How is building learning power different? What’s the distinction between learning more, learning better and becoming a better learner?
2. From there to here
An enthusiasm for ‘better learning’ has motivated teachers for a long time. In attempts to help students learn more or learn better, teachers tried to understand learning styles, multiple intelligences, and the like. In attempts to help students improve their organisation of knowledge or the effectiveness of their memory, teachers used tools like mind maps, mnemonics, and other study skills. These approaches have laid the ground for a deeper, more permanent set of approaches, whose aim is to get beyond learning more, or learning better, to helping students to help themselves become better learners.
” I can’t think of anything more worth learning than learning to learn. It’s like having money in the bank at compound interest” David Perkins. Project Zero, Harvard University
2a We used to think…
that ‘improving the quality of students’ learning’ was really about ‘raising attainment’. Learning was seen as a performance rather than a process (learning more). Later ‘learning to learn’ aimed to develop ‘study skills’. ‘Good teaching’ was still content focused, plus delivering study skills (learning better). Then we moved to the idea of removing stress levels to raise performance levels, but the focus was on how the teacher could ‘teach’ better, rather than on how students could be helped to become better learners.
2b But now we think…
… of ‘learning’ as an interesting process going on in children’s brains. When we all believed that ‘intelligence’ was fixed at birth there seemed little point in trying to cultivate it. Now we know just how learnable learning is we are realising that there’s a place for developing how we learn. Research uncovered some dimensions or energies or powers that can be used to shape how we learn. They could shape, for example, the growth of our resilience in learning, our learning relationships, our thinking skills and how we manage our learning. Ask yourself;
- What does resilience mean to a four-year-old, or ten-year-old, or a sixteen year old and how can it be appropriately stretched?
- What kinds of thinking skills will help students become better learners?
2c Disposition; the hidden dimension of learning
What if some of the girls in your class believed that ‘Maths isn’t for girls’ or that some students thought that ‘If you can’t solve it in a minute, you can’t solve it at all’ or that ‘Bright people never have to try’. All these erroneous ideas cause students to be disposed to give up easily, to feel stupid, to feel disengaged. Think of ‘dispositions’ as indicators of the degree to which one is disposed to make use of a skill or knowledge.
Underlying this approach is a recognition that learning how to learn involves more than skills, it involves students attitudes, values, interests and beliefs as well. It’s about helping students to help themselves to be disposed to persist, to question and be curious, to collaborate harmoniously and to be open to new ideas.
The good thing is that these dispositions, inherent in all of us, are not fixed at birth. They can be developed by all of us regardless of ‘ability’, social background or age. Extending our learning power has no limits.
2d Where do you stand?
Think about what you think good learners do. Mull over the statements and indicate whether you broadly agree or disagree with them.
Think about how you teach in relation to each of them. To what extent does your teaching embody what you say about good learning?
Do you sometimes act as if you believed something different from what you say you believe?