The Early Years curriculum, mercifully lacking too much ‘stuff they need to know’, has long focussed on developing positive attitudes to learning through a blend of play and adult-led learning. These ‘positive attitudes’ have now been named the Characteristics of Effective Learning, a section of the EYFS that is too frequently overlooked as it runs to only 2 pages! [Click here to download the Characteristics]
We know from working with schools across the country that developing a shared, common language for discussing learning is a vital first step in helping children, and teachers, to be able to understand the learning process. If Building Learning Power is to be the basis of the common language in KS1/2, it is surely sensible to use it, age-appropriately, in Early Years also. Recently I have been working with Early Years settings to explore the extent to which Building Learning Power interfaces with these Characteristics of Effective Learning in order to explore how we can establish this common language.
The Characteristics are defined as:Active Learning (motivation): Being involved and concentrating; enjoying achieving what they set out to do; keeping on trying.
- Active Learning (motivation): Being involved and concentrating; enjoying achieving what they set out to do; keeping on trying.Playing and Exploring (engagement): Being willing to have a go; finding out and exploring; playing with what they know.
- Playing and Exploring (engagement): Being willing to have a go; finding out and exploring; playing with what they know.Creating and Thinking Critically (thinking): having their own ideas; making links; choosing ways to do things.
- Creating and Thinking Critically (thinking): having their own ideas; making links; choosing ways to do things.
Let’s look at the Characteristics in turn:
Active Learning – Being involved and concentrating is a blend of Managing Distractions, Absorption and Noticing
Active Learning – Enjoying achieving what they set out to do and Keeping on trying are facets of Perseverance, although ‘Being proud of how they accomplished something’ is very much an odd one out as it requires the child to reflect on the learning process itself – in Building Learning Power terms it is an aspect of Meta Learning that may well be beyond the under 5s without adult support.
Playing and Exploring – Being willing to have a go is not materially different from the aspects of Perseverance already mentioned in Active Learning.
Playing and Exploring – Finding out and exploring is mostly about curiosity, or in Building Learning Power terms Questioning.
Playing and Exploring – Playing with what they know is closely aligned to Imagining.
Creating and Thinking Critically is complex in comparison, as it embraces a raft of habits from across the cognitive and strategic aspects of learning. This may account for why it is the one that practitioners appear to find hardest to identify.
Creating and Thinking Critically – Having their own ideas is a peculiar blend of independence and problem solving, best considered as Reasoning and Imagining in Building Learning Power terms.
Creating and Thinking Critically – Making links is about linking ideas and sensing patterns
Creating and Thinking Critically – Choosing ways to do things is a combination of, in Building Learning Power terms, Planning, Revising, Distilling and Meta Learning. We know from experience that these habits are the ones that are most frequently neglected in schools or, worse, done by adults for children.
So – the overlaps are immense. Tackle the emotional, cognitive and strategic aspects of Building Learning Power and you will get the Characteristics as outcomes. Conversely, focus on the Characteristics and you will lay a secure foundation for ‘doing’ Building Learning Power in KS1.
But – What is missing from the Characteristics of Effective Learning ?
The Characteristics, as currently defined, are centred on the emotional, cognitive and strategic aspects of learning. The social aspects, so important in the Early Years, do not appear as part of these Characteristics. The reasons for their omission are unimportant, but should you wish to add this dimension to the existing Characteristics, you might create a fourth Characteristic entitled ‘Relating to Others – sociability’, with three aspects:
Relating to Others – sociability: Interacting with others: Displaying kindness to others; Showing patience when taking turns; Sharing their own ideas in a group situation; Respecting the views of others.
Relating to Others – sociability: Learning from others: Mirroring others; Copying familiar adults; Noticing what others do; Copying the successful habits of others.
Relating to Others – sociability: Listening to others: Listening to stories with increasing attention; Maintaining eye contact with the speaker; Showing patience when others talk; Showing sensitivity to others’ feelings.[In Building Learning Power terms, Collaboration, Imitation and Listening respectively.]
What do you think ? Is it necessary to include the social aspects ? Do you agree with my Relating to Others model ? Could you improve on it ?