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More about Building Learning Power

Building Learning Power is an approach to helping young people to become better learners, both in school and out.”

Professor Guy Claxton

What do we mean by that?

There are some core beliefs that underpin this focus.

“The first is that the core purpose of education is to prepare young people for life after school; to get them ready, as Art Costa, an American educator with similar views, says;

Not just for a life of tests, but for the tests of life.”

Professor Art Costa

This means helping them build up the mental, emotional, and social resources to enjoy challenge and cope well with uncertainty and complexity. Of course, this has to be done in a way that also develops literacy and numeracy, and gets young people the best test results possible.

This is the challenge that learning powered schools are prepared to take up.

A spirit of resourcefulness and resilience

Second, we believe that this is a goal that is valuable for all young people.

Not all youngsters are going to do well in exams; that is a statistical certainty. So there has to be another outcome that is useful and relevant to those who are going to clean offices, fix cars and cut hair, as well as those who are going to plead cases in court or prescribe medications. This involves helping young people discover the things that they’d really love to be great at, and to strengthen the will and the skill to pursue them.

Learning Powered schools aim to build that spirit of resilience and resourcefulness in all their students.

Confident in a changing world

Third, we think this aim is particularly relevant in societies, like ours, that are full of change, complexity, risk, opportunity, and individual responsibility for making your own way in life. In our grandparents’ day, many youngsters knew pretty clearly what their role and station in life was destined to be—miner, housewife, priest, primary school teacher. Not any more. In the swirling currents of today’s world, many youngsters are at sea. And that makes them anxious, angry, confused, and vulnerable.

That is the lack that Building Learning Power aims to put right.

We believe that all young people are capable of developing this confidence, capability, and passion. We think that our society’s notion of ‘ability’ has been too closely tied to academic achievement, and to the assumption that some youngsters have got a lot of that sort of ability, and some not very much. We think that real-world intelligence is broader than that, and that it is not fixed at birth, but something that people can be helped to build up.

The aim of Building Learning Power is to generate and broadcast practical ideas about how to expand real-world intelligence more and more effectively.

Intelligence is learnable

We don’t think that this challenge has been anywhere near met yet. There has been a lot of talk globally about lifelong learning and the ‘wider skills’ or ‘key competencies’ for life. But much of it has been at the level of wishful thinking and vague exhortation, or simplistic ‘hints and tips’ that don’t get close to doing the job that needs to be done. We think what’s needed has to be seen as a gradual, sometimes difficult, but hugely worthwhile process of culture change by schools and habit change by teachers.

BLP is vital, difficult and do-able

The depth and challenge of what is involved, if we are genuinely to deliver on this big ambition, has been widely underestimated. We think it is time to move from vision statements and soundbites to sustainability and precision.


How to approach Building Learning Power

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