Students Helping Students: The Spirit of Collaboration
Last month was United Nations (UN) Day, honouring the day the UN Charter was signed and marking the formal founding of the United Nations. Across our College, students from DUCKS to Senior School engaged with this year's theme: Diversity.
What makes people different? What makes them the same? What are the different ways we understand and experience belonging?
To address this topic we took a uniquely collaborative approach, pairing upper year students with lower year groups:
- Year 7 & 8 visited Year 1 & 2
- Year 9 & 10 visited Year 3 & 4
- Year 11 & 12 visited Year 5 & 6
"Collaboration between year groups for UN Day is something we started several years ago," explains Director of Global Citizenship Anthony Reich. "The students really get a lot out of the experience. For the older students it's a chance to practice mentoring skills and the lower graders really enjoy the opportunity to interact with ‘the big kids’. The interactions are genuine and it’s exciting to watch."
How did the students feel about it?
Sabrina L, Year 7:
"During UN Day we took on greater responsibility as the younger kids saw us as role models. Learning what it's like to guide younger kids through an activity and having them dominating the ideas was a valuable experience. The younger kids were so energetic and full of ideas."
Coll M, Year 10:
"I loved the opportunity to help Junior School students engage with and understand Diversity as a global issue. It allowed the Juniors to creatively explore the concept under the guidance of their older peers, and I feel like both older and younger students bonded during the experience."
Keira E, Year 12:
"I really enjoyed working with the Year 6s discussing the topic of being different, whether that be in a cultural, gender or racial point of view. The Year 6s were definitely curious about this topic and it was great to see the power of the lesson impact their thinking."
Collaboration is, of course, perfect for UN Day; the United Nations is an organisation which has collaboration at its heart. But collaboration itself - students helping students - is part of everyday life at our College. It's an important aspect of teaching and learning and something that makes our educational approach unique.
"There are so many benefits to peer to peer learning," shares Head of College Garry Russell. "It enhances leadership, builds links and improves relationships through empathy. It also creates a space where students can ask different kinds of questions. Peer to peer learning moments are often some of the most powerful."
The impact of collaborative approaches on learning is very clear, with pupils making significant additional progress on average over the course of an academic year, according to the Education Endowment Foundation.
Collaborative learning takes place in a variety of ways at the College. Approaches are as simple and ubiquitous as peer discussion in class or involve more sophisticated modes where students come together from different year groups to interact around a structured project.
There are numerous examples of this from DUCKS to Senior School.
Last year our students set up a new Co-Curricular Activity - Band Whizzes - where Senior School musicians volunteer to work with Junior School band students once a week to help them understand the basics of their instrument and accelerate their learning.
Year 12 Band Whizzes founder Terry W explains, "Knowing that all Year 5 students are starting to learn a woodwind or brass instrument, we thought we could offer some guidance and assistance to those kids as all of us have been through the hard times of starting a new instrument when we were at their age. It has definitely been a true honor to see these students develop their passions for music, and we will do our best to support them along their musical journeys."
Another great example of students helping each other is the Options "speed dating" event in Senior School.
Choosing Year 10 subjects is one of the most important moments for every Year 9 student. It has a big impact on I/GCSE and IB experiences as well as influencing future university and even career choices. Options "speed dating" allows Year 9s who are embarking on the journey to get a chance to learn from Year 10s who've already been through it in a quick-fire round-robin format.
Students also help each other navigate key transitions through student-generated Transition Booklets. Middle School students compile advice for Year 6s transitioning from Junior School to Senior School; Year 12 & 13 students bring together their accumulated wisdom to help the younger students get the most out of the IB years.
During the recent Junior School and DUCKS Sports Days, 50+ Senior School students volunteered to run activities and act as referees and judges.
Collaboration is built into the Junior School Model United Nations where Year 6 students lead the Year 5 and Year 4 conferences, creating a powerful annual cycle of learning and leading.
In the Junior School student leadership teams, Captains support Ambassadors in the younger year groups within their respective portfolios. A great example of curriculum based peer to peer collaboration is the healthy eating investigation which brings together Year 3 and Year 4 students.
Peer to peer learning is part of the experience at DUCKS as well. Year 2 Tech Ambassadors help with the Motivational Mornings programme. Later in the year our DUCKS Library Ambassadors will begin helping younger children choose appropriate books in the library. DUCKS students are also part of the DUCKS Food Committee.
We are very proud to see our students willing and eager to help each other in class, between year groups and across the College, creating uniquely impactful learning opportunities for themselves and others.