Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the tricky issue of progression in learning habits. Just before half-term we explored our thinking behind mapping a possible progression in perseverance, and looked at what we thought might be the component parts. This week we take a detailed look at the phases of growth. Read on to find out more.
Firstly, a quick reminder about the component parts of perseverance. These are shown in the columns of the chart below and will, of course, be different for each learning behaviour. You might think of them as an array of things that combine to make up a strong learning behaviour. In the case of perseverance several things come to mind. How you are willing and able to deal with being stuck, how you are able to manage distractions and the learning environment wherever that may be, how you relate to challenge and how you are influenced by goals, be they your own or imposed by others. All these things contribute to how well you are able to persevere. Beyond that there’s your own little voice of self awareness: what you say to yourself and how this influences your beliefs, values and actions. These aspects are captured in the chart below.
Putting it all together – How perseverance might grow when we nurture it
Having sorted out the skill columns we then need to think about what the progression steps might look like as you move from ‘can’t’ to ‘can do well’. The rows are based on a scale of progression interpreting what learners might do as they build this learning habit moving from lacking awareness of the behaviour to where they become skilled, turning the behaviour into a habit. Finding some sort of scale capable of capturing progression for any learning behaviour proved challenging. We finally settled on Bloom’s sophisticated taxonomy of the affective domain, since so much about learning is an emotional business, and applied a distilled and manageable set of phases to each of the components of perseverance.
In the ‘Lacks’ (grey) phase…
…students lack any sort of coping strategies. They have got the idea that mistakes are a bad thing; that getting them unstuck is someone else’s job; that they just need constant support from an adult; that they haven’t a clue what sort of resource might help them or; that they simply don’t know about working towards some end or goal. Many students will need to be eased into learning how to learn in a classroom setting including how and what perseverant learners behave and do. In self talk students may be saying to themselves ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t’.
The ‘Receives’ (purple) phase…
….is about doing something because you are told or expected to. Here students have made a big leap from ‘can’t or ‘won’t’ to gaining a more positive stance, doing something because they have been required to. They are inclined to play it safe, staying within their own comfort zone to ensure success and avoid perceived failure. They still need adult support to maintain focus and optimism when tackling tasks they perceive as difficult, but this big step represents the beginning of being able to take more responsibility. In self talk a student may say ‘Show me’ or ‘tell me’.
The ‘Responds’ (blue) phase…
…is about gaining interest and doing things more willingly. Here students develop greater independence . They are realising that fear, the need for adult support, and distraction can be overcome by having/using more coping strategies, that practical ideas get them unstuck, that mistakes are useful, that trying to reach achievable goals can make them feel good They are picking up their tools for learning.This might translate to “I’ll try” in student self talk
The ‘Values’ (green) phase…
…is a key phase since the student now sees the value of behaving in this way. It’s a win for them; to behave like this is in their own interest. It’s in this phase that the behaviour becomes more secure. Here they develop a strong belief that they can get better at learning. Not only are mistakes useful but they become curious about mistakes and watch out for those they know they are prone to make. They develop and use many practical strategies to assist them in dealing with challenge, being stuck and staying focused. They have realised that by using these strategies they are doing better; behaving in this way is a win for them. It’s in their interest. In self talk this might translate into “I see why”
The ‘Organises’ (yellow) phase …
…is where students capitalise on this ‘in their interest’ behaviour and becomes organised to use it positively. Risk-taking is underpinned by sound strategies. Failures are analysed for greater understanding. They have accepted responsibility for their behaviour. They have turned knowing the value of using the strategies into organising themselves to use them more generally. In student self talk this might translate into “I’ll make sure I do”.
The ‘Embodies’ (orange) phase …
…known as ‘characterised’ in the original taxonomy is where a person has made this behaviour their own. It has become part of their character; they can’t not do it and they have become highly skilled in doing it. In student self talk this might translate into “I can’t not do”.
This progression is long-term: it doesn’t represent phases that could all be achieved by year 6! Some phases may take people years to work through; some will never be worked through. None of the phases are inevitable. There is a lifetime of development captured here. Nevertheless the role of a teacher or parent should surely be to encourage and enable this journey.
The linearity of the chart almost suggests that learners will edge upwards in a fairly consistent manner, but this is not necessarily the case. For example, a learner may make significant progress in managing their learning environment, and yet still shy away from challenge. Moreover moving ‘up the chart’ is not inevitable – getting older and becoming a better learner do not necessarily correlate, something that many adults demonstrate on a daily basis. Indeed some young learners appear to ‘lose’ some of their innate, positive learning behaviours when faced with the formality of ‘schooling’ – the attention seeking and overly-dependent 12 year old may once have been a fiercely independent toddler. Why might that happen, we wonder? Is it the role of teachers and parents to ‘work between the lines’ of the chart; to promote, support and ensure positive growth?
The chart is currently written in ‘teacher speak’ and is only for professional consumption. But it wouldn’t be hard to produce a child-friendly version:
- ‘Uses suggested prompts and resources to get unstuck’ becomes ‘I use the stuck poster if I’m not sure what to do’
- ‘Resists the inclination to stick with easy, can-do activities’ becomes ‘I try to do things that I think might be tricky’
- ‘Have a sense of what they want something to look like. Visualises end results’ becomes ‘I try to imagine what it will be like when I have finished’
- And so forth
The chart helps us as professionals in a myriad of ways:
- It offers us more varied yet focussed ways of talking about ‘not giving up’ or ‘keep on trying’.
- It guides us towards being able to set small, achievable targets. For example a target for a learner who ‘has no coping strategies’ might be ‘If I am finding it difficult, then I will try at least two ideas from the stuck prompts before I ask for help’. The ‘if’ frames the situation for the learner, the ‘then’ is the target.
- It helps to make mentoring and coaching more focussed.
- It offers practical statements to help to inform report writing.
- It can and should inform curriculum/lesson planning.
Translated into child-friendly language, it gives learners a rich language with which they can understand and discuss learning and themselves as learner – the holy grail of meta-cognitive thinking and self-regulation.