During my time in high school at YIS, teachers have always stressed the importance of our approaches to learning. A few of these that I feel that I have demonstrated most effectively are research, reflection and transfer. Although all of these skills are used subconsciously throughout my studies in all of my classes, certain moments stand out to me in which I feel I was developing the skills.
Research in some form or another has been important in all of my classes so far. In tenth grade we had to complete a very structured research process for a history essay as part of our Individuals and Societies class. I chose to write about Dutch influence on Dejima during the Edo period, and we had to collect a number of both primary and secondary sources. Some of my primary sources included original Japanese prints from the time and quotes from books written at the time, and my secondary sources included articles written more recently about Dutch influence. I even received some scanned pages of old books from a contact at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo. For all of these sources we had to evaluate the OPVL: origin, purpose, value and limitation. These helped determine which sources would be the most useful for our essays. We then had to complete MLA citations for these, although at the time this was still MLA7 as MLA8 had not yet been implemented.
On the other hand, in our practice Music exam, a different style of research had to be completed. For the first essay question, because we did not have access to any sources besides the score, we had to rely solely on our own analysis. To do this we had to annotate the score and mark anything we noticed about different musical elements, including instrumentation, melody, harmony, time signature, key signature and rhythm. Although this was a different type of research from the OPVL style, it was still important to check through the piece multiple times to make sure that we could articulate clear musical arguments about it.
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Reflection is something we have been doing at YIS since kindergarten, but a lot of times, especially as a young child, I would do this without considering its significance. Over time, I have learned to think about more than just what I’ve done when I reflect. For example, for the assessment of composition in my Music class, I had to write reflective statements. This included thoughts and information about our inspiration, process and outcome, which encouraged me to think about the origin of my musical ideas. While on the surface this told me about what I had accomplished and how I could improve, it more importantly allowed me to understand how my creative process had developed over the course of the piece.
For the literature in translation section of our English Literature class, we had to complete another series of reflective statements. However, these differed significantly from the ones of the same name in Music, as they were written about other students’ work. Every group in the class presented an interactive oral about the contextual implications of a particular work that was studied, and the other students wrote reflective statements about everyone’s presentation but their own. These reflective statements required us to answer the question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral? This urged me to think about what I had learned from the other students’ work as well as my own, and how the different sections of the course could be brought together to create ideas for our written assignments at the end of the unit.
One final skill that I believe represents me as a learner is the ability to transfer information between subjects and investigate how topics covered in class relate to the rest of the world. For example, in my tenth grade Individuals and Societies class we completed a unit about sustainability which included information about recycling plastics. Around the same time, we were studying organic chemistry in Science class where we learned about the formation of plastics. This helped me understand the properties of certain plastics due to their types of intermolecular and intramolecular bonds and how this made it difficult for them to degrade. I found it very interesting to study the same topic from two different angles, as it allowed for connections between the two to arise.
Another example of transferring knowledge from one class to another took place during my eleventh grade higher level Economics class. We were learning about the Keynesian multiplier, a macroeconomic theory which suggests that when money is injected into the economy, it will infinitely produce more income that decreases at a fixed rate. Right before we were going to learn how it was calculated, I suddenly realized that the formula must be the sum of an infinite geometric series, which was part of our first unit of eleventh grade standard level Mathematics. This was an eye-opening moment for me for both classes, as I had never applied the Mathematical concept to a real-world situation like the multiplier. Although it is logical that math is used throughout economic theory, I remember this moment clearly as my beginning to understand the reasons for the formulae used without them having to be explained.
Overall, my classes have challenged me and urged me to develop my approaches to learning skills, especially research, reflection and transfer. Improving my research skills has allowed me to apply the same strategies to completely different situations and organize my information more efficiently, my reflections have taught me about my strengths and myself and my transfer skills have allowed me to apply ideas from the classroom to the rest of the world. I know that developing these skills will continue to benefit me, as they are a fundamental part of understanding oneself as a learner.