4 minute read

Watching videos is improving students’ exam marks

Ian Devereux describes the benefits of GCSEPod supplementary videos

The pressure to perform well is just as intense for independent schools as it is in the state education sector, and even more so when you have some of the UK’s top achieving private schools on your doorstep. Founded in 1939, St Columba’s College in St. Albans, an independent Roman Catholic day school catering for 900 boys aged from four to 18, is always looking for ways of ensuring that its students thrive and excel.

As Director of Studies, I decided about two years ago to look for ways of supplementing each student’s learning to make sure that they were not only comfortable and confident in their studies, but that our academic policies would also drive up their exam pass marks.

After much research, I realised that the school needed supplementary online learning activities aligned to the GCSE curriculum that would provide activities for pre-lesson familiarisation, post-lesson consolidation and, of course, revision. If students have already carried out learning activities aligned to the day’s area of study before class starts, they are ready to approach the day’s work with a higher level of

confidence. The lesson can delve deeper into each skill area, with the students involved and able to contribute constructively to the lesson. If you are then able to offer them a number of online follow-up activities that consolidate the learning carried out in the class that day, perhaps as homework, it makes teachers’ lives easier and ensures that each student fully understands every aspect of the day’s lesson.

Our teachers and students are always looking for high quality revision material. One of the big complaints these days is that students don’t know how to revise, so I was originally looking for a revision tool. The ideal resource should not only focus on the key learning objectives and topics to be tested at exam time, but should also cover the more complex skill areas. Recognising that to get the students to use the resource before and after class it had to be attractive to them, I looked at online resources offering the learning through short videos. Today’s students, but especially boys, live in a YouTube world, so I knew that any learning content that was easy to access and delivered through videos would be well used.

The video-based learning tool GCSEPod supports all skill areas across 20 subjects from quadratic equations to Hamlet’s  banishment to England. Each short video pod can be accessed in the classroom or out of school on a smartphone or tablet, meaning that students are able to watch them before, during and after school. They are also designed to be fully practicable for teachers to assign as homework or lesson preparation.

Launched at St Columba’s in January 2018, this addition to the students’ learning has had a phenomenal impact at a school that was already achieving excellent results.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, 44.1 per cent of GCSE students achieved A*-A grades. In the 2017-2018 academic year, this leapt to 53.5 per cent of all grades being at 9 - 7 (A*-A) and by the 2018-2019 academic year, the college’s GCSE results saw 56.6 percent of students gaining the top 9-7 grades.

It goes without saying that the high quality of teaching at St Columba’s has played a big part in the exam success the students have seen. But we have had record results two years in a row, and there is no doubt in my mind that a huge part of this success can be attributed to our new way of supplementing the learning that our teachers deliver.

Of course, being a maths teacher, I have been carefully tracking and calculating the students’ progress, and the residual or value-added score for many students has been especially revealing. With the learning delivered through short and engaging videos, thousands of pods have been watched over the past two years. However, looking specifically at the thirty

students who watched the most videos, the impact is even more remarkable. Their average YELLIS residual was 0.72, or in other words, these students achieved nearly three-quarters of a grade above their predictions across all subjects. For those sitting the exams in 2019, the top GCSEPod users saw YELLIS residuals in the 0.5 to 2.2 range.

From the moment we subscribed to this new supplementary learning resource, I have monitored the number of Pods each student has watched and tracked this against the residual they achieved in their mock and GCSE exams. This has left me in no doubt that GCSEPod has had a significant impact on many students’ achievements and exam results.

Employing tools which are an added extra to students’ learning and understanding of the subject they are being taught is crucial in any school. However, in order for independent schools to continue to be able to deliver a top quality service in which parents are willing to invest, utilising unique and innovative tools such as GCSEPod is a crucial way to add additional value to your offer to your current and prospective students.

Ian Devereux is Assistant Head (Director of Studies) at St Columba’s College