Principal's Blog

The Surval Award, the Power of Reflection

20 March 2023

Reflecting on what we have done helps us recognise what we have taken from an experience, helps us learn so that we do it better next time and helps clarify our next steps.  It is a hugely important life skill in both our personal and professional lives, but it takes practice to develop reflective skills that lead to a depth of meaningful reflection.


Broadening perspectives and reflecting on them

At Surval Montreux students enjoy a wealth of opportunities. Staff are committed to ensuring that the girls make the most of their time at Surval to develop their interests, broaden their perspectives and grow - academically, culturally, socially and above all personally.  However, moving beyond simple reflections on their experiences such as  ‘It was really fun’ ‘I made great friends’, ‘The teachers really helped me’, ‘I loved the travel opportunities’, ‘Ski week was brilliant’ - or the opposite when everything seems at that moment in time overwhelmingly negative - to a more meaningful, balanced and in-depth reflection process takes time and effort.


The Surval Award

At Surval we seek to provide a unique international educational experience which goes well beyond the classroom and sets girls up with experiences, skills and perspectives which will stay with them for life.  As Principal, I want Surval students to be able to articulate what they have gained through their Surval experience and how they have grown in ways that they would not have done had they not come to Surval. In other words, to be able to put into words the ‘value added’ from choosing to join Surval.  With this goal in mind, at the start of this year we introduced the Surval Award.  


The award covers all aspects of a student’s experience at Surval and will lead to the Surval Award certificate, with Pass, Merit or Distinction.  The award is underpinned by an online portfolio completed by each student, in which she records her experiences and reflections,  evidencing how she has embraced all aspects of a Surval education and how she has demonstrated Surval’s values #Challenge, #Own and #Lead in the process. 


An online portfolio to encourage written reflections

For our online portfolios, we have chosen to use Padlet - a user-friendly platform used in educational and professional domains, which aligns with teenagers’ experience of social media - enabling photos and written reflections to be quickly embedded, and facilitating the sharing of portfolios for wider comment and positive validation by peers, teachers and parents. 


A track record of experiences for university and job applications

Whilst supporting the reflection process, this portfolio will provide a record of experiences to take away on graduating from Surval and will be a reference to draw on in writing university and job applications and preparing for interviews.  University admissions officers and employers want to know what makes an applicant unique and how their skillset and experiences will contribute to their community. Employers want to see that employees can learn from mistakes and are open to growing and developing through open, critical reflection.  The portfolio helps students recognise the broadened, global perspective and widened cultural awareness they have gained by living in Surval’s international community and the wider skillset and interests they have developed.


Future improvements for our Surval Award

Reflecting on the success of the new initiative, there are, naturally, refinements we wish to make as we look ahead to launching Surval Award v.2.0 in August 2023. The current headings (Academic, Physical, Ambassadorship, Service, Extra Curricular, Super Curricular) will be replaced by a set of refined headings aligned with our Surval Core programme (Language and Culture, Ambassadorship and Service, Physical Endeavour, Creative Pursuit, and Passion).  


The balance of dedicated time needed in the timetable to ensure girls engage with the process is under discussion.  It is clear that dedicated time ensures it is afforded the credit it deserves, but this needs to be balanced with instilling in students an intrinsic motivation to record their reflections without prompting from teachers.  Time for staff is also important to ensure girls receive feedback and positive validation of their reflections so that students feel their efforts are recognised. 


Personal growth

There is no doubt that the quality of reflections has developed over the year, demonstrating personal growth and engagement.   

The mastermind behind the development of the Award is our Head of Enrichment, Mrs Jess Byrne, appointed last August to drive the enrichment life of the school and help girls gain maximum benefit from their wider educational experiences. In Mrs Byrne’s words:


‘Every aspect of Surval life strives to take learning beyond the normal, providing lifelong learning experiences. The Surval Award is no exception. Not only do we want girls to have fantastic experiences, it is also essential that they understand how these experiences shape them as individuals. In an incredibly busy school where opportunities for personal development are non-stop in all areas of school life, we must ensure students do pause, reflect and grow from their experiences. This is absolutely crucial to getting the most out of their education.’


I admit that girls are unlikely to fully recognise the value of the process until they look back after graduating from Surval. Like so much in life, meaning and impact often become clearer with time and retrospect, and the portfolio of reflections will help act as a lasting reminder of their wealth of experiences and everything they learned from their time at Surval.