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Learning Power

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Each of us has our own unique Learning Power which not only determines how we learn but is governed by our motivations, our mind-set and the changing circumstances of our immediate environment. So, our power to learn can evolve through time as our responses across the 7 critical dimensions of Learning Power move to reflect our state of mind at the point of assessment.

Each participant’s Learning Power Profile captures a relative strength or weakness in each dimension and expresses them collectively in a simple spider graph. This graphic representation then becomes the starting point for the learner’s journey towards improved performance, offering direction for the choice of ways of working, of learning method and of learning interventions.

ELLI is the name we give to this Learning Power assessment tool. ELLI has already revolutionised the life chances of many people from many walks of life globally, whether underperforming students, serial offenders seeking an alternative lifestyle, Aborigine communities engaging with 21st century culture or companies detailing Learning Power requirements from the Boardroom through to intern recruitment.

  Pathfinder Profile 8

Graduate trainee within a mutinational Corporate. Second profile taken after 6 months of induction/bespoke training Trainees were inducted through peer ‘buddying’ and training supervised ’on the job’. However, this trainee was subsequently found to be most responsive if left to trust his own judgement. He was quick to put his observations into practice. His creativity gained the confidence of his work team as a ‘critical friend’ and he was soon responsible for improved productivity and product quality. His manager had recognised his attributes by monthly conversations with the work team.

ELLI is an acronym and represents the 7 dimensions of the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory.

We are inviting you to capture an adult experience illustrating any one of the 7 dimensions summarised below in a video of between 30 seconds and 3 minutes using real life, animation, cartoon or a combination of all three.

Changing through Learning requires intuitively using new knowledge purposefully rather than being stuck in a rut or disinterested and resistant to change; a high score in Critical Curiosity reflects a natural urge to get to the root cause of an issue with a low score indicating passivity or a ready acceptance of received wisdom; strength in Creativity finds a risk-taker, thinking and acting ‘outside the box’ as opposed to finding it more comfortable to abide by the rules. Researchers and scientists are what we describe as Meaning Makers, being in the business of combining previous and new knowledge to create new ideas and concepts. Others treating them as independent fragments of data. Strong Strategic Awareness indicates a confidence in personal direction and is opportunistic, the antithesis of robotic or preoccupied with detail. Positive Learning Relationships indicate a versatility either to work with others or learn alone, naturally isolated or totally dependent on others lies at the negative pole. The Resilience dimension records personal strength when the going gets tough, either constantly seeking new challenges or giving up easily, escaping to the known.

Pathways to Learning Introduces ELLI (359 downloads)
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Learning Power

Designing for Lifelong Learning

by John Cook, University of West England (reproduced with permission)

 

INTRODUCTION

Overall, the recent emphasis on lifelong learning can be seen to be intimately linked to attempts to bring educational spending more closely in line with the needs of the economy inter alia through widening of access, provision of continuing learning opportunities, a greater emphasis on a wider range of modes of provision or an emphasis on learning from experience, informal learning and work-based learning. I view learning as a cognitive, psychological as well as a social and cultural phenomenon, which is mediated by tools such as language and technology. Informal learning I see as largely residing outside the infrastructure attendant to formal qualifications; formal and intentional informal learning are best understood as a continuum that involves an interplay and overlap between different learning activities (Colley et al., 2003). There are all sorts of debates around the notion of lifelong learning and the term has entered a wide-ranging discourse. Consequently, in this chapter I will progress the idea that learning has to be supported and encouraged throughout the life course.

Smith (1996, 2001) provides a critical history of lifelong learning, pointing out that there is an increasing emphasis on the individual that is often oriented to employer or consumer interest, rather than to collective learning experience; he concludes: ‘“lifelong learning” is a problematic notion. So is it worth pursuing?’ As an answer, Smith draws on work by Field (2000, pp. ix–xii) to provide us with the following three reasons why we should continue to investigate lifelong learning:

  1. It is important to retain the aspirations it contains. Learning continually throughout life is vital if we are to make informed choices about our lives and the society in which we live.
  2. Despite the weaknesses and confusions of current policies, something new is happening. There have been significant shifts in policy and these require interrogation; and there have been major changes in the ways in which we approach learning.
  3. Lifelong learning is now a mechanism for exclusion and control. As well as facilitating development, it has created new and powerful inequalities. There are issues around access to knowledge, and individualization. In a knowledge-based economy, those who have the lowest levels of skill and the weakest capacity for constant updating are less and less likely to find paid employment. Individualization has also meant that access to social support mechanisms has weakened.

I concur with the first of Field’s (2000) reasons, adding that I believe that it is a democratic right to have equity of access to cultural resources (widely defined, see Cook et al., 2012 and below), for example giving citizens access to digital learning opportunities with respect to museums or health.

With respect to Field’s (2000) second reason to examine lifelong learning, I note that although policies continue to shift, there is no doubt that lifelong learning retains its currency for policy makers. For example, the European Commission (2015) states that ‘The Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) was designed to enable people, at any stage of their life, to take part in stimulating learning experiences, as well as developing education and training across Europe’. Furthermore, UNESCO (2014) has recognized the importance of ICT in lifelong learning but provide the caveat that ‘there is a risk that advanced technological requirements may lead to the exclusion of large numbers of people from sharing the advantages of the new global communication channels. It is UNESCO’s concern to enable all people around the world to make use of the huge potential of ICT for learning and self-empowerment’. This latter goal of UNESCO also relates to Field’s third reason for investigating lifelong learning, i.e. the concern over individualization in a knowledge-based economy; I will unpack these concerns below in the section that takes a ‘Critical view of lifelong learning’ and the section that follows it, ‘What exactly is the learning in lifelong learning?’

The phrase ‘Designing for’ takes up the first part of this chapter title. As we will see below, I propose that much work is needed on how to design e-learning or ICT support for lifelong learning. Consequently, following a selective review of key work in the field, which is contained in the sections ‘What are the drivers for learning in lifelong learning?’ and ‘Mobiles, museums and my robot’, I will then raise various design issues for lifelong learning, in the section ‘Socio-technical design issues for lifelong learning’, and go on to elaborate on my own research in this area in the section ‘Case study of work-based practice from the EC-funded Learning Layers project’. This case study focuses on help seeking in Hybrid Social Learning Networks. Furthermore, on the ‘design’ front, in Learning Layers we take a design research approach. Design research has recently been defined as ‘a genre of research in which the iterative development of solutions to practical and complex educational problems also provides the context for empirical investigation, which yields theoretical understanding that can inform the work of others … [although potentially powerful] the simultaneous pursuit of theory building and practical innovation is extremely ambitious’ (McKenney and Reeves, 2012, p. 7). Design research allows us to engage in inquiry surrounding the transformative possibilities of e-learning for lifelong learning. Thus, I propose that design research allows us to bring out ‘never-seen-before possibilities’ as we design for lifelong learning. Therefore, the focus in this chapter is on designing for the transformative possibilities of e-learning for lifelong learning but with an emphasis on social networks. First, however, I take a critical view of the lifelong learning concept.

CRITICAL VIEW OF LIFELONG LEARNING

Livingstone and Guile (2012, p. xviii) observe that the ‘increasing prominence of information processing has led many who conflate information with knowledge to conclude that we now live in a well developed “knowledge economy”’; they also call into question the current conventional wisdom that the knowledge economy is a new global reality to which all individuals and societies must adjust, and that lifelong learning is the strategy to secure such an adjustment. Furthermore, Livingstone and Guile (2012, p. 3) go on to note that ‘the notion of the emergence of a knowledge economy has become so widespread that it is now commonly assumed in both policy discussions and the mass media’. This assumption seems to widen the potential for exclusion contained in Field’s (2000) critique of a ‘knowledge-based economy’ (above), i.e. that those who have the lowest levels of skill will have the weakest capacity for constant updating. Livingstone and Guile (2012, p. 3) continue:

Many advocates have heralded the knowledge economy as transforming the nature of both work and learning. A shift from materials handling to processing of information aided by global electronic technology is seen to be converting much of the labour force into knowledge workers; a direct consequence is that workers must devote more of their efforts to pursuit of lifelong learning to meet the growing knowledge demands of their jobs. The problem … is that this notion remains far from reality.

For these authors, therefore, there seems to be some hype surrounding the move to a knowledge economy and its role in transforming the way we work and learn across the life course. In a related chapter, Carlaw et al. (2012) provide an extended critique of the knowledge society and economy; they suggest that the:

concepts of knowledge society and economy are clearly related as both leverage off the idea of transformation to create fundamentally different features of society and economy. Both see information as having a special and significantly different place. Speed and forms of storage and transmission emerge as key elements in its newness. Information as a central driver of production requires new forms of organization favouring the more flexible and responsive idea of networks rather than institutional structures. Thus we see a new form of society emerging, one characterized as a ‘network’ society, where flows and movement and less certainty are characteristic. (Carlaw et al., 2012, p. 33, my bold)

I will return to notion of ‘networks’ below. Carlaw et al. (2012, p. 33, my bold) continue:

Forms of explanation have shifted from linear causality to a greater appreciation of path dependency and complexity. Combinations of technologies and social and cultural practices mediated by local and global political relations are now part of what has to be considered to explain the growth of new forms of technological and economic activity. This favours explanations that explore the past as a way of understanding the present. It requires a sustained empirical analysis, one deeper than is seen in much of the debate about either the knowledge society, knowledge economy or information society.

In summary, Carlaw et al. (2012) propose that we view lifelong learning from the perspective of networks and that our explanations of the growth of new forms of technological and economic activity should ‘explore the past as a way of understanding the present’.

In an act of synchronicity with the above observations by Carlaw et al. (2012), I have led on work (Cook, 2014a; Cook and Santos, 2014) which argues that there is much that we can learn from the past as we explore the issues raised when designing innovative social media and mobile apps for learning. Like the social networking that took place in coffeehouses in the 1600s, the Internet-enabled social networks of today stand accused of being so-called ‘weapons of mass distraction’. However, I point out that modern fears about the dangers of social networking are overdone. The obvious question is why do I think we can learn from the social networking that took place in coffeehouses 300 years ago? The current context is that rarely does a day go by without dire warnings and overt action to either ban mobile devices or access to social networks from the workplace or school, or for monitoring of some description to be put in place to ‘police’ behaviour. Put simply, social networks stand accused of distracting the attention of learners or worse. For example, we have the following suspect claim (Infographic, 2012): ‘Social media distractions cost US economy $650 billion’. Indeed, in schools we have this recent example of ‘policing’ (CBSlocal, 2013): ‘Glendale Unified School District in California is paying $40,500 to Geo Listening to collect and analyze all social media public posts of 13,000 students … even if it was done off campus’.

However, as Standage (2013a) points out, in fact in England in the late 1600s, very similar concerns were raised about coffeehouses! In 1677, Anthony Wood, an Oxford academic, said: ‘Why doth solid and serious learning decline, and few or none follow it now in the University?’ he asked. ‘Answer: Because of Coffea Houses, where they spend all their time’ (Standage, 2013a, online; note that ‘coffea’ is the coffee plant). As well as complaining that Christians had abandoned their traditional beer in favour of a foreign drink, critics worried that coffeehouses were keeping people from productive work. However, rather than acting as enemies of industry or distractions to academics, coffeehouses in the 1600s were in fact often crucibles of creativity and communication because of the way in which they facilitated the mixing of both people and ideas. As the poet Samuel Butler put it, ‘gentleman, mechanic, lord, and scoundrel mix, and are all of a piece’ (Standage, 2013a); the implication being that people from different sections of society and skill sets could meet and network. Indeed, members of the Royal Society, England’s pioneering scientific community, frequently retired to coffeehouses to extend their discussions:

Scientists often conducted experiments and gave lectures in coffeehouses, and because admission cost just a penny (the price of a single cup), coffeehouses were sometimes referred to as ‘penny universities.’ It was a coffeehouse argument among several fellow scientists that spurred Isaac Newton to write his ‘Principia Mathematica,’ one of the foundational works of modern science. (Standage, 2013a, online)

Now the spirit of the coffeehouse has been reborn in our social-media platforms which are readily accessed via mobile devices. For example, a McKinsey Global Institute report (Chui, et al., 2012) claims that social networking within companies could increase the productivity of ‘knowledge workers’ by 20 to 25 percent. OpenWorm (2014) is an open-source project dedicated to creating the world’s first virtual organism in a computer and fostering growth of a completely open computational biology community. Surprisingly, one of the earliest examinations of online research communities is about one for worms (Star and Ruhleder, 1996). Modern fears about the dangers of social networking are overdone. However, as we explore in the Learning Layers case study below, we will see that these concerns are very real and need to be investigated and ‘designed for’ if we aim to build tools to give access to the potential of social media and the benefits of the knowledge economy.

Other work (Cook et al., 2012) has examined how using social media and personally owned mobile devices can provide a bridge from media use in everyday life to the expectations of school and higher education. A key notion in this respect is provision of equity of access to cultural resources facilitated by digital media from a wide perspective; here a cultural resource could mean a learning resource, health information, a cultural event, an employment opportunity, etc. The purpose of this undertaking was to reclaim the notion of cultural resources for educational discourse as it seems powerful in the context of discussions about social mobility and fairness of access. Colleagues and myself (Cook et al., 2012) went so far as to claim that our work would present a new educational paradigm combining formal and intentional informal learning processes centred on Social Networked Sites (SNSs), like Facebook, and mobile technology. However, our case study in schools and our review of the reported research in higher education showed mixed results. Some research (reviewed in Cook et al., 2012) suggests that in higher education, Facebook, for example, provides affordances that can help reduce barriers that students with lower self-esteem might experience in forming the kinds of large, heterogeneous networks that are sources of social capital. ‘Trust’ is a key issue in this respect. Thus, there appears to be considerable potential in terms of sustainability in the integration of intentional informal and formal institutional dimensions of learning. However, although a new educational paradigm is emerging, there exists a need for more debate and further research. As it stands, there still appears to exist a small conceptual gap around cultural resources and the nature of lifelong learning.

WHAT ARE THE DRIVERS FOR LEARNING IN LIFELONG LEARNING?

Given the above discussion about the concern over individualization in a knowledge-based economy and the potential for social media platforms for enhancing learning, we now turn to examine the underlying drivers of lifelong learning.

Eraut has made the observation, based on empirical work (2004, p. 269), that factors affecting face-to-face learning in the workplace, such as feedback, support, challenge and the value of the work, can lead to individual self-efficacy in terms of confidence and commitment. Eraut (2009, pp. 15–18) has documented the problems in the transfer of knowledge between people in the workplace. The heterogeneity of most workplaces in terms of human resources is undoubtedly a strength, as well as a challenge, in terms of asset identification and management. How best to identify and access relevant expertise? A related challenge for fewer, as well as more established colleagues, is that of (perceived) vulnerability associated with power relationships and giving the appearance of lack of knowledge and expertise, etc. The art of discourse about practice then becomes one of establishing affinity with colleagues through work-related discourse and giving the appearance of being generally cooperative, without giving anything away that might increase one’s vulnerability (Eraut, 2009, p. 16).

A critical review of the way technologies are being used for work-based learning (Kraiger, 2008) found that most ‘solutions’ are targeted towards a learning model based on the ideas of direct instruction in a formal manner, such as transferring lectures and seminars from face-to- face interactions to computer-mediated ones. A more comprehensive framework for examining the way technologies are being used for lifelong learning is needed. Economic, social and cultural changes in a converged mass communication system can be seen to have resulted in strong individualizing tendencies and a requirement for permanent learning (reflexivity). Therefore, even the benign colonialization of everyday life by a convergent communication system requires critical practice in everyday meaning making, which builds on reflexivity in the sense of Habermas’ ‘reflexive relationship with the world through communicative actions’ (‘reflexive Weltbezüge im kommunikativen Handeln’) (1995/1981, p. 143 ff.).

Generally speaking, reflexivity is the process of interacting with and relating to the inner, personal world and the outside, social world. Reflexivity is activated by appropriating socio- cultural structures, dominant agency patterns and pre-given cultural practices (Pachler et al., 2010, p. 290). Specially, this means that we need to design for the activation or scaffolding of reflexivity in the context of the following socio-cultural ecology (Pachler et al., 2010). Socio- cultural structures includes digital tools and media use in a context where educational institutions no longer define learning and knowledge on their own, and they are certainly no longer the only site, or even the main site, where learning and knowledge can be accessed and take place. From the perspective of these structures, we are seeing a move from push to pull in terms of media consumption. Furthermore, in terms of socio-cultural structures we are witnessing a change in mass communication structures and platforms, as well as media convergence, and we are seeing individualized mobile mass communication and social fragmentation in different milieus (e.g. the danger of individualization discussed above). Agency is a capacity to act on the world involving the formation of identity and subjectivity where the environment is a potential resource for learning. Agency also necessarily involves a different habitus of learning and media attitudes whereby a new habitus of learning is one of the characteristics of at-risk learners. Pre-given cultural practices are routines in situations in institutional settings, be they school, university, the workplace, etc.; they also include media use in everyday life (which includes intentional informal learning).

The above ‘socio-cultural ecology’ was in part informed by Livingstone (2009), who summarized the results of the research network on the Changing Nature of Work and Lifelong Learning (WALL) conducted in Canada between 2003 and 2007:

Basic findings to date are that incidence of intentional informal learning far exceeds rates of participation in further education courses, is not very closely related to either level of formal education or participation in further education and – unlike participation in further education – does not diminish greatly as one ages … We’ve asked people to give us their self-reports on whether or not they do informal learning. The basic point here is that the vast majority of people are engaged in intentional informal learning activities. There is a slight tendency for those with no diploma to indicate that they are less engaged in such intentional informal learning activities, but about 80 percent of those who did not complete their secondary education actively engage in informal learning activities. (p.44)

Livingstone (2009, p. 48) dug into the data and found that ‘the majority of employed people are engaged in learning around new general knowledge, new job tasks, new equipment, computer-based learning, health and safety, and various kinds of problem solving activities’.

The above high rates on intentional informal learning activities are echoed by UK engagement in media communications. Britons spend more time on technology than asleep, according to a recent UK Government regulatory body called the Office of Communications (or Ofcom) which in a report notes that: ‘The average adult in the UK spends over half of their waking hours engaged in media or communications activities. On average, UK adults sleep for 8 hours 21 minutes in a 24-hour period, while they spend 8 hours 41 minutes engaged in media or communication activity’ (Ofcom, 2014, p. 5). But, the UK report does not address activities in the way the above work in Canada does. However, the UK Ofcom work does give a recent view of UK social software usage trends, which is important for design. For example, ‘Facebook had the greatest active reach across both laptop/desktop computers and mobile devices. Active reach is highest among laptop and desktop audiences (66%), eight percentage points higher than for mobile phone audiences. LinkedIn and Google+ also had a greater active reach on laptop and desktop computers, with LinkedIn in particular used by only 8% of users on a mobile’ (Ofcom, 2014, p. 288). Thus, what we are seeing is that over recent years there has been a shift to technology-mediated conversation using social media. Finally, Knipfer et al. (2013) point out that as workplaces provide individuals with a social context, individual and collaborative learning are intertwined and must be considered together.

MOBILES, MUSEUMS AND MY ROBOT

In this section, I give a selective overview of work that has explored how to design technology to mediate lifelong learning in traditional and emerging sites of lifelong learning. Sharples (2000, p. 177) outlined a framework for ‘the design of a new genre of educational technology – personal (handheld or wearable) computer systems that support learning from any location throughout a lifetime’. Since then, there have been many national and trans-national projects in a wide range of contexts such as the European Commission’s MOBIlearn and m-Learning projects (Kukulska-Hulme et al., 2009) that investigated learning with mobile technologies in lifelong learning settings including homes, museums, workplaces and outdoors. One of the major challenges has been to bridge learning activities between different contexts, be these in professional or private lives. However, Tabuenca et al. (2014, p. 4) note that ‘there is little support for lifelong learners that typically try to learn in different contexts, are busy with multiple parallel learning tracks, and must align or relate their learning activities to everyday leisure and working activities’. Consequently, Tabuenca et al. (2014, p. 4) present the LifeLong Learning Hub project (2014) or 3LHub as a ‘mobile seamless tool for self-regulated learning’ that aims to enable lifelong learners to ‘learn in a variety of scenarios and [to] switch from one scenario or context to another easily and quickly, using the personal device as a mediator’. Users can set learning goals, which are linked to Near Field Communication (NFC) tagging using a mobile device. Specifically, learning activities (e.g. write a blog, read a pocket book, listen to a podcast, watch a MOOC video on a tablet) are bound to a person’s daily learning environments by tapping on an NFC tag to start/stop. The 3LHub features various ‘visualizations with the aim to foster understanding on learning habits, optimise learning, and, bind successful learning environments’. 3LHub is of interest from a design perspective because it aims ‘at giving an open, flexible and low-cost prototyping framework for defining and linking everyday learning activities to contexts, physical artefacts, everyday home media solutions, and supporting to link sustainable learner tracks to these components’ (Tabuenca et al., 2014, p. 4).

Many museums and similar organizations provide lifelong and informal learning support, often taking the form of web pages, to support families and schools on trips to such places (e.g. Group for Education in Museums, 2014). In terms of the literature, Q&A and narrative crop up as successful approaches to providing support in a variety of contexts. For example, Borun et al. (1996) found a correlation between family museum learning and specific behaviours such as commenting on the museum display and asking or answering questions. A study by Kahr- højland (2011, p. 66) looked at ‘mobile phone facilitated narrative, which was planned as a so- called scaffolding remedy in the hands-on based exhibition … to support young people’s involvement and reflection in the exhibition at a Danish science centre’. Another study (Walker, 2006) looked at how a ‘digital learning trail is constructed from a museum visit using location tracking and mobile technologies, and this trail is narrated by the visitor to create, in turn, an audio tour for others’. Walker (2006, p. 103) points to useful design issues from the perspective of lifelong learning in and from museums:

This adds a quantitative dimension to narrative, while emphasizing the constructive and creative aspects of storytelling. Technologies such as these are usually used for personalized or contextualized information delivery; here no such type of intelligence is built into the system, but remains for the visitor to construct. More recently, the After Dark (2014) project used four robots to let the public experience a visit to the sleeping art at the UK’s Tate Britain in August 2014 (in a limited sense, they are the ‘my robot’ mentioned in this section’s title). According to The Guardian newspaper (Hadfield, 2014, online): ‘It has won the first IK Prize for a project that widens access to art through digital technology … Although only a few people will be able to operate them – with the design team on hand backstage to intervene or cut short a session in case of disaster or dullness – anyone will be able to watch their progress via live stream’. In a similar vein, the National Museum of Australia has set up Robot Tours: ‘It is now possible to visit the National Museum virtually – via laser-guided robots that provide remote visitors with an experience of mobile telepresence … Community groups will also soon be able to access virtual tours using the Museum Robots from computer terminals at the Digital Hubs in libraries and community facilities’ (National Museum of Australia Robot Tours, 2014, online). These projects are providing lifelong learning access to cultural resources in the traditional sense. Some people call these innovations telepresence robots or ‘Skype on Wheels’. Furthermore, a link to a ‘human telepresence’ could be achieved by wearing technologies like Google Glass or wearable cameras plus mobile devices.

SOCIO-TECHNICAL DESIGN ISSUES FOR LIFELONG LEARNING

The section above provided a selective review of key work in the areas of mobiles, museums and ‘my robot’. The phrase ‘Designing for’ takes up the first part of this chapter title. Indeed, as the preceding sections have shown, much work is needed on how to design e-learning or ICT support for lifelong learning in traditional and new sites of learning. Consequently, below I will raise various socio-technical design issues for lifelong learning.

 

A key design issue for robots that can provide ‘assistive living’ includes the need to develop a deeper understanding of the emergent nature of context and social situation awareness. For example, Caleb-Solly et al. (2014) investigated older adults’ perceptions and expectations of domestic care service robots and found that these ‘are vital in informing the design and development of new technologies to ensure acceptability and usability’ (p. 380). This work found that facilitating conditions, which are key to acceptance of the wide range of functionality offered by a domestic care robot, could be grouped into the categories of cognitive, physical and social. For example, in terms of the cognition there ‘is an assumption that if a person is being reminded or encouraged to drink (tea for instance) to prevent dehydration, then they should also know where the tea is and how to make it. Otherwise, the robot would also need to help them by giving structured guidance and support them in making the tea’ (2014, p. 380); in terms of the social category, the ‘provision of social media tools [by the care robot] assumes that the person has family and friends who are alive and/or available to be called’ (p. 380). As we will see below, these findings about the need for scaffolding on tasks in the home and the need for care to be taken when introducing social media have also emerged in the domain of providing help-seeking support for healthcare professionals.

Livingstone’s (2009) summary of the Changing Nature of Work and Lifelong Learning (see above) also reports that with regard to general interests not specifically tied to our work, the issue that is central to most people is health and well-being. Since 2004, the date of the WALL survey, the ubiquity of digital devices for health and well-being has exploded. The assistive living in the home example above gives one example of designing for ubiquitous technology. However, more generally, digital devices are giving us new ways to measure, track, visualize, understand and optimize our bodies, health, fitness and well-being:

The benefits could range from low-cost genetic sequencing to the layering of distributed mobile devices and sensors, wearables and implantables. The network of devices that makes up the internet of things could bring about the internet of the body. (Kraft, 2014, online)

Sometimes referred to as the quantified-self movement, or less commonly ‘monitor me’ in a 2013 BBC Horizon programme, this trend started with fitness-focused tools such as the Fitbit digital pedometer, but it is expanding to make use of a growing array of devices that can track metrics ranging from sleep patterns to brain waves. For example, various apps are available which measure the ripples in your mattress as an indicator of sleep habits (Lifehacker, 2013). The BBC (2013) Horizon MonitorMe programme suggests that when self-monitoring things such as sleep, we can actually change our habits and behaviours.

However, a big issue for lifelong learners is that these devices give us a lot of information, and consequently reflexivity is needed to construct knowledge that is meaningful for our own context. Nevertheless, the trends summarized in this and the preceding section can be seen as giving citizens access to a range of cultural resources. A key design issue is scaffolding the reflexivity needed for meaning making and the case study below investigates this issue. Furthermore, the medical device market is highly regulated, so to get around this some developers are marketing ‘monitor me’ devices as consumer products. For example, CellScope provides an approach to ‘visualizing the ear by converting your phone into a connected digital otoscope’, i.e. your smartphone plus an attached tip become a medical device which is used to look into the ears (Cellscope, 2014). Such a trend raises ethical issues about how to support a diagnosis (e.g. an ear exam selfie) that may be cause for concern. If the user sends the scan to a remote doctor, this could potentially be efficient for villagers in a remote area, giving them access to cultural resources (as defined above). However, there is a trust issue related to convincing a doctor about the veracity of a scan image or indeed the danger of overloading health professionals with a deluge of data and information. As we will see below, the latter issue is already a problem for UK health services as is the ability to adapt to new technology.

In this section, I have raised various design issues for lifelong learning in order to set the scene for my own research in this area in the following section.

CASE STUDY OF WORK-BASED PRACTICE FROM THE EC-FUNDED LEARNING LAYERS PROJECT

In the Learning Layers project (2014), we develop technologies that support informal learning in the workplace (healthcare professionals in north-east England and the construction sector in northern Germany). We aim to understand how we can improve trust and interactions between people and enhance the construction of learning networks.

I am currently leading on a sub-set of Learning Layers work that aims to develop a socio- technical system to support lifelong learning amongst healthcare professionals in the form of a Hybrid Social Learning Network (Cook, 2014b; Cook et al., submitted). The Hybrid Social Learning Network is a conceptual framework for smart lifelong learning environments that provides a systematic and rigorous approach to warranting claims; it has emerged from an extensive critical literature review and earlier co-design work. For Cook et al. (submitted), hybridity in professional lifelong learning has two dimensions:

1. A hybrid combination of formal and informal social structures in terms of power and control in an activity system, i.e. the professional role we adopt or are positioned into in terms of structural relations of the power and control in institutional and cross-institutional settings (Daniels, 2008, pp. 148–178). This recognition attempts to address the concerns raised in the introduction to this chapter with respect to individualization in a knowledge-based economy, leading to a lack of support for segments of society.

2. A hybrid in terms of combining physical and digital tools; how cultural-historically developed tools (physical and digital) mediate the individual’s relation to the world where the competence to handle such tools is acquired in social settings through guidance from other persons or guidance from digital tools in a ‘50–50 partnership’ (this latter is a metaphor derived from Shadbolt et al.’s concept of ‘social machines’, 2013).

In other words, people connect and interact through a hybrid network of physical and technology-mediated encounters to co-construct knowledge and effectively engage in positioning practices (‘power and control’) that are necessary for their work. In our vision, professional learning will be transformed by introducing tools which are designed specifically for this Hybrid Social Learning Network mode of mediated learning. These tools will include recommender systems, Help Seeking Services and knowledge management tools. Within the Hybrid Social Learning Network, users can ask questions to people they trust and recommender services suggest relevant people, discussions, Q&A and documents. Our analysis of pilot co- design sessions in our design research approach revealed a barrier in that there is reticence in the UK healthcare sector to use social networks and mobile devices in workplace practice. A related challenge is that our recommender systems are based on cognitive models; these need extending to meaning making in social networked contexts. We are responding by conducting three in-depth co-design workshops and by evolving a conceptual basis for Hybrid Social Learning Networks (see Cook et al., submitted, for details of the latter). Following a brief summary of the background, this section presents an overview of the findings from our pilot and in-depth co-design sessions and presents design criteria for our Hybrid Social Learning Network.

 

The challenge of the ‘unfilled’ potential of the Internet has been identified by Tim Berners- Lee (Berners-Lee and Fischetti, 1999; Shadbolt et al., 2013); our response is Hybrid Social Learning Networks (Cook et al., submitted), whereby users and recommender systems work together to achieve a task or solve a problem. Our users are at the heart of emergent co-designs (Ehn, 1988). Specifically, we are interested in co-designing a Help Seeking Service that lets healthcare sector workers ask questions to people they trust and that also recommends relevant conversations and documents. We want to exploit the potential of recommender systems (e.g. when Amazon’s algorithms suggest to you that ‘Customers who bought this item also’) as partners for people, as well as take advantage of networking to support online collaboration in work-based learning. However, we face the dual design challenge of the scaffolding of cultural- historical practice and ensuring the technical software development fits with our chosen theoretical orientation.

Help seeking in the workplace can be viewed as a learning process (Cook and Pachler, 2010). What is of particular interest for our purpose is the fact that the majority of learning activities through and at work seem to involve other people, for instance through one-to-one interaction, participation in group processes, working alongside others, etc. This, for us, underlines the centrality of identifying relevant ‘others’ from and with whom to learn – and the possible role of social media and Social Network Sites (SNSs) in it – particularly given the documented problems in the transfer of knowledge between people in the workplace (see Eraut, 2009, pp. 15–18). We want to supply computer support for a range of workers in the UK’s healthcare sector to assist them in identifying relevant ‘others’ from and with whom to learn (lifelong learning and intentional informal learning).

To get a realistic sense of how groups of users will interact within the learning network that we are designing, we place these users at the heart of our emergent co-designs, framed by a design research approach. Co-design (Ehn, 1988) is a development process where we as design professionals guide users to develop solutions with us. In co-design, no perspective is regarded as more important than another. Co-design is applied to understand, analyse and confirm the users’ needs by interacting, discussing and negotiating in order to improve and support users’ learning practices. We have developed relationships with two healthcare sector groups in the north-east of England: general practice (GP) managers (includes data quality) and practice nurses, who will be users of the final system. The work reported in this section took place over a period of two years.

In our preliminary investigations, we ran a series of pilot co-design sessions using wireframes, use, mock-up, etc., which revealed a barrier in that there is reticence in the UK healthcare sector to use social networks and mobile devices in workplace practice (see below). Furthermore, a parallel analysis of interview data from a related study (empirical data gathered by the University of Innsbruck with the University of Leeds in Year 1 of the Learning Layers project, i.e. September 2012–October 2013; see Holley et al., submitted) found that with respect to the current use of email, practice managers have a sense of losing information or even of not having any control over their network of contacts. Commonly, practice managers use the term ‘overwhelming’ to describe their feeling about the torrent of emails. Holley et al. (submitted) also found that practice managers want to improve their networking capabilities to strengthen their voice and the impact of their self-organized practice managers’ network within the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG). In addition, Holley et al. (submitted) found that most of the nurses in our study (NE England) work in a single-handed manner at their practices (in this area, GP practices often have only one nurse working in them) and this is the main reason why nurses tend to feel a little isolated. One of the most common feelings for nurses was that of isolation due to the lack of opportunity for sharing opinion and facing problems; our earlier analysis thus suggested that nurses have little communication and sharing by email. It was also noted that the CCG Committee is GP and male dominated and that in this area in fact most GPs are male (this is not the case across the UK more generally, where female GPs outnumber male GPs). So, the local context is one in which, from our analysis at least, nurses tend to feel they do not have a strong voice.

As a result of these analyses, we are responding by conducting three in-depth co-design workshops (for detail, see Santos et al., submitted) with potential users to gain a deeper understanding of their help-seeking activities in networks and to ensure that the tools being developed meet their needs. A parallel but related challenge is that there are certain assumptions built into the Learning Layers recommender systems used as a service by the Help Seeking tool (they are based on cognitive models). This very cognitive approach still needs resolving with respect to the cultural-historical approach (Vygotsky, 1978) of our Help Seeking Service, where meaning making in a social context is paramount.

As we looked at the results of the three in-depth co-design workshops (Santos et al., submitted), we realized many problems needed to be addressed. Gradually, a set of design criteria emerged that frame how and when to recommend to a user certain people, conversations to participate in or resources to look at. These design criteria included privacy and trust issues and form the basis for primary scaffoldings linking the user to a more capable peer or relevant conversation, thus providing the impetus to move a user from one learning context to another.

From a socio-technical perspective, the Hybrid Social Learning Network (Cook et al., submitted) is central because it frames how we mediate between people and technology. We are answering questions like: How can we reconcile post-Vygotskian theory (and particularly recent cultural-historical work on hybridity) with the core idea of social machines, the ‘50–50 partnership’ between people and machine? How can we design technology that fits with the working and learning practices of our target group (e.g. healthcare professionals)?

Quite naturally, the above questions have driven us to examine how we can ‘scale up’ the use of the Help Seeking Service (scaling up adoption is an objective of Learning Layers). On this issue, it is worth noting that taking innovation from concept through to scalable delivery is a complex, contested and under-theorized process. An external review of our initial scaling framework (Cook et al., 2013) has highlighted that the approach was too linear and may rely too heavily on the diffusion of innovation paradigm originally proposed by Everett Rogers in the 1960s (Rogers, 1995), which is less appropriate for scaling innovations in our project. Consequently, we are evolving our approach surrounding the processes of ‘scaling up’ by building upon the theoretical concepts suggested by Coburn (2003), Greenhalgh et al. (2004) and Dede (2007). We are not sure if we will end up with one or two revised models. However, our continuing work (Holley et al., submitted) suggests that we will go on to propose that the typical measure of success ‘by number’ needs a more nuanced analysis. In any case, emerging model(s) will continue to enable the orchestration of team discourse about theory, the production of artefacts as tools for design discourse, and the identification of scalable systemic pain points. Finally, in order to assist our scaling ambitions on a project-wide basis, we have led on the development of an Open Design Library (ODL, 2014).

CONCLUSIONS AND QUESTIONS

Lifelong learning and the perception of the emergence of a knowledge economy are seen as problematic notions by some. For example, there seems to be some hype surrounding the move to a knowledge economy and its role in transforming the way we work and learn. However, the idea that learning has to be supported and encouraged throughout the life course adds to the debate surrounding the equity of access to cultural resources. Consequently, in this chapter I have taken the view that designing (e-learning) for lifelong learning should also, if not first and foremost, be about offering opportunities for personal and individual growth, inclusion in networks as well as social equity. Indeed, the focus in this chapter has been on designing for the transformative possibilities of e-learning for lifelong learning but with an emphasis on learning in social networks that take into account hybridity in terms of power and control. Specifically, above, I argued that there is much that we can learn from the past as we explore the issues raised when designing innovative social media and mobile apps for learning; I point out that modern fears about the dangers of social networking are overdone. Furthermore, I highlighted that the ubiquity of digital devices – for example, robots for museums, the home and for health and well-being – is increasing, but are ethical considerations of these developments keeping pace?

Humans have used social media in its widest sense for the last 2000 years, that is until the last century with the arrival of a broadcast pattern of mass media consumption (Standage, 2013b). Now the Internet is heralding a revival of social media. However, co-design tells us that for the ‘Internet-powered coffeehouses’ to work for the public sector, workers would prefer their own private booths within the coffeehouse, while also wishing to occasionally interact with other booths when required. This confirms the findings of Eraut (2009, p. 16), discussed above, i.e. that the art of discourse about practice is one of establishing affinity with colleagues through work-related discourse and giving the appearance of being generally cooperative, without giving anything away that might increase one’s vulnerability. Based on our two years of design research with health sector workers, described above, the following questions arise:

 

What balance/form should the partnership between humans and recommenders (machines) take in our Hybrid Social Learning Network? What are the related implications for public sector workers, who appear to prefer closed online social networks? What ethical issues are there? Is there related work that we can draw on (i.e. beyond social machines, social network analytics, robotics, cybernetics and trust)?

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I gratefully acknowledge the input of users in the Learning Layers project, as well as Tribal (for pilot designs), Pontydysgu (for the WordPress version and related design ideas) and Ralf Klamma (for useful comments on ideas). Learning Layers is a 7th framework large-scale integrating project co-funded by the European Commission, Grant Agreement Number 318209 (http://learning-layers.eu/).

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Learning Power

Learning how to learn: the dynamic assessment of learning power

Ruth Deakin Crick (reproduced with permission)

University of Bristol, UK

This article introduces the notion of the assessment of ‘learning power’ as an important station in a mentored learning journey, which begins with the motivation and identity of the person who is learning, and moves through the awareness and development of the power to learn, to the publicly valued competencies and funds of knowledge of the formal curriculum. The seven dimensions of learning power are described, and the article reports on the findings of a qualitative study in which sixteen teachers were provided with learning power assessment data for their students as individuals and as whole groups. There were ten pedagogical themes which underpinned the teaching and learning encounters in those classrooms; these are briefly described. Learning power profiles have been used with nearly nine thousand students since 2003 and data from school-based development projects are referred to. The article concludes that the dynamic assessment of learning power serves three pedagogical purposes. First, it reflects back to the learner what they say about themselves in relation to their personal power to learn. Second, it reflects back to the teacher data about individuals, and groups, which can be used for diagnosing what is needed to move forward in the development of self-awareness, ownership and responsibility for learning. Third, it provides scaffolding for ways in which the students encountered the formal content of the curriculum. All of these operate together through the shared, and sometimes locally created, language stimulated by the learning dimensions, and through metaphors, icons and heroes which carry meaning in the classroom.

Introduction

The paradigmatic shift in the relationship of human beings to things and to bodily life on this planet characteristic of the information age creates a contextual challenge for learning how to learn. Knowledge and its manifestations are no longer ‘out there’, to be acquired from a centre, mastered and applied. Rather, the new technologies, having digitized and virtually automized the collection, storage and manipulation of data, make it instantly and widely available through networked access for all. This has challenged the boundaries between science and morality, nature and culture, memory and consciousness, duty and right (Haraway, 1991; Jaros & Deakin Crick, 2006). Learning has now to concern itself with purpose and meaning, relate to a context, and include ‘know-how’ and ‘know-why’, not just ‘know-what’. The person of the learner, knowing ‘who I am, where I am coming from, where I am heading and why?’ is integral to the context and purpose of learning. The key skills needed are the speedy and confident handling of technically and culturally changing and overflowing data and its reformulation to meet new and specific demands of the networked society. Equally important as these skills are the attitudes, dispositions, values and beliefs of the learner and, significantly, the learner’s capacity for self-awareness and for taking responsibility for him or herself as a learner. The concept of learning power and learning how to learn must be understood and contextualized as part of a complex system in which the formation of a learning identity, personal power to learn and competencies for managing life in the post-mechanical age are as important as the acquisition of knowledge. This raises important questions about learning how to learn and the ‘digital divide’—the gap between those who are able to benefit from digital technology and those who are not. Does developing learning to learn skills privilege some and not others, and what is the nature of the journey between the personal and the public?

Assessment practices

The practice that most determines what actually goes on in learning and teaching and in the school curriculum as a whole is assessment (Broadfoot, 1998). Assessment practices are embedded within particular discourses and narratives that substantially shape the experiences of learners and their teachers. Despite a now widely recognized need for schools to focus on personalization and learning how to learn, they are still dominated by discourse and practices of assessment and testing that focus on the summative assessment of learning outcomes, in support of the drive to raise standards of attainment, rather than formative assessment practices that support and strengthen students as learners. The Assessment Reform Group claims that these two themes are not mutually exclusive. The notion of raising standards and focusing on learning itself are not two separate practices but are actually powerfully informed by each other:

assessment which is explicitly designed to promote learning is the single most powerful tool we have for both raising standards and empowering lifelong learners. (Assessment Reform Group, 1999)

This shift in the focus and practice of educational assessment is, in its own way, revolutionary. It is based on the assumption that we need to develop new assessment technologies, without which the aspirations for personalized learning are unlikely to succeed. Just as the development of formal academic examinations laid the foundation for the educational arrangements of the twentieth century, so a new set of assessment arrangements is needed to provide the foundation for the lifelong learning arrangements of the twenty-first century. As Shepard (2000) suggests, such a change may represent a significant paradigm shift in education.

This paradigm shift is towards a relational and transformative model of learning, in which the creation of interdependent communities of intentional learners provides a basis for the integration of ‘traditional academic’ skills and outcomes with the learning dispositions, values and attitudes necessary to meet the demands of the emerging ‘networked society’. There is an urgent need for our education system to foster flexible, creative, self-aware and dynamic learners who have the capacity to apply and adapt what is learned to their own lives, embedded in their local and global communities, and who can extend their learning and understanding into spheres of thought and action which demand intelligent behaviour in the real world.

It is to help meet this need that the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) was designed. The development of the learning power profiles and the assessment strategies which have emerged from their application reflect this emerging paradigm. Raising standards of attainment is important, but it is only one side of the coin: we need to pay equal attention to assessment practices which nurture the learning self, the personal power to learn as well as the skills and competencies of learning how to learn and the development of intentional, lifelong learners.

Learning how to learn: the terrain

Central to any notion of learning how to learn is the idea that the learners themselves need to want to learn, to become aware of themselves as learners and to be able to take responsibility for their own learning trajectories whether in or out of school and over a lifespan. Black et al. (2006) argue that a focus on learning to learn and assessment for learning in schools is important particularly when it leads to the promotion of ‘autonomous learning’ or, as they prefer to say, ‘intentional learning’. Intentional learning requires a person to have an intention and implies a sense of agency and choice.

Black et al. refuse to reduce learning to learn to either an individual quality or a set of strategies. They argue that it is impossible to separate learning to learn from the process of learning itself and they focus on the term ‘learning practices’ that incorporate intra- and inter-personal processes. Likewise, Bereiter and Scardamalia (1989) argue that intentional learning goes beyond simply the acquisition of study skills and strategies and requires practices which invoke the need for the learner to take responsibility for their own learning, and to do this in a way that involves peers. This requires students to be motivated to learn, and to be intentional, to be aware of themselves and others as learners, and to regulate their own learning.

A Finnish definition of learning to learn emphasizes the importance of agency and self-regulation thus:

The ability and willingness to adapt to novel tasks, activating one’s commitment to thinking and the perspective of hope by means of maintaining one’s cognitive and affective self-regulation in and of learning action. (Hautama ̈ki et al., 2002, p. 38)

Learning how to learn involves the person who is learning, and requires motivation, a sense of direction and desire, and a sense of agency and self-regulation. This implies a sense of time and direction: a person chooses a particular goal, or desired outcome which is achieved over time.

A journey metaphor

In a major review of forty-two frameworks for thinking and learning since the Second World War, Mosely et al. (2005) identified the key principles which were used in all of these frameworks. They include the domain of learning, the content of learning, including objectives and products, the processes of learning, which were characterized by sequencing, hierarchy, types of thinking or learning, complexity and quality, and psychological aspects which include the notion of stages, structural features of cognition, dispositions, consciousness, orchestration or control, internalization and degree of learner autonomy. This substantial work supports the development of a ‘journey metaphor’. There is a person, with a sense of self, identity and intention, who has an objective or an outcome in mind, and who moves through a particular domain, engaging in particular inter- and intra-personal learning practices along the way.

Using the metaphor of ‘learning as a journey’ there are four ‘stations’ which require attention from learners and teachers. The first is the learning self, with its particular identity, nested sets of relationships, stories and aspirations. The second comprises the personal qualities, values, attitudes and dispositions for learning—perhaps twenty-first-century virtues. The third is publicly required and personally valued skills and competencies such as managing situations, being an active citizen or managing ambiguity (see, for example, Haste, 2001). The fourth is the acquisition of publicly assessed and valued knowledge and know-how. Learning and teaching require mentored, selective attention to be given to these stations in a spiral sequence rather than a linear one, since they are mutually reinforcing.

Learning power

It is the second ‘station’ in this metaphor which has to do with the personal power to learn, or its popular designation ‘learning power’. This refers to seven core dimensions of the capacity to learn how to learn, which emerged from a factor analytic study with nearly two thousand learners (Deakin Crick et al., 2004). It is described as ‘a form of consciousness characterized by particular dispositions, values and attitudes, with a lateral and a temporal connectivity’. Significantly, the dimensions of learning power described in this study include affect, cognition, desire and action and thus cannot be reduced to only one of these components; hence the reference to dispositions, values and attitudes. Together these can be supported through the development of self-awareness and intentionality; hence the term ‘consciousness’. Temporal connectivity refers to a ‘way of being’ in the world that orientates a person towards changing and learning over time and in different contexts, and lateral connectivity refers to the ideas embedded in a sociocultural view of learning in which the learner is a ‘person in relation’ to other people and to cultural tools and artefacts, in which learning is frequently mediated through the interactions of learning relationships (Rogoff & Wertsch, 1984; Lave & Wenger, 1991). These may often be within a community of learners: a group of people committed to sharing learning in a purposeful and collaborative manner.

In relation to the ‘learning journey’, learning power reflects backwards to the learning self, since it is deeply personal, and forwards as mediated scaffolding, towards the development of competencies and the acquisition of knowledge and know-how. The purpose of making judgements about, or assessments of, someone’s learning power is to facilitate the movement between personal identity, choice and motivation and the processes and outcomes of learning. It is in this sense ‘dynamic’ since it is both retrospective (diagnostic and reflective) and prospective (formative and motivational).

Seven dimensions of learning power

The assessment tool is a self-report 72-item questionnaire which elicits information from the learner about how they report themselves on each of these dimensions at a particular point in time. The development of the questionnaire arose out of an exploratory factor analytic study with two thousand learners (Deakin Crick et al., 2004). The item content of the original study derived from a substantial literature review about variables presumed to be relevant to learning how to learn. The study identified four broad categories, which appeared to be cumulative, discrete and interrelated dimensions of learning energy. They were:

  • learning capacities: dispositions, awarenesses and skills;
  • learning identity: the beliefs, values and attitudes about learning, self and knowledge held by the learner;
  • learning story: the sociocultural formation of learners over time;
  • learning relationships: the quality and substance of learning relationships.

The original project drew on a range of studies which identified variables which have an impact on the individual’s capacity and motivation to learn, such as self-esteem, locus of control, learning dispositions, goal orientations, learning styles and intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Alsaker, 1989; Katzell & Thompson, 1990; Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Hattie et al., 1996; Maines & Robinson, 1996; Dweck, 1999; Grimsell, 2001). It explicitly attempted to explore the conglomerate of variables as they might operate in persons in particular social contexts, and in particular trajectories in time. The resulting factor analysis identified seven dimensions of this ‘conglomerate’ which we described as ‘learning power’. It enabled the creation of an assessment tool which could provide feedback to learners, teachers and researchers about how individuals report themselves on these seven dimensions. The feedback to the learner is in the form of a spider diagram, in which each ‘leg’ reflects how much of a particular dimension the learner reported themselves to have at that time and in that context. It carries no numbers, since these are not necessary for personal reflection and, in this domain, it is not precision which gives validity, but authenticity to the learner.

Changing and learning

Some learners appear to regard learning itself as learnable. They believe that, through effort, their minds can get bigger and stronger, just as their bodies can. They see learning as a lifelong process, and gain pleasure and self-esteem from expanding their ability to learn. Having to try is experienced positively: it’s when you are trying that your ‘learning muscles’ are being exercised. Changing and learning include a sense of getting better at learning over time, and of growing, changing and adapting as a learner through the whole of life. There is a sense of history and hope. The opposite of changing and learning is being stuck and static. Other learners appear to believe that the ability to learn is fixed. They therefore experience difficulty negatively, as revealing their limitations. They are less likely to see challenging situations as opportunities to become a better learner.

Critical curiosity

Some learners manifest a desire to find things out. They like to get below the surface of things and try to find out what is going on. They value ‘getting at the truth’, and are more likely to adopt ‘deep’ rather than ‘surface’ learning strategies. They are less likely to accept what they are told uncritically, enjoy asking questions, and are more willing to reveal their questions and uncertainties in public. They like to come to their own conclusions about things, and are inclined to see knowledge as a product of human enquiry. They take ownership of their own learning and enjoy a challenge. The opposite pole is passivity. Passive learners are more likely to accept what they are told uncritically, and to believe that ‘received wisdom’ is necessarily true. They appear to be less thoughtful, and less likely to engage spontaneously in active speculation and exploratory kinds of discussion.

Meaning-making

Some learners are on the lookout for links between what they are learning and what they already know. They get pleasure from seeing how things ‘fit together’. They like it when they can make sense of new things in terms of their own experience, and when they can see how learning relates to their own concerns. Their questions reflect this orientation towards coherence. They are interested in the big picture and how the new learning fits within it. They like to learn about what really matters to them. The opposite pole is fragmentation. Some learners are more likely to approach learning situations piecemeal, and to respond to them on their own individual merits. They may be more interested in knowing the criteria for successful performance than in looking for joined-up meanings and associations.

Dependence and fragility

Dependent and fragile learners are more easily disheartened when they get stuck or make mistakes. Their ability to persevere is lower, and they are likely to seek and prefer less challenging situations. They are dependent upon other people and external structures for their learning and for their sense of self-esteem. They are passive imbibers of knowledge, rather than active agents of their own learning. The opposite of dependence is resilience. Learners with these characteristics like a challenge, and are willing to ‘give it a go’ even when the outcome and the way to proceed are uncertain. They accept that learning is sometimes hard for everyone, and are not frightened of finding things difficult. They have a high level of ‘stickability’ and can readily recover from frustration. They are able to ‘hang in’ with learning even though they may, for a while, feel somewhat confused or even anxious. They do not mind making mistakes every so often, and can learn from them.

Creativity

Those learners who score highly on this dimension are able to look at things in different ways. They like playing with ideas and taking different perspectives, even when they do not quite know where their trains of thought are leading. They are receptive to hunches and inklings that bubble up into their minds, and make use of imagination, visual imagery, pictures and diagrams in their learning. They under- stand that learning often needs playfulness as well as purposeful, systematic thinking. The opposite pole is being rule bound. These learners tend to be less imaginative. They prefer clear-cut information and tried-and-tested ways of looking at things, and they feel safer when they know how they are meant to proceed. They function well in routine problem-solving situations, but are more at sea when greater creativity is required.

Relationships/interdependence

Learners who score highly on this dimension are good at managing the balance between being sociable and being private in their learning. They are not isolated, nor are they dependent. They like to learn with and from others, and to share their difficulties, when it is appropriate. They acknowledge that there are important other people in their lives who help them learn, though they may vary in who those people are, e.g. family, friends or teachers. They know the value of learning by watching and emulating other people, including their peers. They make use of others as resources, as partners and as sources of emotional support. They also know that effective learning may also require times of studying—or ‘dreaming’—on their own. The opposite pole is dependence or isolation. Some learners are more likely to be stuck either in their over-dependency on others for reassurance or guidance; or in their lack of engagement with other people.

Strategic awareness

Some learners appear to be more sensitive to their own learning. They are interested in becoming more knowledgeable and more aware of themselves as learners. They like trying out different approaches to learning to see what happens. They are reflective and good at self-evaluation. They can judge how much time, or what resources, a learning task will require. They are able to talk about learning and about themselves as learners. They know how to repair their own emotional mood when they get frustrated or disappointed. They like being given responsibility for planning and organizing their own learning. The opposite of ‘strategic’ is robotic. Learners with these characteristics appear to be less self-aware, and are more likely to confuse self-awareness with self-consciousness.

Assessment for learning power

The ELLI learning profile is best described as a form of dynamic assessment with an interactionist orientation. That is, it is a form of assessment that focuses on ‘modifiability and on producing suggestions for interactions that appear successful in facilitating improved learner performance’ (Lidz, 1991) rather than on a static assessment of a learner’s performance. The forms of intervention, which the learning power profile leads to, are interactionist in nature; they emerge creatively and intuitively from the interactions and relationship between learner and teacher, rather than from ‘set responses’ made by the teacher based on the psychometric properties of the assessment. They move beyond externally identified strategies for learning which will enhance student performance to an invitation to the learner to participate in the learning event, through becoming aware of themselves as learners and taking responsibility for their learning processes—in other words through becoming ‘intentional’ learners.

As Lantolf and Poehner put it, ‘assessment and instruction are integrated as a means to move towards an always emergent (i.e. dynamic) future’ (2004). This does not mean that the data produced by the tool cannot be used as a static measure— indeed for school-wide and systems-wide analyses ELLI profiles have much to offer as a self-evaluation tool. Rather, the Vygotskian philosophy from which this programme derives much of its intellectual parentage suggests that ‘we must not measure the child, we must interpret the child’ (Vygotsky, 1998) and thus the focus is on self-evaluation of learning for learning, using the profiles to ‘encourage learners to interpret themselves’ and to stimulate learner self-awareness, ownership and responsibility for what and how they learn.

Learning power profile forms of feedback

The following two figures give an example of the forms of feedback which are made available to (a) learners and (b) their teachers. The first spider diagram (Figure 1), ‘Katie’s learning profile’, suggests someone who reports herself to be somewhat resilient, disposed to keeping going and trying, as well as to some extent being able to be aware of what she is trying to do or learn.

However, she is significantly lacking in a sense of herself as able to change and grow over time, and is passive in terms of the active dimensions of meaning-making, creativity and curiosity. She has more of a sense of ‘teamwork’ and positive learning relationships. The validity of this assessment is affirmed first by Katie herself and second by her teacher and other people who may know her well. The quality criteria are: Is it authentic? Is it trustworthy? Does it help us to move forwards? In development and research projects with nearly ten thousand learners, the face validity of these profiles, and their affordances in terms of language and self-reflection, have proved as important in practice as more precise measures of reliability and validity. Since teachers usually teach classes of children, the mean scores of a whole class on each dimension are also produced as ‘pie charts’ in traffic light colours of red, yellow and green, indicating the relative numbers of students who report themselves to have high levels of a dimension (green), low levels (red) and moderate levels (yellow) (Figure 2).

The class profile below suggests a class with relatively low levels of strategic awareness and the active learning dimensions of creativity, curiosity and meaning- making. However, they are more likely to exhibit positive relationships, a sense of changing and learning and resilience. In fact, this sort of profile is typical of a class being prepared for external, summative assessments—they are willing to receive and remember what they need to know to pass the test, and to work hard, but they generally lack the active learning strategies necessary to figure it out for themselves and, importantly, the awareness of their own learning practices. This information has proved important pedagogically in focusing teaching strategies in ways which promote ownership and engagement, and in developing a language for learning which can be shared and operationalized in the classroom.

When assessment is dealing with the learning self, and the personal power to learn, the level of precision or the margin for error of the quantitative paradigm is not as important as qualitative interpretation, and the emancipatory use of language and identity. In building a bridge, or training an orthopaedic surgeon to replace a hip, such levels of precision would be crucial.

How do learners and teachers respond to this form of assessment data?

Since 2003 over nine thousand learners between the ages of 7 and 21 have used the learning power profiles in formal learning contexts, usually schools. One early qualitative research project was undertaken by the University of Bristol, and since then nine school-inspired development projects, seeking to address school self- evaluation questions, have developed these findings in practice. In this article I will report on the qualitative findings of the research project, and draw illustratively upon the findings and practices reported in the school projects.

The qualitative study reported here was undertaken as part of the wider empirical study through which the dimensions of learning power and the assessment tool were developed (Deakin Crick et al., 2004). Teachers in the schools participating in the main study were invited to do classroom-based research to explore the application of learning power profiles to their classroom practices. It was thus a case-study which investigated the impact of learning profile assessment data on learning and teaching practices. Sixteen teachers in three schools were given learning profile data on their classes, as individuals and the mean scores for their class as a whole. They then used that assessment data to devise learning and teaching strategies designed to strengthen their students on the dimensions of learning power.

The teachers and learners in this study came from three schools: A, B and C. A researcher worked with the teachers as a facilitator for the focus groups in which the learning interventions were recorded and analysed. School A was a primary school in a small rural town. Teachers and their classes from Year 3 to Year 6 participated (n1⁄4251). It already had a strong school culture that supported the process of learning itself, as well as achievement. School B was a comprehensive school located in an inner city. The sample within this school included teachers and their classes in Years 7 and 8, ages 11 to 14 (n 1⁄4 79) in science and English. School C was an independent school in the south-west (n1⁄450). In this school, classes were small (approximately fifteen pupils in each class) and the subjects covered were language support, biology and English. The teachers ranged from experienced heads of departments to newly qualified teachers. Classes in Years 7, 9, 10, 11 and 13 participated.

Altogether 380 students (of mixed gender) and 12 teachers participated in the qualitative study. The students and the teachers were administered an early version, 55-item ELLI learning profile questionnaire at the beginning of the school year, in October 2001. The teachers devised their own learning interventions which were developed in response to the data provided in the learning profiles for their students, as individuals and as a group. The project was open-ended and exploratory. It was designed to enable teachers to ‘interpret’ their students for themselves and to respond creatively and dynamically, in keeping with the philosophy of dynamic assessment.

From October to May the teacher researchers then used that information dynamically in their teaching, and devised new strategies described as ‘learning interventions’ in their regular pedagogical practices. They were free to use the information in any way they chose, with a view to supporting their students in strengthening themselves as learners. The seven learning power dimensions were used as a framework for their work.

Qualitative data collection and analysis

The qualitative data collection and analysis focused on classroom practices in which both learners and teachers participated, rather than on student outcomes, and aimed to identify key themes through which the teachers understood their teaching and learning practices which they believed strengthened students’ learning power.

The teachers in each school worked collaboratively, and met the researcher at regular intervals during the year. On average there were two teacher research meetings per term per school. In these meetings the researcher facilitated professional reflection and conceptual development. Teacher researchers brought their own written reflections and examples of pupil work and learning interventions to the meetings. The groups used strategies such as brainstorming, force field analysis and the critical success factor process matrix from ‘The quality toolkit’ (Marsh, 1993) to facilitate creative thinking and analysis. After each research meeting the outcomes were fed back to the teachers for moderation, review and amendment in order to ensure that the outcomes were, as far as possible, reflecting the voice of the teachers. Evidence of pupils’ work, including photographs, was collected to support the findings. In addition, the researcher observed each class on two occasions throughout the intervention period.

Findings

It was intended that the teachers would have a free rein to be creative and to improvise in providing appropriate forms of mediation in keeping with the Vygotskian philosophy informing the research (Newmann & Holzmann, 1993). The teachers varied in their response to the feedback from the ELLI profile—each made their own judgement about how to use the data, whether to feed it back explicitly to individuals or to the class as a whole, or not to feed it back at all but to use it implicitly to inform their own learning and teaching strategies.

Thus each teacher and class response was idiosyncratic, and the first task in the analysis was to compile a list of strategies and activities from across the classrooms. The next task was to identify the underlying pedagogical theme for particular practices. For example, one activity was a ‘learning jigsaw’ for each student on the classroom wall, to which a piece was added each time students identified themselves as having progressed in a particular learning power dimension. The underlying theme was student self-assessment and ownership. Another response was tried by a science teacher who provided tasks which he knew his highly achieving students would fail at, in order to help them develop resilience. The underlying theme here was the development of student self-awareness and creating challenge.

Thus the analysis took place in three parts. First, teachers provided evidence of activities which they believed to be successful, in the form of actual student work, photographs, recorded conversations and narrative accounts. Second, they partici- pated in identifying the underlying themes of their particular practices and in identifying the meta-themes from the sixteen classrooms as a whole. Finally, they completed a questionnaire at the end of the project.

The teachers confirmed a very significant degree of face validation of the ELLI learning profile data. They found that the ELLI profile on individual students was in keeping with their own perception and knowledge of their students. They recognized the ‘personality’ of their classes. For example, a class where there was a high degree of dependence and a low level of critical curiosity was reported to have a ‘passive and manageable’ climate. Another class which was known to be challenging, even for a highly experienced teacher, had an ELLI profile that showed that students in the class had a high level of critical curiosity, a high level of interdependence and a high level of creativity.

Key pedagogical themes

Teacher commitment to learner-centred values and willingness to make professional judgements

It became clear throughout the project that the assessment of learning power cannot be understood in isolation from the many variables that inform and shape the experience and interventions of teachers and learners in particular classrooms. The energy and vision of the teacher to engage with the ideas embedded in the learning profile was a critical success factor—and philosophically inseparable from the assessment process. Each learning profile for individuals and for class groups was different and thus invited a different response from each teacher, requiring teachers with both the capacity for professional judgement and the freedom to respond appropriately. The teachers themselves were the most important vehicles for development in their students of the seven dimensions of learning power.

Positive interpersonal relationships that are characterized by trust, affirmation and challenge

The most significant theme emerging from observation, teacher/researcher reflection and teacher qualitative reports was the centrality of the relationship between learner and teacher. Each teacher identified this as very important in the focus groups and in the questionnaire. Quality of relationships between people can only be validated by experience, and it is a product of who people are, as well as what they do, and is thus difficult to quantify other than through self-report. The relationships established, observed and described by the teachers in this study were relationships that were characterized by trust and affirmation and, significantly, by challenge. Bond (2004) defines trust as a relationship of such quality that both parties are confident that it can withstand the challenges of inequality, risk, uncertainty and difference. In order to learn something, the learner has to move beyond their ‘comfort zone’ and often has to face uncertainty and risk. Furthermore, the teacher often does know, where the learner does not, and this is an unequal balance. The characteristic of trust, or the confidence that these things can be faced and negotiated, and that the relationship will not break down through abuse or fragility, appears to be a critical thread in the ecology of a learner-centred environment. It could even be argued that where there is no risk, uncertainty or inequality, there is unlikely to be learning. While relationships of this quality were observed and reported, they were difficult to provide quantitative evidence for, thus making it a finding that could be readily overlooked. In fact, experientially, the teachers in the study described relationships as ‘foundational’ to building learning power.

As well as the quality of relationship between learner and teacher, the quality of positive learning relationships experienced by the learner both in class and in the home and the community was found to be a key theme. Listening to the learners’ own stories, enabling them to tell their own stories either generally or in relation to the learning task, seemed to be critical. This quality of the lived experience of the learner, and the capacity for that to be received and accepted in the learning community, by both teacher and learning colleagues, was a key theme that emerged in different ways again and again. Learning identity appeared to be developed in relationship to others—whether it was Year 13 biology students identifying their friend who knew how to make meaning, or the Year 4 student talking about ‘how his mum learns off him’, the relationships of learning seemed central.

Developing a language of learning, particularly through the use of metaphor

The development of a language of learning was something that the ELLI learning profiles both required and facilitated. Without a nuanced language to describe different aspects of learning it is difficult to name one’s own experience and thus become aware of oneself as a learner. There was a certain degree of ‘slippage’ in language that occurred as students took ownership of the ideas for themselves.

Every teacher in the study made use of learning metaphors with their classes. Lakoff and Johnson (1980) argue that metaphor is integral to understanding and that ‘metaphor is pervasive not only in everyday language but in thought and action’. They argue that metaphors are essentially understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another, and that metaphors profoundly shape our view of life in the present as well as setting up the expectations that determine what life will be for us in the future. The dimensions of learning power are not material entities but seem to be readily accessed through metaphor by very young children. For learners in this project metaphors for learning power provided a way of getting past cognitive blocks and engaging in creative and imaginative ways of viewing a subject. They appeared to open new possibilities in the minds of children, where talking about their learning in the conventional way had produced a poorer conversation and sometimes defensive or withdrawn responses. In these and later development projects, metaphors such as seven animals, or cartoon characters, would visually ‘carry the meanings’ of the seven dimensions in the classroom and, to some extent, decentre the teacher pedagogically. There was evidence of an emerging ‘iconography’ of learning summed up in this quote from a six year old: ‘Tortoise helped (Resilience) because my friends wanted me to race them. I kept on going even though I didn’t go slow and I won the race’ (Small & Burn, 2006).

Modelling and imitation

Modelling and imitation were used extensively as strategies for enabling learners to develop the dispositions, attitudes and values implicit in the learning dimensions. These strategies included modelling higher-order thinking, ways of managing feelings and problem-solving strategies. The science teacher would ‘think out loud’ in front of the class in order to demonstrate the way round a problem, and would model a ‘learner friendly’ way of coping with failure. A secondary English teacher in school B would encourage weaker students to watch a stronger student do something, and then imitate it. In a primary classroom a conversation between the teacher and a learner, about learning processes, would be ‘listened in on’ by the rest of the class as a way of exemplifying some learning processes. Teachers would share their personal experiences and stories about learning, or they would use role play, and be honest and open about their own limitations.

Learning dialogue

The active promotion of learning dialogues was part of each teachers’ response. For this they worked with the whole class, small groups, pairs and individuals. The dialogue was about learning power dimensions in relation to the learning purposes. In other words, the learning power dimensions functioned as scaffolding for the development of thinking and learning about the content of the curriculum. The attention moved between the ‘learning self’ and the ‘content’ or the ‘text’, touching on each ‘station in the learning journey’. Dialogue is not just about the use of language, but includes a quality of relationship between speakers and listeners in which the ‘others’ voice is respected and heard. In other words there is a requirement to ‘speak as a listener’.

Time for reflection

Reflection on the dimensions of learning became a key feature of each classroom. It was encouraged at the individual level, in pairs with learning buddies, in small groups and at whole-class level through ‘circle time’. As the students reflected on their own learning and on the ways in which the class had changed and developed, so there was a growing sense of the ability to get better at learning. Spending time to attend to reflection in the classroom was not easy for the teachers and required actively prioritizing this over other demands.

Development of learner self-awareness and ownership

Developing students’ self-awareness and ownership of their own learning pro- cesses, and taking responsibility for these, was a central purpose for all teacher interventions. This meant focusing on student self-assessment and, through reflection and dialogue, developing student-owned strategies and targets for change. In the secondary classrooms these strategies were more recognizable as forms of assess- ment for learning, whereas in the primary classrooms there were more creative and idiosyncratic responses. The key focus was on developing student self-awareness, ownership and responsibility for their own learning processes.

Providing students with choice and the responsibility for making choices

Each teacher in the project gave a degree of choice back to the students in relation to how and what they learned, so as to stimulate a sense of ownership of their own learning. The choices varied from substantial ones—such as the choice of topic for study—to less significant choices such as the choice of partner or the strategy for problem-solving. With choice came greater student ownership of personal learning pathways and process.

Sequencing of learning materials—creating challenge through reorganizing the content of learning

A key theme across all the classrooms related to how the information or content of the curriculum was sequenced and framed. Sequencing and framing the curriculum particularly pertained to stimulating curiosity, creativity and meaning-making—the starting point would be students’ ‘lived’ experience, personal interest and motivation. Teachers reorganized the ways in which they presented the material for a lesson, creating a situation where students were challenged to make sense of data and to make meaning from it. Teachers also explicitly related the content of lessons to students’ experiences outside school and in the community, and they would ‘scaffold’ learning by inviting students to make connections with other aspects of the curriculum and with their wider life experiences. The sort of impact that such re- sequencing has is demonstrated by the words of this 10 year old: ‘Sometimes we do literacy and science and I used to get completely mixed up. Now I see how they link up’, and the following from a 16 year old: ‘The project has helped me to use my critical curiosity to my advantage by researching something that interests me and I am curious about’ (Small & Burn, 2006).

A toolkit of skills and strategies for learning how to learn

During the course of the qualitative project, and subsequently in the school-based development work, teachers were highly creative about the strategies and activities that they drew upon to support the development of ‘learning power’. Some of these were drawn from national strategies and guidance, while others were more ‘locally developed’. These tools and strategies were not new; rather, they were mobilized differently by the teachers in the service of developing learners’ sense of identity, ownership and authorship of their learning pathway.

Discussion and conclusions

The dynamic assessment of students’ learning power serves a number of pedagogical purposes. First, it reflects back to the learner what they say about themselves in relation to their personal power to learn. Second, it reflects back to the teacher data about individuals, and groups, which can be used for diagnosing what is needed to move forward in the development of self-awareness, ownership and responsibility for learning. Third, the dimensions of learning power provide scaffolding for the ways in which students encounter the formal content of the curriculum. All of these operate together through the shared, and sometimes locally created, language stimulated by the learning dimensions, and through metaphors, icons and heroes which carry meaning in the classroom.

A sense of identity and ownership is crucial if students are to become intentional learners, taking responsibility for their own learning journey and making sense of the ‘public funds of knowledge’ which are their entitlement. Often knowledge is introduced to learners from the ‘top down’, acquired from a central fund. The dynamic assessment of learning power facilitates a ‘bottom-up’ learning journey which begins with the experience and choice of the learner. Identity is a troublesome concept, but being able to complete statements such as ‘I am the sort of learner who usually . . . ’ or ‘I am the sort of learner who likes to . . . ’ can be affirmations that build the self-knowledge and self-confidence necessary for a healthy identity. This sense of ownership is reflected in the words of one 16 year old: ‘It’s opened my eyes quite a bit to learn how to do these things….And it’s changed what I think I can do….I didn’t think I could learn any more but now I believe you can.’ Through engaging with his own learning power and using it to guide him through a personalized project to an assessed outcome, this quote, which was part of his self-evaluation, demonstrates the confidence and identity he gained (Milner, 2006).

The learning journey is scaffolded towards a more personally owned construction of knowledge through dialogue, using learning power dimensions, in which attention moves between the person and the ‘knowledge’ to be acquired, in the context of experience. Simply put, the development of higher-order thinking, necessary for understanding, can be stimulated through critical curiosity or creativity. For example, one set of enterprising teachers developed a spider diagram in which the centre is blank, and seven legs represent the seven dimensions of learning power, together with their animal iconography. The diagram is on a place mat, and the student puts their own subject in the blank space in the middle. The subject could be an artefact or object of interest, or a science problem they want to solve, or a story they want to create. The learning power dimensions then scaffold their construction of knowledge, through reminding them of the questions they can ask. For example: What was here before? What else does this connect to? What do I already know about this? How can I solve this problem? Why am I stuck? What would happen if I listen to my imagination? Such strategies facilitate personal responsibility, as demonstrated by these quotes from primary school students: ‘I am using my imagination a lot more’ (6 year old) and ‘I’ve become more curious; I think of things I need to learn’ (11 year old) (Small & Burn, 2006).

The diagnostic purpose of the learning profiles has proved its usefulness in the studies described here and in the subsequent development projects. It is not the precision and numerical quantity of learning power that matters at this level, so much as the quality, authenticity and face validity of the profiles as they reflect back to learners and teachers what the learners already say about themselves, and stimulate purposeful learning. These voices of young learners provide authentic examples of the personal processes which can so often be invisible and yet which are emerging as crucial for learning in the post-mechanical age. In the words of a 17-year-old student, ‘We’re all programmed in a way that makes our experience invisible’ and ‘the difference today being…achievement within yourself, rather than measured by someone else . . . self-growth’ (Deakin Crick et al., 2007).

The overwhelming implication of this work for policy-makers—at school or system level—is that assessment practices for learning how to learn must include the personal as well as the public; the affective and experiential as well as cognitive skills and strategies; and the learning relationships in communities of practice. At present both the curriculum and assessment arrangements tend to favour performativity—the public and summative, with validity and reliability criteria appropriate for quantitative public accountability. Bringing our education systems into balance with assessment practices and provision of curricula that foreground the personal and the formative, with appropriate quality criteria—such as authenticity and trustworthiness—is a pressing challenge for learning in the twenty-first century.

 

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Categories
Learning Power

Developing an Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory: the ELLI Project

Ruth Deakin Crick, Patricia Broadfoot and Guy Claxton (reproduced with permission)

University of Bristol, UK

This paper reports the initial results of a study that was designed to develop and test an instrument that could identify the elements of an individual’s capacity for lifelong learning. We anticipated that the components of this capacity would include a complex mix of dispositions, lived experiences, social relations, values, attitudes and beliefs and that these various factors would coalesce to shape the nature of an individual’s engagement with any particular learning opportunity. The instrument that was developed the Evaluating Lifelong Learning InventoryÐwas trialled with pupils across a range of ages and subject to factor analytic study. The data have proved robust over successive factor analytic studies, allowing the identification of seven dimensions of learning power and reliable scales to assess these. These dimensions appear to be capable of differentiating between efficacious, engaged and energized learners and passive, dependent and fragile learners. Whilst further, larger scale field trials will be necessary to confirm these early results, the findings would appear to have significant implications for conventional models of curriculum design and classroom practice.

Background

The history of educational assessment largely concerns attempts to develop either instruments to assess intelligence or instruments to assess educational achievement. Very little attention has so far been given to designing an instrument that is capable of assessing a person’s learning orientationÐthe complex mixture of experience, motivation, intelligences and dispositions that any particular learning opportunity evokes. And yet, it is arguably our characteristics as learners and what we bring to any particular learning situation that will be the most important quality for us to be able to measure in the unpredictable and ever-changing world of the twenty-first century. If the capacity and the desire to learn and to go on learning throughout life is now recognized as a central aspiration in the concept of `lifelong learning’, it is important to develop the means to assess the developing qualities that make up an individual’s capacity for lifelong learning. What makes an individual want to engage in learning and to be effective at it? Such assessments are potentially both summative, in the sense of `summing up’ dimensions of an individual’s desire and capacity to learn at any given time and formative, in the sense of helping an individual to become a more enthusiastic and effective learner.

Thus, the overall purpose of the research reported here builds on the analysis of Carr and Claxton (2002). The aim was, Firstly, to seek to identify the elements that define a good learner. Secondly, it was to devise an instrument that could be used to assess where an individual located in relation to these elements at any given time, and in any particular context. A further aspiration was to explore how such knowledge might provide a starting point for developing an individual or group’s learning energy. Thus, in parallel with the empirical study reported in this paper, we undertook a developmental study, with a small number of schools and teachers, to see how useful the ELLI tool might prove to be in practice as a basis for practical interventions aimed at improving an individual’s enthusiasm and capacity for learning. This study is reported elsewhere (Deakin Crick et al., 2002a, b). This paper documents the first two purposes of the research.

Lifelong learning and learning energy

An initial step in the design of an instrument to assess an individual’s lifelong learning orientation must be the identification of potential behaviours and factors to be tested. Thus an initial literature review was conducted in order to identify the most likely elements on the basis of existing research.

The characteristics and components of effective lifelong learning identified in other studies highlight the complexity of the task of the research project, which is the subject of this paper. It is a complex and overarching phenomenon that cannot be reduced to only, say a psychological dimension, or a sociological dimension. For there are also biological, ecological, socio-historical, anthropological and critical hermeneutical dimensions related to it. Thus it is interdisciplinary in its scope.

Learning is a process carried out by individuals and groups. What is learned counts as knowledge or skill, which can take the form of the ability to do something which could not be done before, or a new understanding about the world, or something of spiritual, emotional or aesthetic significance. The process may take place below the threshold of introspection in the learner’s mind and remain there for many years, or the learner may be aware of the process taking place. Consistent with this perspective is Clark’s (1997) argument that thinking and learning are `integrative, whole-body processes that consist of rational, intuitive, affective, sensory and volitional ways of knowing’. He suggests that `intelligence/thinking/learning is a single, dynamic, multi-faceted, functional capacity that is inherent in human consciousness. This capacity may be expressed in a variety of modes’.

Existing research indicated that there are at least four broad categories that can be identified as making a substantial contribution to learning. These categories appear to be cumulative, discrete and inter-related dimensions of learning energy. They are:

  • learning capacities: dispositions, awarenesses and skills
  • learning identity: the beliefs, values and attitudes about learning, self and knowledge held by the learner;
  • learning story: the socio-cultural formation of learners over time
  • learning relationships: the quality and substance of learning relationships.

The components of each of these categories can vary in the degree of their sensitivity to domain, to time and to social context. They may be robust or fragile depending on the context and they are likely to vary over time; and in different social contexts. An individual struggling with French GCSE may be a very different learner from when they are studying for a degree in their chosen subject of physics, for example. We hypothesized, however, that despite the significant differences that were likely to be associated with different subject matter, different reasons for learning self-imposed studying in order to pass the driving test versus imposed school examination syllabuses, and different contexts an adult continuing education class of enthusiasts as opposed to a low-stream group of 15-year-olds on a Friday afternoon; there would, nevertheless, be relatively enduring, constant features of a learner’s `profle’ as well.

Although there is a range of studies which have identified variables that have an impact on the individual’s capacity and motivation to learn, such as self-esteem, locus of control, learning dispositions, goal orientations, learning styles and intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan, 1985; Biggs, 1987; Alsaker, 1989; Katzell & Thompson, 1990; Jonassen & Grabowski, 1993; Maines & Robinson, 1996; Dweck, 1999; Grimsell, 2001), few attempts have been made to explore the notion of the conglomerate of variables as they might operate in persons in particular social contexts, and in particular trajectories in time. Thus the study reported here arguably breaks new ground in its attempt to begin to identify these variables and the relationships between them. It is an attempt to be able to provide working hypotheses about the ecology of variables that together make up an individual’s learning orientation.

The situated capacity to learn is closely related to the notion of `motivation for learning’ and can be construed as a form of `energy’ which is experienced by learners and which drives their capacity to learn, adapt and change in response to internal and external stimuli. It is influenced by a potentially large range of physiological, affective, conative, cognitive, social, cultural and technical factors many of which will be outside the learner’s awareness. The desire to learn is arguably an innate quality of human beings, rather like breathing. Moreover, the extensive research literatures on the significance of, for example, self-esteem, locus of control, goal orientation, self- efficacy and dispositions suggest a strong link between the intellectual and the emotional components of learning; i.e. that affective, cognitive and conative dimensions are deeply interrelated. Learning is also influenced by variables that are present in the socio-historical environment of the learner such as significant relationships, cultural tools, worldviews and traditions as well as schooling and other cultural practices. These factors are likely to in ̄uence each other in a dynamic trajectory in time.

Figure 1 attempts to describe this.

Building on this broad theoretical framework the research task was then to explore how different aspects of learning might be understood together, and how they might operate within the individual learner and in the relationships and contexts of learning.

The term lifelong learning is one that requires careful definition because it is used widely in contemporary educational discourse and has a range of meanings. It is frequently used to refer simply to adult education, or the acquisition of skills and training beyond school. This project began with a broader conceptualization of lifelong learning, drawing on research such as that by Smith and Spurling (1999) who aimed to define the reach and potential of real lifelong learning. They developed a holistic notion of lifelong learning that comprises two parts.

Firstly, they suggest, lifelong learning relates to learning that takes place throughout the lifespan. Secondly, they suggest, lifelong learning includes the main types and classes of learning, both informal and formal education, as well as self-directed learning. Lifelong learning is relatively continuous, with a broad momentum that is maintained throughout life. It is intentional on the part of the individual or the organization and is expressed in some form of personal or organizational strategy, formally or informally, which may be re-appraised over time.

Thus, the accent for Smith and Spurling is on continuity, intention and an unfolding strategy in personal learning. Running through these themes are four principles of personal commitment to learning, social commitment to learning, respect for others’ learning and respect for truth.

Thus, in mapping out an overall picture of what lifelong learning involves, Smith and Spurling begin to develop ideas about learning identity, or the active learning agent within community.

This broad view of lifelong learning is consistent with Bloomer and Hodkinson’s (2000) analysis of learning, based on a longitudinal study of young people and their experiences of learning. They conclude that the explanatory power of learning theory is enhanced when it includes a temporal dimension, and when it addresses how learning is embedded within the complexity of life experiences, in other words, a lateral connectivity.

Seven dimensions of learning energy

These successive statistical operations enabled us to identify what we believe to be some key components of learning. Detailed scrutiny of the loading of the items on the seven factors led to these dimensions being interpreted in terms of the following summary descriptions that are presented in a polarized form here for the sake of clarity. It needs to be stressed, however, that it is important to recognize that these are `ideal types’ in that any individual learner is likely to find themselves at different points on each dimension. Moreover, as has been suggested, an individual’s position between the two poles identified for each dimension is likely to vary from time to time and from context to context. At this stage of the analysis the emphasis was on identifying in a robust way the dimensions themselves, rather than the capacity of the scales to characterize particular individuals.

Growth orientation

Some learners appear to regard learning itself as learnable. They believe that, through effort, their minds can get bigger and stronger, just as their bodies can. They see learning as a lifelong process, and gain pleasure and self-esteem from expanding their ability to learn. Having to try is experienced positively: it’s when you are trying that your `learning muscles’ are being exercised. A growth orientation includes a sense of getting better at learning over time, and of growing and changing and adapting as a learner in the whole of life. There is a sense of history and hope. The opposite of growth orientation is fixity. Other learners appear to believe that the ability to learn is fixed. They therefore experience difficulty negatively, as revealing their limitations. They are less likely to see challenging situations as opportunities to become a better learner.

Critical curiosity

Some learners manifest a desire to find things out. They like to get below the surface of things and try to find out what is going on. They value `getting at the truth’, and are more likely to adopt `deep’ rather than `surface’ learning strategies. They are less likely to accept what they are told uncritically, enjoy asking questions, and are more willing to reveal their questions and uncertainties in public. They like to come to their own conclusions about things, and are inclined to see knowledge as a product of human inquiry. They take ownership of their own learning and enjoy a challenge. The opposite pole is passivity. Passive learners are more likely to accept what they are told uncritically, and to believe that `received wisdom’ is necessarily true. They appear to be less thoughtful, and less likely to engage spontaneously in active speculation and exploratory kinds of discussion.

Meaning-making

Some learners are on the lookout for links between what they are learning and what they already know. They get pleasure from seeing how things `fit together’. They like it when they can make sense of new things in terms of their own experience, and when they can see how learning relates to their own concerns. Their questions relect this orientation towards coherence. They are interested in the big picture and how the new learning fits within it. They like to learn about what really matters to them. The opposite pole is fragmentation. Some learners are more likely to approach learning situations piecemeal, and to respond to them on their own individual merits. They may be more interested in knowing the criteria for successful performance than in looking for joined-up meanings and associations.

Dependence and fragility

Dependent and fragile learners are more easily disheartened when they get stuck or make mistakes. Their ability to persevere is less, and they are likely to seek and prefer less challenging situations. They are dependent upon other people and external structures for their learning and for their sense of self-esteem. They are passive imbibers of knowledge, rather than active agents of their own learning. The opposite of dependence appears to be resilience & robustness. Learners with these characteristics like a challenge, and are willing to `give it a go’ even when the outcome and the way to proceed are uncertain. They accept that learning is sometimes hard for everyone, and are not frightened of finding things difficult. They have a high level of `stickability’, and can readily recover from frustration. They are able to `hang in’ with learning even though they may, for a while, feel somewhat confused or even anxious. They don’t mind making mistakes every so often, and can learn from them.

Creativity

Those learners who score highly on this dimension are able to look at things in different ways. They like playing with ideas and taking different perspectives, even when they don’t quite know where their trains of thought are leading. They are receptive to hunches and inklings that bubble up into their minds, and make use of imagination, visual imagery and pictures and diagrams in their learning. They understand that learning often needs playfulness as well as purposeful, systematic thinking. The opposite pole is literalness or rule boundness. These learners tend to be less imaginative. They prefer clear-cut information and tried-and-tested ways of looking at things, and they feel safer when they know how they are meant to proceed. They function well in routine problem-solving situations, but are more at sea when greater creativity is required.

Relationships/interdependence

Learners who score highly on this dimension are good at managing the balance between being sociable and being private in their learning. They are not completely independent, nor are they dependent. They like to learn with and from others, and to share their difficulties, when it is appropriate. They acknowledge that there are important other people in their lives who help them learn, though they may vary in who those people are, e.g. family, friends or teachers. They know the value of learning by watching and emulating other people, including their peers. They make use of others as resources, as partners and as sources of emotional support. And they also know that effective learning may also require times of studying or `dreaming’ on their own. The opposite pole is dependence. Some learners are more likely to be stuck either in their over-dependency on others for reassurance or guidance; or in their lack of engagement with other people.

Strategic awareness

Some learners appear to be more sensitive to their own learning. They are interested in becoming more knowledgeable and more aware of themselves as learners. They like trying out different approaches to learning to see what happens. They are reflective and good at self-evaluation. They can judge how much time, or what resources, a learning task will require. They are able to talk about learning and about themselves as learners. They know how to repair their own emotional mood when they get frustrated or disappointed. They like being given responsibility for planning and organizing their own learning. The opposite of `strategic’ is robotic. Learners with these characteristics appear to be less self-aware, and are more likely to confuse self-awareness with self- consciousness.