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Putting Learning Power into Secondary Schools: an integrated approach

A couple of weeks ago we considered using a freestanding Learning how to Learn course as a way of introducing Learning Power to students. This week we contrast that with a more integrated approach to putting Learning Power into secondary schools. Let’s say the school has already: explored and developed its vision for learning. leaders…

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Collaboration: sharing and reflecting

Making meaning through reflection.  A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience. —Jack Mezirow There’s a tendency to go through life viewing our experiences as just that – experiences –  rather than seeing them as opportunities for learning. But in building powerful learners we want students…

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Collaboration: learning the language

‘There are ways of saying it and there are ways of saying it.’ Two of the most important influences on developing your students’ learning powers are how you talk – the messages you convey in the words and tone you use, and how you behave. Some ways of talking strengthen students’ positive attitudes towards learning;…

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Collaboration: Getting to know you

Make “working together” work better.  Pair work, group work or teamwork are frequent features of classroom practice across all age ranges. The essential purpose of collaborative learning is the co-construction of learning; to make meaning together. Many of you will have recognised the importance of collaboration through the recent BBC 2 series The Family Brain…

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Putting Learning Power into Secondary Schools; some cautionary tales

Few secondary schools benefit from an intake of students who are well-versed in their Learning Powers i.e. those learning dispositions that determine their propensity for change and will influence and underpin their performance throughout life. Sadly, despite a rapid uptake of learning power ideas in primary schools ten and more years ago, few have persevered…

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Collaboration: culture and beliefs

Make “working together” work better.  Pair work, group work or teamwork are all frequent features of classroom practice across every age range. The role of collaborative learning is the co-construction of learning; to make meaning together. For this to be successful students will need to ‘live’ being collaborative throughout their time in school; to be…

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If-Then Plans: making a new habit stick

Picking up on last week’s theme of learning language this week we take look at goals, a well used classroom word, and how we could make them more achievable. One of the problems with goals is that they’re often couched in terms that are too big. Research tells us that our brain ignores goals if…

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Language to shape learning: Perseverance

Schools socialise their students into ways of thinking about learning: how to go about it, which kinds of learning are well thought of, how to think of themselves as learners, and what aspects are worth paying attention to. In all kinds of subtle (and not so subtle) ways, answers to these questions seep into your…

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Managing distractions: nudging the habit

As you interact with your students day in and day out  you’ll be talking about the ‘what’ of their learning – the content. With content, whether it’s English or Maths or History you know what you are looking for, you’re aware of the misunderstandings students may have, you’re aware of common sticking points and so…

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Tracking learning behaviours lesson by lesson

The Big Picture Teachers at Squirrel Hayes First School in Biddulph, Staffordshire monitor every child’s use of learning behaviours in every single lesson. But why are they doing this? What are the benefits? Is it worth it? Headteacher Erica Pickford explains that this data gives teachers and the school the ability to track and identify…

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Helping your learners – a new resource

Last week’s blog went behind the scenes in Ms Mann’s Year 6 maths lesson and captured her working her learning power magic. But Ms Mann is not alone – all the teachers in her school are pursuing the same aim: to build better learners. As their website declares:- “At St Herbert’s we have adopted Building…

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Come inside a learning powered maths lesson

Last week we took a peek at junior children from St Herbert’s C of E primary school in Keswick talking confidently about their learning power. This week we take a closer look at what’s going on in a learning powered maths lesson in Year 6. Take a look at how the story of the lesson…

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Step inside a learning powered school

For some weeks now we’ve been writing  ‘behind the scenes’ of learning power…how it could look; how it might grow; what students might be encouraged to say; what learning friendly cultures could look and feel like; what emotional behaviours does perseverance seem to be made up of? In effect we have been using what’s come to…

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How might perseverance grow when we nurture it?

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.…

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Unpicking Perseverance

Last week we looked briefly at the progression of learning habits and left you with a tricky challenge…..to try to construct a trajectory for perseverance from ‘can’t’ to ‘can do well’. This week we continue this idea and explore our thinking behind mapping the possible progression in learning habits, to answer the question… What does getting…

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Progression in learning habits

Last week we looked briefly at the role of the teacher, but this week we look at the habits of the Supple Learning Mind framework; what they are, how the labelling has shifted and, importantly, how they might progress over time. If the big ambition of Building Learning Power is to work, the learning behaviours need to…

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Learning friendly teacher action and talk

Last week we looked at the classroom focused framework…the Teachers’ Palette, discovering how it has developed in response to changing circumstances and a recognition of the importance of classroom culture. This week we look more closely at the subtle changes teachers of learning power need to make; in designing activities, coaching progress and making talk about learning…

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Creating metacognitive classroom cultures

Last week we reminded ourselves of why we needed to develop better learners and took a brief look at the two frameworks involved. This week we take a closer look at one of those frameworks, the Teachers’ Palette, that offers an overview of aspects of a learning friendly culture which combine to create the metacognitive classroom. Yes…

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Preparing The Canvas

This week’s blog is a little different as it comes direct from Oakfield Primary Academy in Dartford Kent. The school has been thinking about building pupils’ learning power for a while now and recently started using the Building Learning Power online courses to deepen their approach. As we give time for the changes in classroom…

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In praise of the futures-driven curriculums in Scotland and Wales

I have spent much of the past few weeks considering the issues that have faced Scottish schools for over a decade as a result of the Donaldson Report. This report spawned their Curriculum for Excellence which is built around four key purposes, sometimes referred to as key capacities. These purposes look to the longer term…

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Learning-friendly classrooms: Routines

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. Often on our training days we ask ‘What do good learners do?’ As teachers, we know that good learners can listen attentively for information, engage with the material, stay on task, and so on. So a teacher might quite reasonably respond to that question with ‘We want them…

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Gold standard Learning Power!

We couldn’t let the term end without celebrating Wibsey primary school’s achievement, that of reaching Gold level of the Learning Quality award. Inspired by the story of Miriam Lord Primary, another Bradford school, Nigel Cooper – Headteacher at Wibsey Primary School – started his staff and pupils on building their learning power just three years…

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Introducing BLP as a NQT

This week sees another guest blog from Patcham Infant School, this time by recently qualified teacher Lizzie Hilton.Here she shares her discoveries about how to get to grips with Building Learning Power.    BLP as an NQT by Lizzie Hilton, Patcham Infant School As a newly qualified teacher (NQT), fresh out of teacher training, I was excited…

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Progression in the Language for Learning

This week’s guest blog comes from Chris Taylor, headteacher at Patcham Infant School near Brighton. “It is inarguable that quantitative data represents an essential aspect of assessing a child’s development; it hopefully measures positive progress which is then often represented in numbers, letters, words or acronyms. However, measuring qualitative information, in my mind, enables us…

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Goldilocks stretch

My two children go to a lovely infant school that is keen on learning. Each child at the school has a Learning Journey book which display their work, interesting comments they have made about what they are doing, comments from the teachers, next steps for their learning, and so on. They are a wonderful record…

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Learning to be Robots?

Two things caught my eye this week – did you see them too? The first was an ad in the TES from a school in London that is seeking a Detention Director. Do you, the ad begins, like order and discipline? Believe in children being obedient every time? When I last looked online, TES was…

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Patcham Learning Heroes group

A visible learning journey: introducing learning characters

Chris Taylor, Head at Patcham Infant School, has written another insightful piece for us. This week he explores the introduction of learning power heroes to his pupils. How do you help infant children develop the notion of learning muscles and become better learners? Patcham Infant School and Nursery Class is not unlike many other schools…

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Perseverant Polly, patient pony.

This heartwarming video came up on my Facebook feed this morning.  I don’t usually take more than a glance at these apparently random videos (although at least it wasn’t cats) but there was something about it that piqued my interest: small girl, bright pink, filly net skirt, counterpointed comically with wellies and a hard hat. Unusual…

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A Visible Learning Journey

In this guest blog Chris Taylor, Head Teacher at Patcham Infant School and Nursery Class, highlights some of the brilliant effects Building Learning Power has had on learners at his school. Take it away, Chris.   A few weeks back Patcham Infant School hosted a Creative Curriculum evening for Key Stage 1 parents. This meeting…

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Building Learning Power from scratch

I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days last week at a new free school in London that accepted its first intake (120 year 7 students) last September. Having previously spent two days working with the newly appointed staff in June, I was keen to see how their vision was taking shape. The…

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Questions questions questions!

On the importance of asking, exploring, and generating questions. Babies are beautiful, aren’t they? All rolls of soft flesh, wrapped in fluffy cotton, angelic looks, and giggles like nothing else. And then they learn to talk; often the first words are ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy’. This (very) quickly develops into ‘Mummyyyyyy?’ and ‘Daddyyyyy…?’: the questions begin.…

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Walking the walk

When I ask senior leaders about learning walks, most say that they do them regularly. When pressed about what they actually do during such a learning walk, the answer is usually more about walking than learning. A few systematically gather data about learning that can be used to monitor changes in the school’s learning culture,…

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Smiley, sparkly classrooms

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about life changing times for two of my grandsons. I’m happy to report that the elder has become the cook for his friends and the youngest is still skipping happily to the new adventure….school. This week I’ve been struck by what my youngest granddaughter has been asked to think…

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Homework?

There has been much excitement on Facebook this week about setting homework for primary age pupils. The trigger was a teacher in the US who wrote to her pupils’ parents that she would no longer be setting homework as there was no evidence that it works. As is now so often the case, the social…

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New beginnings: old habits?

For many young people this week has been the start of a new phase in their lives. In my family my oldest grandson was proudly driven hundreds of miles, in a car packed to the roof, to begin his university career. My youngest grandson donned his crash helmet and scooted his way to ‘big’ school, just like many…

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In praise of Think Pair Share

Almost every classroom I go into has children talking, working and learning together for considerable periods. Sometimes this group work is carefully managed and structured by the teacher, but too often it is little more than children sitting around the same table working together or near each other. Frequently stimulated by the poorly specified invitation…

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Never look at a lesson the same way again!

I returned home recently after two wonderful days undertaking a learning review in a welsh medium school in North Wales. You might think sitting around in lessons all day watching students learning would be easy, but spotting which learning behaviours they are employing and how their teachers are stimulating this to happen always leaves me exhausted.…

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The Scottish Solution?

I work in schools in all corners of the UK, but increasingly in Scotland. The first flight to Edinburgh or Glasgow, a day’s work with a school and the last flight back is just feasible with schools in the central belt. But why the interest in BLP in Scotland, when most English schools are currently…

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Three cheers for inactive learning!

When I talk to students about the types of lessons they enjoy, they invariably mention lessons where they are ‘active’. For them, active means playing sport in P/E, or acting in Drama, or doing an experiment in Science, or making something in D&T, etc. Dig further, and what they mean by active learning is that…

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What does it really mean to get ‘better’ at learning?

Teachers are familiar with the need to assess, record and report on curriculum progress and attainment. The world is full of levels, level descriptors, tests, diagnostics, examinations, point scores, value added measures, and the like – even in ‘life after levels’ !! But they all refer to the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and understandings…

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Building Learning Power and Mindfulness

I have worked with colleagues at South Dartmoor Community College for six years now. Under the inspirational leadership of Hugh Bellamy, they have retained – during a period of educational turbulence – a dedicated commitment to the enhancement of learning for all students. Hugh – with whom I have had the privilege of working for…

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Do I have to repeat myself again and again?

Discussion is a key feature of learning, whether it be working in groups, think pair share, or engaging with a question and answer session. The spoken word is a frequent medium for learning. It follows that effective listening behaviours are necessary if the student is to access the learning. Why then, do so many teachers…

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Take a risk with your learning – Guest blog from Katie Holt

This week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Katie Holt, Coordinator of Learning & Teaching and the Student Council at South Dartmoor Community College. Take it away, Katie ‘Take a risk with your learning.’ This is often something we say to students who tend to play it safe when it comes to their learning. So in the…

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And talking of learning, why is it so hard to do?

When working with schools, I regularly initiate conversations with teachers about learning. It is, surely, the core purpose of schools, and to be an effective teacher with little interest in, or understanding of, human learning is inconceivable. So why, then, do such conversations frequently become derailed by other, more ‘pressing’, issues? What are these pressing…

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Food for thought: a kitchen revolution

On a visit to a BLP hub school in Cornwall this week I came across a remarkable story from Jo Wotton, the Saints Way MAT’s Catering Manager. In just three years she has evolved from being the disgruntled parent of five to a finalist in the BBC Cook of the Year category; part of the…

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Independence – reality or empty rhetoric?

Schools frequently talk about producing independent learners who are able to rise to the challenges of the 21st Century. Indeed, many schools include such notions in their mission statement. But how often does this aspiration get beyond wishful thinking and empty rhetoric? Part of the problem might lie in the lack of a shared understanding of…

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More than just good teaching

I was recently invited back to a school that I have been working with over the past couple of years to conduct a Learning Review and see what the impact of their work on Building Learning Power had been since my last visit in September. Whilst there were many signs of students’ learning having been…

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Leaders and Learners Learning Together

The second installment in Fiona Corfield’s series about how The Saints’ Way Multi Academy Trust is embedding learning power. It’s been a really exciting few weeks as Building Learning Power begins to gather momentum across the academy. We decided that the best way forward, as an academy, is for leaders and learners to learn together.…

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Getting unstuck

It’s easy to get stuck, so why is it so hard to get unstuck ? Lack of sensible strategies when faced by perceived difficulty is a recurring theme from the teachers with whom I work – about their students, obviously! Why, they ask, do my kids give up so readily? Why do they freeze when…

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Resourceful learning in the Information Age

The great thing about my friend Paul is that he’s opinionated; we don’t always agree with each other but he always requires me to justify my opinions and think for myself. Take the jazz concert we attended the other night; on the way to the bar, his face told me that he thought the music we’d just heard…

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I give up!

When working with schools I frequently ask the question “Which learning behaviour, if improved, would make the biggest difference to learning in your school?”. Invariably the answer is Perseverance. I wonder why that is ? When you talk with students, it is immediately clear that perseverance carries many negative connotations that reflect their (often unspoken)…

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Saints’ Way’s Learning Journey: first steps

Fiona Corfield has been Headteacher at Lerryn and St Winnow Primary Schools in Cornwall and is now School Improvement Lead with The Saints Way Multi Academy Trust. They have taken the brave step of sharing their journey towards becoming learning powered schools in a series of blogs, written by Fiona, for the Building Learning Power…

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Learning, flipped on its head

There is much talk of the flipped classroom and of flipped learning – some of you may have attended FlipCon UK this week (Twitter was positively alive with it!). The terms, which are frequently used interchangeably, concern, at a basic level, what would have otherwise been covered in class being covered at home and in…

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Emotionally intelligent parenting

As a headteacher one of the most frustrating things I had to deal with was parents who complied with their children’s fragility and, however well-meaningly, gave their children excuses that would get them out of things they didn’t want to do… Let’s take the case of a student that we will call Mick. I was delighted…

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Unravelling the golden threads of learning

Hallbankgate Village school opened it’s doors to teachers from across the country who were eager to discover how the school grows curious, independent and resilient learners. Here’s the first of a short series of blogs uncovering what we experienced. In June 2014 Hallbankgate Village Primary school was awarded the Gold Standard through the Learning Quality…

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The Growth of Growth Mindset – A leap of faith?

When working with teachers I often mention Carol Dweck and her work on developing a growth mindset. Most teachers nod knowingly and say they have heard of it. When pressed, many fewer have actually read much of her work, such as her excellent book ‘Mindset: The New Psychology of Success’. Nonetheless, teachers across the country…

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Parenthood: the steepest learning curve

Many of us look back at the early years of our own kids and wonder how we managed to ‘muddle through’. I, for one, wish I had known then what I know now! Parents go from a world of independence, adult company, and, for most of us we hope, a state of relative competence at…

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‘The Wasted Years’

It was interesting to read The Chief Inspector of Schools referring to Key Stage 3 as the Wasted Years in his address to the ASCL conference on Friday. For many years, Y8 – usually the second year of secondary education – has been called the dip year; when learners’ initial enthusiasm for their new teachers and varied…

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Real science or recipe science…

Here’s a workshop activity that I have been using recently that seems to go down well with students and their teachers. As learners enter the room, they find this image waiting for them with the instruction: What’s going on here…what questions are you asking yourself? I then harvest comments: Some numbers are going up…some are…

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World Book Day Resourcefulness

World Book Day: at once a wonderful innovation to encourage enthusiasm about books amongst children and parents…. and a busy parent’s last-minute nightmare! It is Wednesday 2 March, midday, and whilst idly surfing facebook ahem doing important social media research, I notice that World Book Day is less than 24 hours away. A slight sweat…

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Beyond Dependency – in support of Independent learners

Over the years, when I ask teachers in secondary schools to Tell me what your students are like as learners, they invariably respond in the same way: They do expect to be spoon-fed and for their teachers to do the thinking for them. I find this strange since I know that this is the last…

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Guest Blog: The Impact of Building Learning Power on my teaching and my students

Today’s blog is brought to us by Building Learning Power teacher Tracy Goodyear . Having worked with Building Learning Power from early in her career, she considers its practicalities, pros and cons, impact, and importance. ‘I was first introduced to ‘Building Learning Power’ shortly after my NQT year; I was teaching in a mixed comprehensive school that had received…

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Collaboration: the well-spring of creativity

This week I explore why learners need to be collaborators, and how we can help them to do so effectively. I had the great good fortune to spend some time yesterday – with Guy Claxton and others – in Becky Carlzon’s Y1/2 Bristol classroom. A splendid group of small children showed just what five and six year…

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Parent Learning Power

I have been a parent – and now a grandparent – for over 35 years and have probably just attended my last parents’ evening: my youngest son Tom’s Masters degree ceremony. Looking back, I often asked myself whether the experience of talking to teachers about my children’s progress really answered the right questions. I remember…

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Building Curious Minds

According to some research that I came across recently, the average 5 year old asks 274 in the course of a day. This has made me curious and want to know a bit more: Who is being asked these questions? Are these questions being asked of other five year olds? How do we measure the…

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Empathy and Understanding

As a headteacher, I used to say that one of the most significant outcomes we should aim for in our students was open-mindedness. That is to say the capacity to see things from other people’s point view and to approach their relationships with empathy and understanding. It is interesting to note that – in the…

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Teachers are in the habit forming business

There’s no escaping one simple truth: teachers are in the habit forming business. The only problem is that – the older they get – students are in the habit of manipulating their teachers to provide them with answers and solutions rather than helping them build understanding for themselves. Teachers – in many schools – comply…

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The secret of outstanding teaching

I’ve worked with – and had the pleasure of observing – some great teachers throughout my career and I’m beginning to understand what makes them stand out as outstanding – better than good. These are the teachers that make a difference and who have long-term impact on student learning and achievement. All headteachers with whom…

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Building the Habit of Listening

Learning habits are the routine ways in which we think and act when faced with new experiences and challenges. Very often they are second nature to us. Sometimes they make us very productive and efficient, for example, helping us know how to get started with something when we’re stuck. At other times, our well-honed habits…

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Sorting out Resilience, Perseverance and Grit

There seems to be a bit of a buzz around about perseverance, resilience and grit, especially since Character has gained a prominent place in the national debate. Sorting out the differences between them, if you need to, rather depends on what and who you read. But however you distinguish these three terms they all boil…

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Putting the ‘building’ into ‘Building Learning Power’

How do pupils get better at learning? The idea of building pupils’ learning power has been around for several years now and hundreds of schools proclaim on their website that their school is using the ideas to enable their children to learn better. One of those three powerful words….Building Learning Power…. is the word ‘Building’. It is…

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A Conference for Lancashire Headteachers, 7 October 2015

It’s not every day you get to listen to an internationally renowned professor, learn about a highly significant research project, and laugh till your sides split at the tales of a Bradford headteacher. These three elements threaded their way through a special day for schools in the western shadow of the Pennines. The North-west is…

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Stuck Wellies: prompts and props for getting children unstuck

When pupils at Thameside Primary school in Abingdon were introduced to their learning power, little did they know they were destined for a muddy morning. Christmas had come and gone, the weather was wet and cold, and the children wanted to be warm and dry in school. But no, staff had spied out some lovely…

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Learning by Imitation: Learning Heroes

We are built to learn by imitation. Evolution has equipped us with brains that are designed from the moment of birth to do what people around us are doing. When a baby sees you make a fist or a smile the neurons in her brain make her ready to do the same thing. It’s through this…

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What’s the Point of School?

Published by Oneworld, August 2008 The main arguments of the book Teacher in inner-city school: ‘Adele, how many legs does a grasshopper have?’ Adele: ‘Oh man, I wish I had your problems.’ Education is, above all, a preparation for the That means: helping to give all young people the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and values they…

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A Growth Curriculum: going beyond the growth mindset

Here at Building Learning Power towers we have long been firmly of the belief that learning is learnable – to oversimplify, one aspect of Learning Power is an extension of Carol Dweck’s outstanding and well-accepted work on growth mindsets. But after you have accepted that the mind is a balloon, capable of expansion and lift,…

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New Term, New Opportunities

And so the school summer holidays reach their tipping point: heads return to their offices in readiness for the examination results and the ubiquitous Back to School signs appear in all retail outlets. The countdown begins and late summer distractions are welcome before the onset of the new year’s anxieties and opportunities hold sway. Notwithstanding…

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Building Dens in Cumbria

How children were empowered to take control of their learning, through investigating effective strategies for collaboration. Some time ago I caught up with some of our learning powered schools, and this gem of a tale was shared with me by the head of a primary school in Cumbria. Children there were taken out to build…

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BLP in a new Academy

North Shore Academy opened in September 2010 following the closure of two failing schools in Stockton-on-Tees. The students from these two schools – along with existing staff – were amalgamated on the site of one of the previous schools. A new building was scheduled for completion on a brown field site for early 2013. Vice-principal,…

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BLP in an Outstanding school…

Uffculme School is an 11-16 comprehensive school serving a small town in east Devon. It is highly regarded in the local community and performs extremely well in public examinations. Relationships within the school are exceptional and the atmosphere calm and purposeful. The Oftsed inspection of 2007 rated the school outstanding. Headteacher, Lorraine Heath, knew that…

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Why does education need to change?

There are many changes, pressures, dissatisfactions and opportunities that are leading thousands of people around the world to ask the kinds of hard questions out of which philosophies and approaches like BLP have sprung. The economic imperative Education is often justified – by governments and others – as an investment in national competitiveness and prosperity, producing a workforce that…

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How it’s done

BLP has a clear social, moral and philosophical rationale. It puts at the heart of education the development of psychological characteristics that are judged to be of the highest value to young people growing up in a turbulent and demanding world. And it has a robust scientific rationale for suggesting what some of these characteristics…

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Building Learning Power is about

Building Learning Power is about: Helping young people become better learners Developing their portable learning power Preparing young people for a lifetime of learning What is BLP based on? An extensive body of research into learning and the brain Recent research into the key dimensions of learning power Practical trials in schools across the country…

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What is Building Learning Power?

International research into how the mind works shows that we are all capable of becoming better learners. Building Learning Power applies this research directly to the work of teachers in classrooms, to provide a practical framework for fostering lifelong learning in all young people. It is the job of education not to assume that learning will…

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