How do boys learn?

A key strength of an all-boys school is we are best positioned to understand and appreciate what makes a boy, a boy. We know boys need purpose. They require clear expectations and learn by doing. Boys need to be challenged and will rise to meet high expectations. At Ipswich Grammar School, we believe that every student matters every day and all boys can be high achievers. This belief underpins the positive relationships we build with our boys and in turn, directly affects how motivated our boys are to strive for Exceptional Performance. Our boys know, we believe in them.

So, when national literacy benchmarks established by the Commonwealth and State Governments indicate males consistently perform worse than females in primary schools, what can we do to buck the trend?

An extensive body of research known as the ‘Science of Learning’ has sought to understand how the brain functions and how memory is acquired, promoted and enhanced. According to this research, mapping new concepts in the brain takes time, practice and effort. For our boys, this means our routines are critical, opportunities for distributed practice are pivotal and engagement is essential. How can we ensure our boys have time in the game?

John Fleming’s Explicit Teaching model at Ipswich Grammar School is a systematic approach to embedding knowledge from short term to long term memory. Every lesson follows an intentional sequence and structure to optimise boys’ learning. It begins with the intention – a clear purpose – for our boys. We scaffold the boys’ learning by modelling the incremental steps to success. We unambiguously teach them what to do and how to do it. We encourage and expect our boys to actively participate in the learning. We monitor our boys’ understanding and we intentionally challenge them by exposing our boys to next level content. Furthermore, we consolidate and automatise our boys’ existing skills through the recite-recall-apply process of our warm-ups. This technique enhances our boys’ ability to absorb, retain, retrieve and apply their skills through methodically spaced practice for mastery of learning. Explicit Teaching is what makes learning stick for our boys.

Perhaps the most significant impact of our Explicit Teaching strategies at Ipswich Grammar School is the effect on our boys’ self-efficacy – his belief in his capacity to succeed. As Anita Archer so aptly states, “success breeds motivation.” We give our boys the strategies for success, our boys relish in their success and strive towards achieving continued success. This is Exceptional Performance and this is why Ipswich Grammar School is made for boys.

Anja-Lee Caldwell
Junior School Curriculum Leader