Guest blog: The impact of BLP on my teaching, my students, and our school
This week Steve Baugh, Assistant Headteacher at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, shares the effect Building Learning Power has had on his students and his school more widely.
“I have now been involved with developing a programme of ‘Building Learning Power’ (BLP) at my school for about 20 months. In that time I believe that I have observed profound effects in so much of what I am involved in.
I have always been a confident teacher and have been lucky enough to have positive relationships with the students that I have taught; I have also been keen to try new ideas and help my students to develop as learners. Some initiatives have worked to a fashion and other ideas have simply exasperated me. When I initially heard about ‘Building Learning Power’ I was somewhat sceptical, but I read a little further and began to appreciate the logic of the process. Without a doubt the opportunity to empower students with a better grasp of their own learning and to instil a genuine resilience for university study really motivated me to help develop a ‘Building Learning Power’ culture at my school.
I have noticed that as we have introduced the learning habit terms to the students they have taken them on board with real zest and enthusiasm. The ‘splicing’ of learning habit language into our learning objectives has been quite easy and, I believe, has given our objectives more meaning. As time has passed we are finding that students already have an understanding of the habits and are able to more clearly visualise our dual learning objectives.
In one of my AS level teaching groups I had a couple of students who were languishing at grade E/U level when they started their course16 months ago. I have targeted these individuals and their group for close BLP attention! Though it is so difficult to link cause and effect between learning habits and exam performance, this group has made astonishing progress, but in particular the two underperforming students have just got strong grade A’s in their mock A2. I anticipate a full set of A and A* grades in the summer from this group. I feel comfortable suggesting that our conversations about learning habits have helped the group with a clearer understanding of their learning. They agree with me that they feel more confident as independent learners as they move toward the challenges of university study.
It is pretty straight forward to see the effect on my students. I find it very uplifting when they discuss their own learning using BLP language as they tackle learning challenges. When I ask the students what their impression is of the use of BLP, they are very positive and acknowledge the way in which they are now thinking about their learning. I have just done a session with our ‘Students As Learning Partners’ or SALP group. They have constructed their own learning ladders and have identified how they might feed back to staff their observations in as constructive a manner as possible. Their responses have been so mature and sophisticated throughout.
In my school I feel that the development of BLP has been substantial. After targeting the introduction of learning habits to years 7, 8 and lower sixth in our first year we have expanded to encourage staff to use BLP in all those lessons that they feel comfortable. It has been a natural and unforced progression that now sees the vast majority of lessons incorporating the use of learning habits. We still have a long way to go. Departments have been working on learning ladders which detail their interpretation of the progressive development of learning habits. This work has also been done by parents and our SALP group. Staff triads or quads have also been meeting regularly to share practice initially across curriculum areas and currently within departments. Altogether we are deepening our use of learning habits.
Given these developments and the cultural change which makes us ‘feel’ like a BLP School, there is the bottom line: We see emerging evidence of a positive effect on internal exam results. External exam results remain at record levels despite the school having to deal with continued challenges, especially financial. It is not really possible to link our exam successes directly to BLP, but I remain convinced that the effects can only be positive and will get even better. I also know that my A level students will take on university study with more highly developed and resilient learning skills and that gives me a real sense of satisfaction. The progress that the school has made can be summed up in a recent comment made to me by a teacher of German: the effect of the students using BLP regularly in their lessons has been that they learn more content at a deeper level in less time than ever before.”
Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield.