The Art of Teaching


Bella Nightingale, Assistant Head Teaching and Learning, at Marlborough College discusses how the College is utilising the very latest thinking to improve learning outcomes for their pupils

It’s a privilege to be a teacher. The opportunity to inspire, influence, and educate a future generation is a wonderful responsibility and one that yields deep satisfaction and joy. Excellent teachers are passionate about their subjects, interested in how children learn, care deeply for their pupils, and can capture and hold the attention of classes of different ages, personalities, backgrounds, needs and feelings. Teaching well is, in some ways, an art: some would say, being able to do it effectively is a gift; however, the best teaching is underpinned by an understanding of the science of learning.   

It's an interesting time to work in education given the developments in cognitive research about how we learn. It’s thanks to academics such as Professor John Hattie and Dr Dylan Wiliam, as well as pedagogics like Kate Jones and Tom Sherrington, that teachers can access the science in a meaningful and practical way; these experts have been driving this movement to take the research into the classroom: an approach embraced at Marlborough College. 

At Marlborough, we are committed to supporting our teachers in continuous professional development. They have access to a ‘Teaching and Learning Hub’ that provides them with information about developments in education, from cognitive load theory to Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction. There’s a library of books about teaching and learning for teachers to use; we also have an academic book group, who read and share insights over dinner. We have an annual pedagogical review, in which we collaborate to gather and share ideas and then observe one another in order to develop. We recently welcomed Dr Dylan Wiliam, a world expert in ways to use assessment in order to ensure pupil progress, to talk to our Common Room. Furthermore, we trial evidence-based approaches to evaluate how well these work for pupils.  

Our culture of embracing research builds our ability to deliver excellence in the classroom as we have become more reflective and critical of our practice. We’re aware that results don’t tell the whole story, just because a pupil performs well in a test, doesn’t necessarily confirm we have done our jobs. After all, we’re not just preparing pupils to excel in public examinations, but fostering in them a lifelong love of learning.   

Pupils need to know how to learn, not just the knowledge and skills related to their subjects. And so, metacognition and ‘growth mindset’ run alongside the study skills programme we are building for Marlburians. The hope is that they will adopt a ‘Marlborough Mindset’. That is, to be: curious, ambitious, conscientious, creative, responsible and collaborative. And, that they will know how to approach learning, manage their mental and physical health, deal with academic setbacks and obtain the skills and attitude to thrive beyond Marlborough.  

The Marlborough Mindset was launched in the Michaelmas Term 2022. A strategic and evidence-based approach to study skills, it supports pupils being productive and independent learners. At its centre are our six attributes, all valuable for school and for life beyond Marlborough.  

Our approach to study skills has been ‘homegrown’ and built with the needs of all Marlburians in mind. It’s characterised by the belief that elements of the mind and body need to be interconnected to maximise success. For example, in order to be fully effective when studying, you need to know how the brain works, how to make maximum use of memory and the importance of sleep and exercise. 

To adopt this mindset, pupils need to develop the right habits, knowledge and skills. To that end, pupils have all received a workbook with information on evidence-based strategies. Alongside the workbook, pupils attend practical sessions, led by the Study Skills Zone, an external provider that specialises in study skills training.  

Now launched, a significant part of embedding this is through pupil leadership. Each boarding house has a Marlborough Mindset Ambassador in the Lower Sixth who attends training on a fortnightly basis on a strategy from the workbook that they then deliver in their house. The Marlborough Mindset Prefects share tips in assembly on ways to learn effectively, ensuring each half-term has a focus related to one of the attributes. 

The Marlborough Mindset is a key part of our academic strategy which seeks to deliver the optimum outcome for all our pupils. We view learning as a skill that can be developed with the right strategies and attitude, and we will continue to work with our pupil body to create the most appropriate ways to embed strategies from the Marlborough Mindset into the academic life of all pupils. 


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