How do children learn? Can they be helped to do it better? If so, what is involved? And is ‘learning to learn’ — L2L — an accessory to the core business of schools, a distraction from it, or a new way of thinking about what that core business really is?
In this timely essay Guy Claxton, himself an eminent pioneer in the field of L2L, looks back over the evolution of the idea and assesses the state of the art. He points out some of the false starts and blind alleys that have been made as the field has evolved over the last twenty years. But he argues that these pioneering ups and downs are inevitable, and that we have actually made great strides in identifying the powerful learner’s habits of mind, and how to strengthen them.
In his characteristically authoritative and entertaining style, Guy Claxton guides us through this brief history, and lays out the exciting future that is in store. Where the early pioneers saw L2L in terms of revision advice and mnemonics, and their successors talked in terms of ‘learning styles’ and ‘brain-friendly learning’, the science of learning now offers a very much deeper and more challenging vision of what is possible.
The capacity to learn is much more elastic than we thought even a decade ago, and there is now a good deal of ingenious case-law about how to stretch it. Indeed, Claxton argues that this body of work provides a powerful way of making coherent sense of the current fascination with ‘personalising learning’. L2L is not just a way of customising school’s traditional offerings; it can set young people up — able and average alike — to meet life’s challenges with greater confidence and capacity.
“Thanks for this. It’s excellent. I read bits out to colleagues over dinner and we all cheered!”
Prof Philip Adey, King’s College London