Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Learning and Teaching: Reflection 1 (Learning)

I am currently part of a working party developing the Learning and Teaching Policy across our International School. The school goes from the Pre-School (age 3-4) up to year 13 (age 18+). We have surveyed the teachers across the school for their opinions on teaching and learning and we are looking at some example policies. Further to this we are thinking about the key features that fit our school ethos: "A caring and learning community, respecting diversity and celebrating achievement." I am doing some background reading and this reflection is a composition of this. The books I am using are 'Active Learning through Formative Assessment' by Shirley Clarke and 'The Intelligent School' by MacGilchrist, Myers and Reed.

To guide my thinking I am considering a number of questions. At our first meeting we discussed the questions:
  • How effective is the way I teach in maximizing my students learning.
  • How well have the students progressed in my lesson?
  • Can I do something different that will improve my students learning?
I am leaving the last question as I will reflect upon that when I consider the teaching aspect of Learning and Teaching. As Learning is the student focus and ultimately the students are at the top of the list of purposes for the school (though not the only purpose referring back to the school ethos above).

I see the first two as being connected or similar. How effective relates to assessing the learning of the students and students progress also relates to assessing the students learning. Shirley Clarke sees the answer to these questions as formative assessment techniques that the student is in control of or that the student own. Active learning involving understanding what is trying to be learnt and what are the different markers of success. If the students understand this then they can reflect (individually, in peers or even whole class) on their learning and establish progress or the effectiveness of the lesson.

Clarke establishes learning as an active process and is something that can be improved. Learners can become better learners and in the process become more intelligent. This goes against the common grain that intelligence is fixed and can not be affected and students are either good or bad learners. Clarke draws upon the research and theories of Carol Dweck. Dweck has produced thirty years of studies to show that what is important is whether we see ability as fixed or something that can grow. The Intelligent School identifies two orientations called the learning orientation and performance orientation. The Learning Orientation is the one that reflects Dweck's Ability Growth.

This has led me to add three more questions to the above ones:
  • How can I help the students become better learners?
  • How will/were the students learn(ing) in my lesson?
  • What is learning?
Learning can grow, be made better, can improve or a learner can learn how to learn. What are the different aspects of learning? Guy Claxton in Building Learning Powers identifies these four learning dispositions with a range of attached competencies:

Absorption, managing distractions, noticing and perseverance
Questioning, making links, imagining, reasoning, and capitalizing

Planning, revising, distilling and meta-learning
Interdependence, collaboration, empathy and listening, imitation

Clarke links all these areas clearly with the various aspects of formative assessment. Learning has formative assessment as an inherent part of it. The Intelligent School by MacGilchrist et al. also identifies learning as an active process which has review as in integral part of it. The Intelligent School identifies this as meta-learning and that learners need opportunity to reflect upon:
  • their goals for learning;
  • the strategies they are using to learn;
  • how they feel about their learning;
  • what the outcomes of their learning are.
MacGilchrist also acknowledges the classic educational theorists in Piaget, Vytgotsky and Bruner. In doing so they identify other key elements that are part of effective learning:
  • constructivist (children use prior knowledge to make meaning of currently learning
  • social (learning is improved by interaction with peers and teacher)
  • learners learn at different rates
Other factors identified include:
Intelligence. Intelligence can be improved. There are a number of different types of intelligences as best exemplified by the Howard Gardner model. Intelligence is still predominantly seen by many in the UK as a fixed attribute. Obviously some of us have a greater aptitude for some of the intelligences than other. This is often akin to the commonly phrased Gifted and Talented.

Neuroscience contributes the importance of keeping the brain healthy for learning. Further most recent research has highlighted the huge importance of speaking and listening. This must be pushed as an important part of the learning environment.

The nature of learners namely that, learners come in different shapes and sizes and there are differences in learning between girls and boys.

In conclusion it is important to be up to date in understanding the nature of learning as some of the most powerful research has been done in the last twenty five years. Learning involves careful consideration for the context but also knowing how to learn. Further learners need to actively make sense of what has been learnt through review and reflection.

No comments:

Post a Comment