The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

The Concept of Learning

Can we get smarter or is academic potential predetermined? Professor Guy Claxton of Department of Learning Science at the University of Winchester and originator of Building Learning Power says, the ability to learn is in itself very learnable. It consists of curiosity, the ability to ask good questions, persisting in the face of difficulty, being resourceful, being able to have a range of different strategies to call upon, being a good collaborator and to be able to be thoughtful or reflective. It is a balance of being imaginative while being able to think clearly and rigorously and in a disciplined manner. He believes it is possible to address these skills in lessons to strengthen these real-life intelligences.

By making small adjustments to the way we talk to children about the activities they complete in class, we can shift the focus from perceived 'work' to 'learning'. We can see children become more interested in the process of learning itself. Making simple changes to how we display work on the walls can illustrate this. We generally display the edited and crafted final product. By displaying the initial versions, we highlight and recognise the learning that has taken place to lead to the finished piece. This learning will have involved the drafting, the trying, the steps forward or back that have assisted the student to learn and to achieve success.

This approach leads to a culture change. The children see that what they do at school is not about completing tasks but is about stretching their learning muscles, their mental 'fitness' in ways they will understand will help them in all aspects of their life.

Children who feel more confident, more resourceful, more resilient, do better. They are able to talk about their learning. When faced with a challenging or confusing question or problem, they are able to stay engaged and give their best effort. The goal of education is not just about exams or qualifications. It is about the acquisition of skills that will help a person to succeed in a range of areas.

At Scotch, we are privileged to have two programmes that by design, lend themselves to helping a child to learn how to learn. The Reggio Emilia approach we follow in the ELC, as well as the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme, provide the children with opportunities to explore how they learn, to consider questions they want to explore, to use their imagination and to try, regroup and try again. Both programmes aim to develop resilience in the children while teaching them how to learn.

We work to ensure we address the key building blocks for long term success in terms of basic skills while presenting the children with a range of opportunities to assist them to acquire and refine their learning skills and style. We do not believe academic potential is predetermined, we believe every child can improve and grow. By teaching them how to learn, we set them up for success now and in years to come.

The Idea of Building Learning Power – Prof Guy Claxton

Mr John Stewart
Head of Junior School