Understanding Learning Needs

As a teacher we come to expect pupils to pay attention, to listen and to try to learn. Part of our craft is to build pupil engagement and to motivate them to learn. We also know that it is not always as easy as presenting the material or having a charismatic hold on the class, sometimes challenges arise and we have to meet them. An element of challenge is a good thing, “I don’t understand”, “Tell me that again”, “I don’t know the answer” are all good examples of pupil challenge. Such challenges help you develop your teaching techniques and resources.

Not all challenges teachers face from disengaged students are as welcome, some are behaviour based and may be classified as non-compliant. In such circumstances we tend to react to the behaviour and seek compliance through a personal approach or perhaps the threat of punishment of some form (detention, additional work, isolation etc). It is hard not to react to non compliant behaviour especially when that behaviour disrupts the class.

Learning to see challenging behaviour as a symptom of need is difficult, especially when we don’t recognise or understand the impact of those needs. In terms of learner engagement luckily there are only four. The most important of these, the most powerful driver of behaviour, is s sense of belonging. This is why a personal approach or developed relationship with a pupil will often diffuse many challenging situations. The remaining three needs are just as important but often go unrecognised or ignored for they have less of a direct influence on behaviour in the early stages of not been met.

It’s not just about understanding learning needs through, it’s about managing them too. Learning to build into our teaching ways of meeting these four needs every time we teach. This realisation has ultimately led to a wish to share this insight with the teaching profession, indeed anyone who is engaged with others in directing learning or seeking engagement in a process. This can be teaching or leadership, team building or managing stress.

The outcome is “If you can’t reach them you can’t teach them – building effective learning relationships”. You will see a link to the publisher where you will find more details about the book.

 Original article updated Jan 2021


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