By Catherine Whitaker, CEO and Head of Learning, EtonX
When EtonX opened up free courses to UK secondary schools, we learnt an interesting lesson about what teenagers need most.
In May 2020, Eton College launched the Eton2020 initiative, a new social vision which includes a commitment to invest £100m over 5 years to enhance educational opportunity in the UK, building powerful multi-dimensional relationships with state sector schools.
As a provider of online courses, EtonX, the College’s edtech subsidiary, was well placed to help deliver these commitments and respond to the immediate needs of schools in lockdown.
We opened our self-study Future Skills courses to all UK state secondary schools and sixth form colleges and the demand was overwhelming. Teachers from 910 schools chose a course for two of their year groups from a selection of seven courses.
Our self-study courses are designed to supplement curriculum teaching and develop the skills that students need to study, live and work well. Teachers were able to choose from courses to help career education (Interview Skills, CV Writing), study skills (Writing Skills, Research Skills) and what are often called ‘soft’ skills (Resilience, Making an Impact and Creative Problem Solving).
UK teachers choose Resilience as most important skill
With schools rushing to shift their teaching online, my prediction was that the most popular use of our courses would be for career education which would be harder to deliver online. But teachers clearly saw a need to support students through the upheaval that the COVID pandemic had brought to everyone’s lives. They recognized that above all else, students needed to develop the skills to cope with change and uncertainty.
The EtonX Resilience course was by far the most popular choice with teachers: 28% of students were given access to this course with the study skills and other ‘soft’ skills courses the next most popular.
Course choices for 228,708 UK secondary students given access to EtonX May-July 2020
How can you teach Resilience?
Jonnie Noakes is the Course Director for the EtonX Resilience course. He is Director of Teaching & Learning at Eton College and the Director of the Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning (CIRL), a centre for pedagogical excellence and evidence-informed practice in education. Sceptics might ask whether it is possible to teach Resilience to which Jonnie’s reply is:
“Resilience means the ability to bounce back and we teach young people a range of techniques to enable them to do this better. There are a number of interesting ways in which this can be done. An example would be Growth Mindset theory which shows that if you understand that all abilities are developable – that abilities aren’t fixed – then of course how well you do something is not a comment on who you are. It just tells you where you are at in your ability to do it and you can go on to do that thing better.
We also know quite a lot about Optimism and how important Optimism is for facing life’s challenges. We all have to come up against challenges in life, and sometimes these challenges will be too much for us on the first encounter, but we can learn to deal with them.
Another very important aspect is emotional self-awareness. All of these are teachable skills.”
The EtonX Resilience course content and pedagogy
The EtonX Resilience course has six units of study all of which introduce resilience-building tools and techniques including emotional self-awareness, growth mindset and optimism but also dealing with stress, strategies for self-control, learning how to view failure and developing empathy and gratitude. Videos and interactive activities give students the opportunity to meet, engage with and fully understand the concepts.
So much online learning can be passive and for skills development, it is essential that practice is taken offline and into the real world. Throughout the course, students activate and apply their learning by completing a Resilience Log.
For example, in the unit on Optimism, students learn that limiting beliefs can lead to negative thought patterns. Students are invited to think of a limiting belief about themselves that they would like to challenge. In their log, they write an entry which answers these questions:
- Where do you think this limiting belief comes from?
- What evidence do you have that supports this belief?
- What evidence can you find that challenges this belief?
- How could you change your thinking habits and attitude to help you challenge your belief?
Students then practise their suggestions and report on progress. At the end of the course, students are able to download their Resilience Log and keep it for reference. They also create a Personal Development Plan, selecting two out of nine SMART objectives to continue to work on in future months.
Teachers in schools are able to run workshops and follow up activities using the Teacher Resource Pack provided with every course. For all self-study courses EtonX recommends that schools set clear deadlines and objectives to ensure students complete the materials in a set timeframe.
Year 11 was the year that benefitted most
Looking at the data for our UK schools programme last term, it was also interesting to note that the Year 11 was the cohort most chosen by their schools for an EtonX course. In fact, around 20% of UK Year 11s had access to an EtonX course. So I hope for the thousands EtonX Resilience students who have faced the challenge of not sitting their GCSEs and who are now just starting Sixth Form, some of the techniques we have taught them during lockdown will help them find success in the future.
The new EtonX offer for UK state schools
For the new academic year, EtonX has expanded the offer to UK schools so that each school can now offer a course to all students in Years 10-13. We have also opened up the full range of courses, adding our Critical Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Verbal Communication and Public Speaking courses to the scheme.
With schools now back in session but our outlook still troubled by COVID, we lare seeing that once again Resilience is the top choice course amongst teachers. We are also seeing schools that were part of the emergency response first phase coming back this academic year having carefully considered how to integrate our courses into school programmes for different year groups. Through a long-term commitment to support skills development, we hope to forge ongoing relationships with schools and deliver our part of the Eton2020 vision.
Read more about Eton2020.
Take a look at our blog for more ideas on how students can develop Resilience.