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Pedagogy - Feedback loop:

Rewards and punishment usually gives result, but emphasis is put on positive reinforcement over negative comment. The tutor establishes consistent, age appropriate limits and interactions to assist in the development of positive self concepts, problem solving abilities, a sense of independence, responsibility and community. A praise acknowledging a work well done is a good motivator.
The tutor always gives attention and care, even if the student's performance is low. The tutor points out the positive aspects of it and encourages doing it better next time. Also, the production from other better students is shown and explained as an example, a model.

When the student is not cooperating, the feedback consists in several warnings, gradually more explicit. The misbehaviour is explained as not socially acceptable or too disruptive for the class. In case of non-compliance (repeated deliberate breaches of internal rules), it can go up to the exclusion, with due explanation to the parents. Ill-tempered, insolent, unpleasant, violent or highly anxious students have no place at OakEdu, unless the psychotherapy is chosen in the feasibility phase.

The tutor insists more on the intellectual part of the feedback. The goal is to get an auto-feeding loop: rationally doing better is a reward in itself because of the satisfaction of meeting a challenge with success, the feeling to have done it by her/himself. The tutor's role is just like a guide, encouraging, praising, correcting, explaining, giving meaning and whereabouts. There is active Socratic dialog: the tutor teaches by asking questions rather than telling the students what to do; the questions are designed to help students arrive at conclusions on their own. The loop becomes auto-sustainable and the curiosity, thirst for knowledge, develops naturally. The technical goal is to start the learning engine. Even if sputtering and stopping from time to time at the beginning, the engine will pick up its normal pace and run smoothly thereafter. The process can then be enriched and refined later on. The learning has to be stretched over the week, usually. Some overlap and repetition is needed. Frequent reviews and a variety of approaches reinforce learning because of the repeated exposure to the key concepts.

We usually don't proceed on any kind of formal examination, because the feedback is constant. However, we had some students needing the short-term incentive of a monthly exam, so it was implemented in those cases. Formal tests partially measure achievement, stimulate study (short-range goal), provide an undirect competition, induce memory recall while trying to solve problems, reward when right answers are found, attract congratulation feedback when successfull. Thinking about having to recite the lessons in front of the tutor can be frightening. At OakEdu, we keep a balance: the student has to be enough motivated by the formal test but without being overly stressed out, because, after all, this is not real school. However, formal testing is only an accessory in the toolbox of OakEdu, because it can bring side-effects. Such examples are working only for the test instead of learning for deep knowledge, or bragging about a test success to the parents instead of putting into action the knowledge in the day-to-day life.

The student is in control of the learning, actions undertaken are initiated and owned by the student. Failure or success is just a feedback from of a sequence of actions. The student has to identify where in the sequence she/he has a direct control so that the micro-action could be changed the next time in order to get another result. Being in control is usually very rewarding, especially when ultimately there is obvious success. Little by little, an accumulation of positive feeling can rebuild or enhance the emotional layer, making learning fun, pleasant and rewarding. That feeling has to be reframed, reinforced and enhanced. The learning process is triggered by something, it is like a spark that comes when proper conditions happen, like an engine combustion. "Self-propelled" learning is our goal. The student must realize that progress is a direct result of effort. The greater motivation leads to more achievement, which explains why it is common to cover 2 or 3 grades in just one year.

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