1.9 MANAGING THE SCHOOL LEARNING JOURNEY

Is ‘learning to learn’ in your school not just for school but a skill for life?

Building portable Learning Power is not just about schooling the mind but engaging the whole person if, at school, we are to create the lifelong learner. The confident, competent and self-aware learner applies their learning intuitively throughout life by taking comfort from what they know to accommodate the new knowledge and experiences that come with the changes in their roles and responsibilities. They have learned to embrace change and not to resist it!

The embedding of Learning Power in every school student is challenging, takes time and is a commitment from which there is no escape if it is to be locked in to the fabric of everyday school life.

 

30 years of working with schools globally has given us a coherent picture of the three phases of program development required as schools embark on their own learning
journeys:

  • Leadership and taking the lead
  •  Teaching and classroom practice
  • Student understanding and action

These 3 phases work in concert with one another, each exerting influence on the others as the program progresses.

PHASE ONE : Leadership and taking the lead

In the beginning, and as with all new concepts and ideas that will shape the future, the role of the Head Teacher and their senior team is to provide the guiding authority and commitment. It is they who will create the preliminary definition of their goals and objectives, bring the concept to life by communicating it in an engaging way and get the process of change into gear.

Following the senior team’s provisional vision work, they will share their ideas with their staff, set up PLTs(Professional Learning Teams) and subsequently, taking the first steps towards strengthening the development of the new learning methodology in classrooms.

This phase concentrates on securing a strong beginning by limiting the habits and behaviors being identified and addressed in classrooms to those associated with 4 of the 7 ELLI/Learning Power dimensions, namely:• 
  • Resilience because this is the emotional engagement that is central to learning.
  • Learning Relationships as group work and trust in their teaching will benefit students far more if they know how to take advantage of it and do it well.
  • Critical Curiosity, triggered by questioning. This is the behavior that drives learning and needs students to know how to do it purposefully;• 
  • Strategic Awareness, self-regulation. Flexibility, being willing to re-think, monitor and try doing things differently, evaluating what worked and what didn’t.
 

 By concentrating on these 4 key behaviours teachers will begin to polish up their use of a learning language, perhaps even suggesting an alternative language imagery that will bring learning to life for their students and make the classroom more learning friendly. Although Phase 1 adopts only 4 of the learning dimensions this is the phase of greatest change and invites the contribution of further thoughts and ideas from the teaching staff.

Critically important at the end of this phase is the review of progress not only in the classroom but in the students themselves. Analysis of the data shapes the development of Phase 2.

In summary, the major shifts in emphasis throughout the school:

  • An engaging new vision for learning.
  • Establishment of Professional Learning Teams.
  • Attention being paid to the 4 key learning dimensions and their behaviours.
  • A language of learning being used across the school.
  • Classrooms becoming ‘learning friendly’ as opposed to preoccupied with performance.
  • Learning behaviour data collected and acted upon.

PHASE TWO : Teaching and Classroom Practice

Phase 2 picks up the pace on the introduction of 2 further learning dimensions or behaviours. Building on the solid base established during Phase 1, learning’s dimensions can be introduced more quickly and in an order that best suits the school’s own learning journey.

Many schools favour the introduction of Creativity and Meaning Making at this stage. Creativity has long been undervalued as a feature of the curriculum but as one of learning’s key attributes, it is vitally important that it becomes a regular feature of the classroom repertoire.

Meaning Making provides that essential link between existing knowledge and experience and the new in order to create new ways of thinking and of doing things. However, whilst the ordering and structured adoption of learning’s dimensions must be in the hands of the school, the principal shift in Phase 2 is towards dual-focussed lessons. In other words, this is much more than talking about learning or celebrating it, it is about the way in which content is delivered and the developing partnerships between teachers and their students. ‘Chalk and talk’ and rote or spoon-fed learning should be becoming a
thing of the past with a form of classroom engagement and culture that is exciting and memorable.

 

The senior leadership team should now be beginning to draw their own conclusions as to how their teachers and students are finding collaborative ways of absorbing the curriculum and how this might be further refined as the years progress. A further shift at this stage might be a reporting to parents of the development of their children’s learning and the shifts in their classroom behaviours.

In summary, the major shifts in classroom and teaching practice:

  • Increasingly rapid introduction of learning’s dimensions and behaviours into the way in which the classroom is approached by both staff and students.
  • The school’s ‘learning’ vision beginning to take shape.
  • A dual-focus entering teaching design.
  • The language of learning becoming the school’s language.
  • The curriculum becoming more adventurous and exciting.
  • Reporting to parents the growth of student learning.

PHASE THREE : Student understanding and action

Phase 3 is chiefly about consolidation … embedding a deeper fluency in the use of learning’s language, more meaningful infusion of the development of Learning Power into the curriculum and the creation of individual learning episodes for students within classrooms that have become more
engaging and adventurous.

This is also not just about keeping parents abreast of learning development but offering them help and support so that the home can become a learning environment too. Improving student Learning Power is after all about creating a way of life and about giving the citizens of tomorrow the skills, habits and behaviours that will enable them to make the best of what life will throw at them. It is imperative that the management of Learning Power becomes truly portable and sustainable.

In summary, the major shifts in student understanding and action:

  • Purposeful infusion of learning’s critical dimensions across the curriculum.
  • Students consciously recognising, valuing and engaging with the behaviours that control their Learning Power.
  • The school itself directing, reviewing and re-evaluating progress as it recognises that dynamics of the positive culture change that Learning Power creates.
  • Classroom observation taking on a role that is embraced rather than resisted; • Student responsiveness playing out in an upturn in academic performance.

CHANGING and LEARNING

At the heart of the Learning Journey is adaptation to change … Changing and Learning is the seventh learning dimension and reflects the quality of the management of the other six, respecting the fact that strengths in some dimensions can be used to make good the weaknesses in others.

In school, Changing and Learning will ultimately mean an infrastructure in evolution, a shifting culture where policies such as Learning and Teaching; Assessment; Recording and Reporting; Professional Development; Performance Management and the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of classroom observation will undergo regular reappraisal. The spotlight will now be on learning and the learner rather than teaching and the teacher.

30 years of operational research have proved time and again that the introduction of learningcentric classroom cultures gives teachers a new lease of life, the creativity that accompanies demands for new ways of working and the voyage of discovery that is Changing and Learning.

Finally, it is the student that is the ultimate beneficiary. Changing and Learning provides the
platform for purposeful citizenship.