Learning Principles & Innovation

A Tradition of Innovation

Dulwich College International draws strength from its founding school’s history of philanthropy, pioneering spirit and innovation. As a family of schools we have established a global reputation across ten campuses as leaders in evidence based educational initiatives that are proven to increase student achievement and wellbeing. Having learnt from our founding school’s capacity to remain agile and relevant over four centuries, our schools are guided by reliable research findings that have helped keep the Dulwich family of schools at the forefront of best educational practice.

Evidence Based Education

To be effective in this endeavor, we have partnered with leading educational researchers from the UK-based Evidence Based Education (EBE) group to ensure the work we carry out through The Dulwich Lab is robust and reliable. Members of the EBE team offer bespoke methodological training for DCI teachers in order to “professionalise” action research projects to ultimately benefit student learning and wellbeing.

Our partnership with Evidence Based Education enables our group of schools to select those educational initiatives that we know will add the most value. Subsequently, we are confident that the educational enterprises we prioritise as a group represent an effective use of resources to ensure each student reaches their personal best. Furthermore, our capacity to use refined value-added measures to track not only an individual’s academic progress but also character development guarantees accountability for our strategic initiatives.

Dulwich College International Learning Principles

Learning is effective when it has a clear purpose:

  • Students take ownership and responsibility for their own learning.
  • Students use what they already know to construct new understandings.

Learning is effective when it is adapted and applied:

  • Students make connections between knowledge, concepts and skills.
  • Students transfer knowledge, concepts and skills to a variety of contexts.

Learning is effective when it is personalised:

  • Students are appropriately challenged from their own starting points.
  • Students can engage in meaningful and deliberate practice in lesson time.
  • Students respond to quality feedback with concrete strategies for improvement.

Learning is effective when it is relational:

  • Students engage in effective collaboration and build positive, safe relationships.
  • Students are able to recognize mistakes as collective learning opportunities.

Two Core Outcomes

  • The long-term retention of valuable knowledge, concepts and skills.
  • The ability to transfer what has been retained into different contexts and situations.

Research suggests key indicators of learning should be defined and shared with the broader school community. These proven learning standards have become a set of guiding principles that all stakeholders can reference. Additionally, these statements are used to evaluate education across our schools, to help students ‘self-direct’ their own learning and to underpin our strategic planning and wider professional activity.

Dulwich College International Educational Initiatives

1. Live time assessment, feedback and reporting

The quality and frequency of teacher feedback is one of the biggest factors in accelerating progress and development. Thus, across many of our DCI schools worldwide we have shifted our practices towards Live Time Feedback and Assessment. This platform enables teachers to provide feedback in their subject area or within a year group on one virtual platform, accessible to both students and parents. By receiving an alert on mobile devices, parents are able to follow teacher feedback posts in response to student work or assessments in real time. Equally important is the student’s response to the feedback (a child’s strategy for improvement) that can also be seen by the parent or guardian.

By making feedback, assessment indicators and student responses transparent to all, the rate of student progress accelerates. Parents are no longer presented with a termly report card summary. Instead, they receive more refined and timely information and can engage with their children and teachers as and when feedback occurs. This is a pilot initiative that is at different stages of development across our schools and colleges.

2. A new and more effective approach to evaluate the quality of student learning

An even more effective overall quality assurance framework can be achieved by complimenting initiatives such as live time assessment with a classroom evaluation approach that focuses on student responses and feedback. The live time feedback approach increases a student’s ability to respond to teacher feedback with well thought through strategies for improvement. This in turn increases their capacity to talk specifically about their learning and identify concrete next steps for improvement. In doing this, students build an increasingly confident vocabulary of learning.

A significant benefit of this approach is an increase in student self-advocacy as they become more adept at responding to questions about their learning. This significantly raises personalexpectations and builds confidence that they themselves can make the next steps required to improve.

3. Life-long skill development for wellbeing

Dulwich College International has developed a school-wide approach to nurture increased self-awareness and emotional literacy - key factors in finding true happiness and purpose in life. We believe that student wellbeing and academic preparedness are two sides of the same coin. Subsequently, by instilling the values, skills and habits that enable young people to take ownership of their learning and wellbeing, they will find purpose earlier rather than later in life. Developing both resilience and overall perspective is a proven strategy in helping students overcome mental health challenges, which is why DCI is committed to the Positive Schools agenda to equip young people with the tools to develop a purposeful and positive outlook. Please follow this link to learn more about the Wellbeing skills framework (ATL) that is intentionally taught and reinforced in Dulwich schools worldwide. 

4. The Dulwich Difference – life-long skill development for future success

All DCI schools and colleges have embraced our STEAM curriculum, called SE21in honour of our founding school’s London postcode. However, given that many schools around the world have well established STEAM programmes, we were aware of the importance of approaching the agenda in an innovative way. Our view is that an effective STEAM agenda must be more than simply activities, programmes or spaces. We believe it is only through establishing a transformative learning culture that students are able to develop skills and dispositions to successfully engage in life beyond graduation. This will require the development of creative and financial literacy, as well as the ability to invent opportunities rather than follow established careers. 

In response, through the development of our Dulwich SE21 skills framework (ATL) and character strengths will ensure we can authentically develop and track student progression through this agenda.

5. Measuring individual personal best

Our partnership with Evidence Based Education provides high-level training for DCI teachers to integrate value added data analysis into their planning and teaching. With the use of value added metrics from Durham University’s Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring every teacher can benchmark student progress against individual capacity.

In turn, we can identify whether learning is truly challenging and improving student progress beyond the headline figures of IGCSE or IB attainment scores. These metrics can then be shared with students, and as such a Dulwich education will empower each student to move forward from their own starting point and reach personal targets that can be tracked and celebrated. Used alongside our ATL skills framework these value added tools become a powerful means to identify the progressive development of resilience and self-management essential for success in education and life.

6. Formative assessment, transferable thinking and deeper learning

The recent changes to English National Curriculum assessment approaches has prompted discussion about the best methods for evaluating student learning. Beyond assessment, this has prompted a review of the curriculum and the importance of ensuring that classroom practice provides countless opportunities for student learning. As a family of schools we are creating new domains of assessment that embed knowledge, skills and concepts deeply, not superficially. Subsequently our assessments in both timing and quality must capture true student internalization of learning rather than simply rewarding short-term memory recall. Many of our school leaders and teachers worked closely with our partner Evidence Based Education in Academic Year 2018-2019 to develop the most effective means of assessing students to ensure maximum progress and understanding is achieved by all.

One initiative being piloted in some of our schools in partnership with EBE is “adaptive comparative judgement”, a radically new assessment approach that is gaining traction in educational quarters. For more information on this example at Dulwich College Seoul, please click here.