The Breakthrough Moment In Learning

Instead of being spoon fed answers, allowing students to embrace the good struggle gives them the opportunity to experience true breakthroughs.

Photo: Tenby School

Desmond stared at his workbook intensely, his lips pursed and eyes quizzical. He had been working on a mathematics problem for some time and just couldn’t seem to figure out the answer.

His teacher, Ms Wilson, had been observing him for quite a while and when she saw his face, she gently asked, “Are you all right, Desmond?”

“I just don’t get this!” he exclaimed. Some of his classmates stopped to see what was going on.

Ms Wilson walked to his desk and placed a kindly hand on his shoulder. After a few words of encouragement, she helped him read through the question again to make sure he understood it correctly. Desmond seemed ready to try once more.

To help or not to help?
Scenes like this are not unusual in a Tenby Schools classroom. Here, teachers keep a watchful eye over students as they work, yet they are not overly eager to provide answers when they see them face obstacles. In fact, their priority is to observe how students handle challenges. That’s because we understand the value of‚ ‘good struggle’.

It’s natural for parents and teachers to want to protect children from pain and suffering. However, if adults rush to help solve problems they could solve on their own, children are being denied the opportunity to learn resilience and independence – key traits that build strong self-confidence. The unspoken message being imparted to them is, “You can’t handle this, so I’ll do it for you.”

Instead of being spoon fed the answer, embracing good struggle gives children the opportunity to experience true breakthroughs in learning on their own. Stepping away also demonstrates our belief in their ability to grow, which is a great confidence booster.

We have gained this important insight through our many years of experience as educators, and we want our students to experience Amazing Learning – where they surprise themselves with the levels they reach. This is only possible if we empower our young learners to drive their own learning and progress. It’s more than just teaching tools and methods; it’s about having a positive mindset.

The importance of character for success
We live in a rapidly changing world of challenges and opportunities. As more jobs are taken over by machine automation and artificial intelligence, developing human talent is more important than ever to thrive in the 21st century.

As schools attempt to prepare students for new world realities, academic achievement remains important. However, we think of it at a deeper level. We regard good results not just as a sign of a child’s academic ability, but also as an indicator of a child’s ability to achieve excellence in character, which in turn results in excellence in all that they attempt.

At Tenby Schools, we are not a one-dimensional exam factory. Our holistic approach facilitates academic excellence, while keeping a firm eye fixed on the ultimate goal of character development. To us, school is more than a means to work towards a meaningful career, but an important testing ground where students can develop the aptitudes necessary to succeed and adapt in a changing world. By encouraging them to overcome challenges within a safe and supportive environment, we are maximising the true potential of our students on all levels and beyond their schooling years.

When learning is amazing
Consistency is key in this process of character development, which is why we strive to create a learning environment providing students with opportunities to better themselves. As part of the International Schools Partnership (ISP), we are supported by a global network of passionate educators and child education experts. We learn from the best practices around the world - found in 43 schools across 11 countries - and implement them in our schools for the benefit of our students.

ISP is focused on cultivating the optimal learning culture in all its schools and regularly provides expertise to develop better learning opportunities for students. This involves regular evaluations of all aspects of student experience to see how to continually improve and develop. From this we can draw upon a rich source of quantitative and qualitative evidence to create a learning environment that empowers our students. We want them to reach a point where they surprise even themselves by getting better beyond what they thought was possible. We call this Amazing Learning.

Amazing Learning is a core value of ISP and is based on the belief that through resilience and perseverance in good struggles, any student can achieve excellence. Ultimately, we want our students to carry into adult life the memory of how they were able to surpass their expectations and apply this formula to any challenge they face throughout their career and life.

So, while Ms. Wilson could have given Desmond a bigger clue with his mathematics problem, she knew that the benefit of his good struggle would far outweigh any temporary frustration he was facing at the time. And true enough, a few minutes later, she heard from Desmond again.

“I got it, Ms Wilson! Can you check if this is correct?”

Ms Wilson walked over to check his answer.

“Very good, Desmond, well done!” she said, as Desmond beamed with satisfaction.

Desmond struggled, overcame and succeeded. He learnt a new skill, and most importantly, understood that by embracing the challenge, nothing could hold him back.

To find out more about International Schools Partnership (ISP) and to secure your child’s place with the Tenby Schools family, please visit:

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