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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Savage

How are you today?

Matthew Savage writes in recommendation of the humble “check-in”, an essential prerequisite of truly personalised learning.

Photo by Larissa Gies on Unsplash

There is a lot of language which has lazily slipped into school jargon and which, in so doing, has lost much of its meaning and potency. Inclusivity seems so often, and ironically, to exclude most groups of students beyond those with SEND; Dweck has seen the essence of Growth Mindset diluted through second-hand misinterpretation; and much talk of mindfulness misses the point entirely. All too easily, and with the best of intentions, we can end up the wizard behind the curtain of our own cliche.

With this in mind, I would like to rescue and reclaim from behind the bland bars of a thousand Mission Statements, or the panacean promises of edtech, Personalised Learning. The clue is in the name: how can we personalise anything without fully understanding the person for whom it is being provided? In the context of schooling, how can learning be personalised unless we understand the learner?

So let us start there. How do we understand each learner with whom we have the privilege to work in our physical or virtual classrooms? Firstly, we admit that we do not. Yet. (Dweck would be proud of me here.) What we see is, invariably, what the learner wants us to see. What lies beneath is invariably a different matter entirely. This is where I still love the metaphor of the treasure map: to channel Sexsmith, “There’s gold in them hills”.

On a macro level, this is where an increasing number of schools worldwide are using PASS, the attitudinal survey from GL Education. Indeed, I have just started working with yet another cohort of international school leaders who have enrolled on my online workshop exploring how PASS can complete the data triangle essential to understanding each young learner. However, regardless of the assessment tools to which your school subscribes, there is a free and simple step you can utilise every single day.

The humble ‘check in’: so easy to overlook, and yet so important to remember. It is difficult to overestimate the impact on a student’s wellbeing, and their attitudes to themselves and their school, of a teacher asking, with sincerity and compassion, “How are you doing today?” This is doubly important in these unsettled and unsettling times, with so many students disconnected from their teachers and peers some or all of the time, or still recovering from the longest summer of their lives.

So when you next meet your students, at the start of the day or the beginning of your lesson, try to find the time and space to check in; to ask about them. Never has it mattered more for us to show that we care; and never has it been more important for our students, whether they are learning remotely or face-to-face, to know they are ‘seen’. And the great thing is that, the more we do this, the better we will get to know our students - an essential prerequisite, after all, for Personalised Learning.

A global voice in the use of student-level data to boost student wellbeing and personalise learning, Matthew works with schools worldwide to help them look ‘beneath the mask’. He specialises in the use of CAT4 and PASS to complete each student’s data triangle, and help them #thrive and #belong. For further information, or to discuss a training solution for your school, please visit, or contact Matthew at

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