With students facing ‘unimaginable pressures' both within and outside of school, it is now more important than ever that we begin to explore and discuss issues surrounding the lives of students within a safe, educational environment. Recent research highlights the importance of schools’ role in promoting students’ overall health and wellbeing, so what can schools do to help? Can we utilise subjects such as PSHE to enhance student development?
PSHE is a subject dedicated to providing a safe space in which students are encouraged to openly explore issues relevant to their lives, such as mental health and relationships. However, some pupils question the extent to which their classroom discussions are applicable to ‘real-life’ contexts. Therefore, it may not be the subject itself which doesn’t resonate with pupils’ lives, but perhaps the content and delivery of that subject. For this reason, many schools have begun to implement ‘Drop Down Days’ to strengthen their PSHE curriculum and make student learning more effective and relevant.
What is a ‘Drop Down Day’?
‘Drop Down Days’, also known as ‘off-timetable’ days, replace structured classroom lessons with activities used to strengthen students’ practical application of skills and provide a deeper learning experience. Many schools utilise Drop Down Days to frame the classroom’s theoretical discussions within real-world contexts, giving students a chance to develop relevant skills, such as dealing with excessive stress.
Drop Down Days are expressed differently, with some schools focusing on specialist workshops, and others on out-of-school trips. Workshops can be utilised to help students build confidence and public speaking skills, or as a chance to raise awareness about current social issues affecting students. An example of an out-of-school trip could be a visit to the House of Commons, to explain and emphasise the significance of the youth vote on political decisions. Though the delivery of Drop Down Days may differ slightly among schools, its core function remains the same; they provide students with the ability to be equipped in valuable life skills which extend beyond the classroom context, serving to promote overall health and well-being.
How can we utilise ‘Drop Down Days’ effectively?
Though Drop Down Days are often received positively by students, it’s suggested that the extent to which students are able to remember their learning and its application is less clear. It is therefore essential that the benefits gained from the activities are maintained on a long-term basis, to truly allow for deeper learning.
Structured lessons with clear outcomes
Drop Down Days should not appear as ‘infrequent special events’, but should be framed within the context of the PSHE curriculum. Pupils should be given a clear objective, such as knowing how to recognise the signs of different mental health issues. Structured and relevant regular timetabled PSHE lessons should surround Drop Down Days in order to emphasise their relevance to pupils’ wider learning.
Translate theory into practical solutions
Many students question the relevance of theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom, asking when they will ever ‘use it in the real world.’ Using lessons as a space to discuss issues and the theory which grounds them, combined with practical Drop Down Days, allows for learning to extend beyond simply writing and taking notes. This offers a chance for pupils to cement their theoretical knowledge, and illustrates how classroom discussions are in fact useful to help make sense of the world. To discuss with students the value of healthy relationships, for instance, is of course highly relevant, but to have a specialist workshop on this issue may serve to make the classroom discussions more memorable, and thus more practical.
Encouraging continuous development through self-reflection
Self-reflection is crucial to both students and teachers. A key missing feature of Drop Down Days could be the lack of time invested towards being able to digest and reflect upon the learning. By encouraging students to be self-reflective and independent learners, we can allow them to personally consider what they gained from their Drop Down Days, and reflect upon how they can implement this new knowledge within their lives. One way in which we can encourage self-reflection is by asking pupils to track their learning and understanding with a learning diary. Using self-reflective methods within our classrooms is crucial to help harvest a culture of continual development by encouraging students to ‘internalise, think, and ask questions.’
How can I use video technology to aid development?
Drop Down Days are clearly useful for students’ development, and if delivered effectively, offer a chance for self-reflection and deeper learning. For deeper learning to take place, Drop Down Days should complement and strengthen the relevance of the content discussed within lessons, rather than act as a substitute for rich, wider learning across the PSHE curriculum. Development and growth cannot be compressed into a tick-box activity, measured by the implementation of Drop Down Days, but by encouraging a culture within schools that emphasises continual development.
Video technology can be utilised as a powerful tool to encourage self-reflection within and outside of the classroom, helping to foster an overall culture within schools which values self-reflection, open discussion, collaboration, and individual growth - amongst both students and teachers.
Does your school have Drop Down days? What kind of activities does your school do?
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