, this becomes so much easier when furnished with a sophisticated and rich data triangle on each and every student. At Bromsgrove International School Thailand, we make full use of the assessment portfolio from GL Education, rapidly becoming the world leader in such tools. The lens of our learning personalisation has become especially sharp as a result of each student’s aptitudinal and attitudinal data.

The CAT4 Cognitive Abilities Test affords my teachers a profound insight into every child’s academic ability, beneath and beyond the veneer of what is, for the majority of our cohort, a significant EAL barrier. This data is, more often than not, a liberating force, unleashing the potential of young learners for whom English really is the only obstacle. Subsequently and simultaneously, the PASS (‘Pupil Attitudes to Self and School’) survey shows us #whatliesbeneath, the attidudinal currents which swirl and rip under the masks increasingly worn in childhood, especially within Asian societies.

The CAT4 is like a treasure map, and, increasingly, I see educators as treasure hunters. Meanwhile, PASS is an emotional MRI, often showing us precisely why the treasure is proving difficult to find – or, using the terms of this blog, ‘hard to spot’.

Once we know, for example, that a child is suffering from low self-regard, that their metacognition is underdeveloped, or that their risk-aversion is rooted in a fear of failure, finally we can do something about it, and empower them to dig for their own treasure. This is #themonalisaeffect, and it is a very powerful thing indeed.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @savageeducation 

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