The LQ Environment and Approach
From a learners perspective the basic concept of LQ is how you manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs. These are the things you need that will help you learn. It may be that you feel the need to discuss new ideas as you learn, perhaps make a diagram or receive a little more encouragement from your teachers or parents.
Applying your LQ to learning challenges should mean learning is easier for you. Easier being a relative term because we know learning requires effort. We can make learning easier though if we go about things in a way that suits us and for which we have the tools and strategies necessary.
This process of learning is incremental and if we accept that we use what we know to learn what we don’t know we get better at it. For example the more we develop our language skills the more we are able to communicate and share ideas as well explore new ones.
There are two things at work in developing LQ and it is hard to say which comes first. I like to think they happen at the same time and sort of leap frog each other. Firstly you need an awareness of your learning needs and secondly you need to be able to understand how the learning environment impacts on those needs.
At first I would claim your response to your environment is instinct, you do what you like or enjoy and are encouraged to do so through simple reward systems. This can start with a smile or gesture and progress to relationships. Over time you build your learning map and skill set possibly based on the reward systems in place. If you get praised for trying to learn to walk then you enjoy learning to walk, even if you fall over occasionally. The discomfort at falling over is made up for the by the rewards you receive. As a result of the things you try and the rewards you get you become good at some things and react well in certain environments. The opposite is also true, the things you do not do well at and receive no encouragement in or have no drive to succeed in you move away from. Eventually we make choices about the things we want to learn and how we want to learn them. You create what I call a learning map. what we believe we can and cannot learn. This can be both limiting if it holds self limiting beliefs or empowering if we believe we can overcome any challenges.What to some may appear to be nothing more than a stick to you may be a lever, what some see as a hill blocking the way you may see as the perfect vantage point.
You use what you know to learn what you do not know. You can think of this a bit like a jigsaw, as the pieces come together you begin to recognise where unplaced pieces belong. With LQ you learn to develop strategies to help you in recognising the unplaced pieces much sooner.
Here is a simple quiz to see if you are aware of your learning needs and your environment. One element of learning is about remembering and so the LQ quiz is based on how you deal with being asked to remember something. In this example I am only dealing with working memory[i] and long term memory issues in remembering things.
You are asked to shop for a relative who has rung you up at work. You are “busy” with work but agree to help. The list is for only a couple of things although not the usual items like bread and milk.
Which of the following strategies do you employ?
1) Listen carefully and try to remember. Possibly hoping you will recall everything once you start to shop.
2) Jot things down knowing you will find it easier to get everything and not miss anything.
3) Imagine yourself going round the shop as the list is given to you helping to create a visual memory of the task knowing this helps you.
4) Say you will ring back when you get to the shop. This way you only have to remember to call into the shop on the way home.
5) Suggest they ask somebody else since you are busy.
The only true answer is the one that works for you in that you feel in command of the situation and each one can be discussed in terms of LQ. For example, even number five is an appropriate answer since it shows that you have reflected on the environmental conditions being in effect at that moment. Had you accepted the request at that point you may have negatively impacted on your performance in other areas as your attention may have been drawn elsewhere when you needed to focus.
Looking at LQ from a teaching point of view it is about the learning environment you create.
Do you provide for the different LQ responses to the learning situation you create within your lesson? A student “doodling” may just be using a strategy to deal with ordering information in preparation for remembering later and not merely wasting their time and not paying attention. I said earlier that embracing LQ may mean dismissing some of the ideas we have about how to teach and what participating in learning looks like is one of those ideas. We cannot use our own model of learning to judge if others are learning too. In the same way we cannot create our own learning environment for others and expect them to learn within it in the way we do. If the learning map of another does not match our own it is not wrong, merely different. I refer you back to my LQ experience at the conference in the Netherlands where I needed the help of the delegate at my side to interpret what was being said. If it had been a classroom situation with you directing the lesson and I had been sitting talking to another student as you talked to the class how would you have reacted?
Being LQ aware as a teacher I feel is very important. Not only will it help you recognise how you manage your learning environment but it will also make you aware of the learning environment you create for others. In doing so you become more aware of the strategies other learners may use within that environment which are different to your own.
Acknowledging the different strategies may challenge your beliefs about teaching but it does not ask you to change your teaching to accommodate different learning styles. The more powerful response is to encourage learners to develop their own LQ whilst in your lesson by recognising and discussing the ways in which they are attempting to meet their learning needs. In doing so I believe you set the stage for developing LQ strategies and improving learning.
My definition of a rich LQ environment then is any learning situation in which the learner is allowed to apply their LQ to meet the learning needs. The simplicity of this statement should not dilute its power in terms of learning. In schools we cannot dictate or control each and every lesson. We cannot create the same uniformity or consistency that is the aim of production lines or manufacturing. No amount of testing or regulation will ever achieve whatever is deemed to be the perfect lesson. Accepting this is sometimes difficult, especially if there is accountability for measured learning outcomes, and people continue to try to achieve the impossible through imposing further measuring systems and regulation. Many are blind to the futility of this approach when an alternative is available. I came to this conclusion after years trying to change education from within. I saw talented and inspiring teachers fall in an effort to conform when we should instead be celebrating their individuality. In teaching terms individuality creates a variety of learning environments, the very thing we need to create to maximise the development of LQ. Schools are just one learning environment and preparation for lifelong learning is essential. It is clear to me that schools should provide a range of learning environments within their responsibility of developing learners. Where we limit this we severely limit learning. LQ is the way in which we can approach the aim of ensuring learning takes place instead of using the rather blunt and destructive tools of regulation and measuring.
[i] I will return to this definition later but for now think of it as short term memory.