Tag Archive | education. learning

In Search of a GCSE ‘Pass’


This is an article to celebrate the success of a student and of further success for a teaching approach defined by the concept of Learning Intelligence or LQ. Read on.

It was very late in the last academic year (2016-2017), in March actually, when I was asked if I could work with a Y11 student. The subject this time was maths and the target a ‘pass’ at GCSE (a grade C or as of 2017, a grade 4). School predictions and targets suggested this was a significant challenge, especially given the short timescale and me meeting the student only once a week for an hour.  This was an opportunity for demonstrating my approach centred on my concept of Learning Intelligence (LQ) and learning needs (PBCF).

I can report that we were successful, “We” because this was a learning partnership and this is what my student had to say

“I just wanted to let you know that I got my GCSE results today and I got a 4 in maths which is the pass mark and what I have never achieved before. I am super happy and it means I have a confirmed place at college but I couldn’t of done it without your help and strategies to help me get through the exam… .”

So what had we done to achieve such a welcome result?

Essentially the approach is to see learning as a problem-solving activity, this helps in negating the emotional link to failure and personal self-doubt. Once this is accepted the limiting subject perceptions become secondary to the learning challenge and we can get on with finding ways of solving the learning problem, of managing our learning environment to meet our learning needs.

Please Be Child Friendly

Any teacher will know you need a willing student but also one who is confident and has a degree of self-belief. The student also needs to trust their teacher and have a learning relationship with them. Achieving this is my first step and uses the learning needs approach I have developed of PBCF.

PBCF” stands for Power, Belonging, Choice and Fun and each element needs to be in place first before learning challenges can be set.

So, even with very little time available to me, this was my priority and strategies were used to first establish a sense of belonging, of me knowing enough about the learner in order to understand who they are and where they are and create a partnership. It is also important that the student knows something about their teacher, the sort of things that build in them hope and confidence.

This was then followed by power, effectively this means listening. It means giving the student a voice and recognising their emotional state in terms of learning. Anyone who feels powerless is unlikely to engage in any challenge. This stage is vital in understanding the barriers to learning that the student holds.

Offering a choice as to how we were going to tackle the challenge together is an essential part of the strategy and supports the first two. This in practical terms means creating both a coaching and mentoring environment.

Finally, our learning relationship had to have a sense of fun but more importantly tying this to achievement, we needed to celebrate our successes and find fun in learning.

I also encouraged my student to take the concept of PBCF with them into the school environment and use it when faced with learning challenges. The benefit of this approach is that of improving their awareness of the impact of not having learning needs met on their ability to learn. This helps significantly especially when we have an over compliant student who does not express their learning needs well in the school environment or a teacher who is not ‘listening’.

Solving the learning problem

Finding ways of overcoming the learning challenges, of solving the problem,  is the second part of the strategy and involves developing the four aspects of LQ. I define these as:

  • learning Skills,
  • Attitudes,
  • Attributes and
  • Behaviours

The advantages of seeing learning as a problem-solving activity are highlighted when we employ LQ.

Let’s consider an electrician as an example of a problem-solving approach. In repairing or rewiring a house in addition to the necessary knowledge we would expect him, or her, to:

  1. have a developed set of skills associated with the task,
  2. have the ‘right’ attitude, to do a good job and to not give up and walk away
  3. demonstrate attributes such as flexibility or creativity in completing the task
  4. behave in such a way as to be both professional and polite.

A deficiency in any of these aspects on the part of the electrician will limit their ability to solve the problem. So it is with learning but if we do not integrate LQ into learning within the school context, and instead focus on subjects, students see themselves as unable to learn a subject rather than lacking any of the elements of LQ to solve the learning problem.

My work with my student focused in a very short space of time in assessing their LQ and working to develop those elements that were necessary for them to solve a learning problem themselves. It does not just have to be maths either, any subject or topic of learning can be tackled in the same way. Often I find that once a student sees learning in this way they quickly adapt and their self-belief as a learner blossoms as does their confidence.

Can you scale up this approach?

My nearly 40 years of teaching experience says yes you can. The approach I have outlined was used in a developing literacy and coaching model successfully used by an independent tutoring service. The issue of scaling up 1:1 coaching successes with larger groups was considered by Bloom in his 2 Sigma question. The problem in achieving this most often results from sticking with the original teacher/learner mindset and approach. Changing an approach is simple, in fact it is probably the easiest and least costly change you can make in teaching and learning. It will certainly have the biggest return.

What about maths

On a subject-specific note, that of maths, since it is one of the least favoured subjects amongst adults and children alike, I strongly advise that we need to treat it like a language if we want students to become confident in tackling the learning problems it presents.

Think for a moment how much time we use written and spoken language each day compared to maths. Much of our day is taking up with talking, reading or listening. We even use language when thinking so it is no wonder we are conversant in it.  How much of your day is spent on the four basic mathematical functions, those of adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing?  One of my strategies with any student I work within the area of maths is to increase this time significantly by asking them to play number games with their family and by looking around them for number patterns and associations in everyday life and when out and about. Try it and you will soon see the difference.

See for yourself and take the LQ, PBCF challenge

If you are interested in PBCF and LQ and how it can help your students, your own children or teaching then get in touch. I can arrange 1:1 sessions with parents, teachers and all the way through to group work and whole school CPD either here in the UK or indeed anywhere I am asked thanks to technology.

You can contact me here: kevin@ace-d.co.uk

Wishing you success in your learning challenges


Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?

In the last part of this article I argued for the need to re-examine the foundations of teaching and learning and to establish if the foundations of what we do and why we do it are still part of today’s educations systems. In short are they relevant? In this, the second part, I ask the question “How far back can we go with teaching and learning?”

campfire homo erectus

Well I would argue that there must have been a time when somebody knew something somebody else did not. Something they discovered for themselves, something that gave them an evolutionary advantage  and perhaps wanted to share with those they lived with.  The making of fire may just have been that one thing or that a stone can act as a club. Although it is rather romantic to imagine such a scenario it does conjure up the first possible teaching and learning scenario.  It does also point to a few possible long lost principles of education too. That:

  • learning through need is a great motivational aspect of learning
  • we learn better when we co-operate with each other,
  • sharing ideas develops new ideas and improves existing ones,
  • failing is just part of the learning journey and should not define who we are (try, try and try again) and
  • trust is a significant aspect of the learning relationship

Long before teaching was a recognised profession and education was a nation’s currency in world rankings there was a time when people learnt things from one another or by reflecting on experiences. Since this simple model we have sought to turn learning into a science and in doing so brought the principles, practices, evaluative and proof tools of science to bear on the process.  I believe some aspects of the art of learning have been sacrificed as we have moved away from the simple model of teaching and learning and adopted a more scientific approach of theories and testing.

As the sciences have  evolved we have attempted to build models of learning that influence how we teach. These models go on to set or influence education policy and practices. Some of these models have been discredited and some build up a strong following as they appear to provide insights into how we can teach better and improve the process of learning.  Whatever appears to work in any part of the educational landscape is explored in order to find elements we can transplant and improve the health of our own education systems.  The idea of science making the process of learning clear continues.  We have seen the rise of neuroscience as we look for ways in which people learn and have employed MRI scanning to map the brain functions.

But what would we do if we had only the simple model of learning and everything else that we believe in how we learn was wrong?  So what if there is:

  • no right brain/left brain functions,
  • no learning styles,
  • no benefit to rote learning or
  • no set of basics or subjects on which we build further learning,
  • no best time of the day to learn

or any of the other ideas or theories we have about how we learn best.

What would we do? What policies and practices would we adopt if there was only the simplest of learning models?

In the next part of this article I will propose the principles and practices of a simple learning model.

Part 3: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nJ

We go back and explore the simplest of learning models to see if we can re-establish secure foundations on which to build.

Part 4: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong?  http://wp.me/p2LphS-nZ

What are the influences of the industrial and technological revolutions on education?

Final Part: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-pv

The four foundations of learning and what learning is not

Graphic from: http://socialesiesae.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/prehistory.html

LQ in Identifying and Developing Learners

engaged and disengaged learner
Not all learners are bright eyed and bushy tailed, well not all of the time.

There may be a coincidence that many “turned off” learners try to hide and themselves away and adopt the “hoodie” because it offers them a form of anonymity and way of withdrawing. What we think we see when we look at the learner on the left above may be as untrue as the world being flat.  If you could not dance and were gangly you would probably want to melt into the background and more than likely would not be found on the dance floor at any party. So it is for many learners in our schools, they don’t fit in and have learnt to be anonymous and, if challenged, sometimes aggressive or uncooperative. They rarely put up their hand or venture an answer willingly.

What can be done to re engage reluctant learners?

The carrot and stick approach is unlikely to work. They have learnt that the carrot tastes awful and they have become immune form the stick.  The key is in discovering two critical things about themselves and one truth.

  • The first is that ability is not just measured by tests or examinations
  • The second is that their learning environment can impact their ability to learn more than they think.
  • The truth is more often than not we can if we think or believe we can!

Personal Potential

The first of the thing reluctant learners need to recognise is their potential and I am not talking about the 3 R’s or ability to remember and recall facts. Discovering that they have a host of abilities in a range of areas helps in developing self esteem and breaking down the idea of being a failure.

AIM Awards Email SmallI attended the National Conference of the AIM Awards this week and specifically the workshop on a new offering the Personal Potential Award. What is special about this qualification is the process learners undertake in ultimately recognising their abilities. In many ways it is learning without subject matter.  Through a series of activities and guided by the leader of the course learners discover they have a lot more to offer as well as recognising the need to work cooperatively with those around them.  A common factor with those who have faced the challenges of formal education and not succeeded is a mistrust of education and a fixed mindset.  The Personal Potential Award does much to dispel both the fear and the mindset. Once they see themselves as able to learn they are better placed to re engage in learning. Nothing comes easy though and this leads onto the second key fact.


The Learning Environment

In the same way as our physical environment affects our health and well being so does the learning environment affect our ability to learn. The type of learning experiences we receive can make us either put up our hands or turn our backs. We need to make the link between our success as learners and our learning environment. Unfortunately few learners understand that they can manage their learning environment in away that meets their needs.  Further few actually acknowledge or understand the emotional impact  of a negative learning experience. Unfortunately the experience itself is often forgotten but the effect lingers into teenage and adult life. This impacts on future learning opportunities and the spiral continues in the wrong direction.

How Can LQ Help?

The purpose of LQ is to provide a language to both challenge and explore past learning experiences as well as to develop ways of coping with future ones.

LQ asks “Is what you are doing working for you?”  This can be expanded to include setting personal goals or developing aspirations and to getting what you need rather than what you want. Being withdrawn and shunning any form of education or training rarely gets people what they need or furthers their journey towards their aspirations.

LQ challenges limiting self-beliefs by exploring our learning maps, what it is we think we can and can-not learn.  We build these maps as we encounter learning experiences and evaluate our successes often through the strength of emotions rather than objective reflection.

LQ helps the learner work smarter by learning how to cope with learning environments that do not cater for their learning needs and in finding other ways to achieve the necessary understanding or skill.  This works for any learner at any level and in any situation.


I would recommend to anyone to take the time to exploring the Personal Potential Award.  A common factor with those who have faced the challenges of formal education and not succeeded is a mistrust of education and a fixed mindset.  The Personal Potential Award does much to dispel both the fear and the mindset.

I encourage you to explore the many articles on this blog to do with Learning Intelligence, “LQ”. Understanding the link between the learning environment and behaviours and attitudes is as important for teachers as it is for learners. A negative learning experience can set up road blocks and fix traffic lights to red unless the teacher deals with it appropriately.

There is a strong link between the Personal Potential Award and LQ. I see LQ providing the answer to the question “Why?” the Personal Potential Award and then developing the understanding of how to apply the changes that take place in themselves as learners as a result of undertaking the Award.


I can be contacted via e-mail if you want to find out more about LQ or perhaps arrange a workshop to explore how it can make a real difference to the achievement of your learners.

The Link Between Learning Intelligence and Learning Styles

E-learning concept

In this article I want to explore one of theories about how people learn, that of learning styles, and why it has become discredited.  I am not going to explore the VAK approach or any other specific aspect on which learning styles is based. Instead I want to look at why it became so popular and why now, even though some try to discredit it, many still support it. I tend to come at issues from a different direction and this time it is no different. Although it may not appear initially as having much relevance to the issue at hand I want to start by asking a couple of questions.


What has astrology and the idea of learning styles in common?


Why astrology may promote the idea of learning styles.

Surely we cannot use a “pseudo-science” to understand how we learn. Bear with me whilst I explore a theory.

One of the first questions I faced as a teacher was why some students “got it, kept it and used it” and others did not. I am of course referring to knowledge and understanding. My first instinct was that I took something for granted, that there was a step in the learning process that I missed because “I got it” and that I needed to look at what I was teaching again to find “it”. I even asked experienced teachers if there was something missing in my understanding that I was not conveying to learners who did not get it. I was reassured there was not, but this did little to help those students who were struggling learning, retaining or using what I was teaching. From this point I have always been on the lookout for anything that helps explain how people learn and for ways of improving my teaching.

A number of theories and ideas have come forward concerning how people learn. Science has begun to offer insights of its own through Neuroscience. There is even this thing called “IQ” which has been around for some time. Learning styles and multiple intelligences are other theories about how we learn best and how to manage learning. 21st century skills have made an appearance on the stage of learning due in part to the advances in technology and Cognitive Psychologists may be disproving everything we presently hold true about learning. Nevertheless this only goes to show that there is an interest in how we learn and how to improve learning. We want to explain things and possibly offer a few labels. This is okay so long as we do not return to a description of a patient found in the register of an asylum in the late 19th century that labelled them “Born an idiot.”!

We want answers to the learning equation.

We like the idea of unpicking this particular problem in the same way as we would like to find a cure to cancer. Once we have an understanding of how learning works we can prescribe the course of treatment that will allow everyone, who wants to, to reach their full potential. We will be able to categorise or label people. We will be able to give all the “slow learners” a speedup treatment, all those who are always mentally jumping all over the place a slowdown treatment, and those who forget things a memory improving treatment.

The fundamental problem is…

To me this is the fundamental problem in exploring how people learn. We use ideas or theories to label people rather than to start a dialogue about the challenges they face in learning. My way of exploring this problem is by looking at how people respond to labels and why we appear to like them. Although on first glance it may be a strange association between astrology and learning but what can your horoscope have to do with your ability to learn? Let us start by looking at what they both have in common.

1) both astrology and learning styles are believed by some and discounted by others, they each have their supporters.

2) they both try to predict something, either the future or how learners will learn best.

3) they both result in the application of a label, either a star sign of the Zodiac or a learning style.

4) both appeal to our need for an identity or to belong to a group.

5) they both offer characteristics which we may find inwardly attractive. For example the perfectionism of Virgo or the ease at which a visual learner decodes charts.

6) they are both a good way to start a conversation. Many strangers have started out by asking, “What star sign are you?” in order to start a conversation and many teachers have wanted to know how learners learn best and asked what they find difficult about the lesson.

I would claim that the first five are distractions of the true value that any of the theories or ideas offer, especially learning styles, is that of starting a conversation. Does it matter if theories such as learning styles, brain based learning or multiple intelligences are more fiction than fact if it starts a conversation and is only used in that way? What we must do as teachers is to avoid labels, no matter how seductive they are.

A final example of why I believe the theory of learning styles found support in teaching.

The theory of learning styles appears to be right because learning is often presented as just being a function of memory. About taking in formation and retaining it for use later. Learning is more than just creating a memory or storing information. Perhaps we would understand why many teachers  have, and continue to do so, supported the idea of learning styles if we see them as “learning cues“.  I believe that we initially pay more attention to some forms of information than to others, they get our attention faster. As teachers know getting the attention of students is key to engagement and then the trick is to help them learn.

Why do we “pay attention”?

Getting your attention has been a key survival trait and one that persists today. Advertisers know this and use it to sell, well to first get our attention. The smell of freshly baked bread, the colours, and warmth of a summer day, the freshness of a spring morning, the tune that reminds you of your youth. You get the point.

I would claim that whatever our learning environment is we are pre-disposed to notice things according to our senses. Some favour one over the other, although all are at play. Perhaps the one that is favoured is part of a distant memory because it was more of a threat in whatever environment we found ourselves in. If the danger came first as a sound then we may favour taking notice of auditory clues. If the danger presented itself not through auditory clues but was stealthy and we needed to recognise a shape or shadow then we may favour visual clues. The same may be true for identifying or recognizing danger through tactile means, identifying a particular shape from another in order to avoid danger. Failing to acknowledge or pay attention could have resulted in an untimely end. Has evolution got something to do with what we pay attention to and how we respond in the first instance? Possibly, it has certainly been used to explain a great deal of other forms of human behaviour.  The key from a teachers point of view is that once we have the attention of the learner we need to find ways of maintaining it. One such way is to recognise and celebrate achievement. Another is to show the learner how they can manage their own learning environment to meet their learning needs.  This last strategy is the basis for my own theory that of a learning intelligence or LQ for short.

Learning Intelligence (LQ)

LQ round

I define LQ as the ability of the learner to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs.

Link to LQ concept graphic:

It may be that at an early age we pay attention to certain cues within our learning environment and these are then developed through preferred use, or because they are successful or they bring reward. This may ultimately lead to a dominance or preference interpreted as a “learning style”.  In effect we are just paying attention to our environment in our preferred way.  Our preference can change over time and can be influenced by technology, friendships, experiences, in fact many things. I believe it is important to a learner to be able to recognise and interact with their learning environment in a way that brings success. I also believe that when they do not then they build a negative picture of themselves as learners.

In many ways LQ is a construct made up of skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours. You can find over 20 articles exploring LQ both from the teacher’s perspective and that of the impact on the learner on my blog here at 4c3d.wordpress.com

The link between Learning Intelligence (LQ) and Usain Bolt

What has an ability to manage your learning environment and a world record sprinter got in common?

When Usain made his way onto the world stage, first as a junior and then professionally, he was not the “traditional” shape of a sprinter. When we look back pre Bolt sprinters were short, well built, muscular, powerful athletes not like the tall, lean Usain. There were mechanical problems to overcome in his running style to get his tall 6 feet 5 inch frame off the line and down the track making use of his long legs which cut the number of strides down from 45 to 40 for 100 metres. Even so, size is not enough and Usain needs to maintain a level of fitness in order for his body to work at maximum efficiency.  Usain has been able to adapt to his environment overcoming what may have initially been seen as limitations rather than advantages.

Usain Bolt running metrics

Fig 1[i]

What if we changed the environment?

Usain Bolt is the fastest man on earth at the moment but that is just one environment and one that is particularly engineered having a flat surface and designed for running fast on. I wonder if he would be the fastest in space or immersed in water, two totally different environments.  Would he be able to adapt to these environments and maintain his position as the fastest man in space or in water?

Learning Intelligence

Usain Bolt defied conventional wisdom when it came to  the mechanics of running. Somebody had a vision of how things could change, how doing things differently could lead to doing things better. The next generation of fast men will be modeled on what we have learnt from studying Usain and his way of adapting to the challenges he faced in becoming the fastest man on earth. How does this fit in with learning?

Developing Learning IntelligenceFig 2

Learners face a similar challenge in adapting to their learning environments. To be the best you can be requires not only effort but also being aware of your needs in a way that allows you to maximise the advantages you have got and adapt in a way that minimises the limitations you face.   There are a number of skills and attributes that can be practiced to help develop your LQ and hence your success in learning. Figure 2 shows some of the elements that impact on being able to manage your learning environment to meet your needs.


If you would like to learn more about how LQ can help you or the learners you manage then please get in touch.  Developing LQ is one of the workshops now available along with the effective management of learning needs.

Contact: kevin@ace-c.co.uk for more information.


[i] http://www.slideshare.net/AthleticsNI/the-biomechanics-of-sprinting

Learning Intelligence (LQ) and Lesson Planning

The start of a new term or semester often means the start of a new module, new project, or chapter in learning for the student. It has also meant a lot of lesson planning for the teacher has already taken place and it is time to test out the material. There is a lot riding on how well this has been done, the resources collected together and how it will be introduced.  Get it right and you have engaged, interested, and enthusiastic learners. Get it wrong and the consequences range from disinterest to conflict and behaviour issues.

How can LQ play a part in lesson planning?

LQ round

 This question came about because of my current research and thinking for the LQ book I am presently working on.  Although I said I would not be posting anything new on LQ I wanted to “air” my ideas on this particular aspect of Teaching and Learning and see if there was any “feedforward.

We know that the successful teacher models learning behaviours. They often have a “project” in which they are involved, they are engaged in learning and remember what it feels like to learn something for the first time. These feelings often find their way into the planning cycle because the teacher will reflect on the experiences that will be faced by the students.

The teacher/learner is not merely presenting stuff to learn they understand they must guide the student through the learning experience too and their planning will reflect this. If you have read the earlier articles on LQ you will understand why I believe LQ thinking to be important when lesson planning.

Here is an LQ take on the lesson planning process.

(Heading in blue suggest LQ and those in red traditional planning considerations)

What do I need to teach is often the starting point.

What is the unit about, what will it cover and what do I want the students to learn? We can see aims and objectives being written in response to this question. No departure from normal lesson planning.

Where are my students?

What do they know and what “anchors” can I use to help “fix” the new learning? In other words prior learning, what do they know and how do I know what they know? A teacher should always start at this point, however, some assume rather than find out and this can mean bored learners or learners who are unable to access the learning. We are planning on poor foundations. No departure from good practice so far.

How do my students feel about what they have learnt already?

How confident are they in taking on a new challenge or applying what they know already? Will they be able to find the courage to try, to face possible struggles and in some cases failure at the first, second or even third attempt? Here we are beginning to open the LQ box of questions. To include this aspect in lesson planning is not too difficult and there are strategies that can be employed to help learners overcome confidence issues, to become learning heroes and understand the challenges faced in the quest to conquer the unknown or new.

How do I begin by sharing the learning challenges ahead?

In planning terms we may refer to this as the “Introduction” but only if we focus on the content and not the process. Sharing the challenges and involving the learner in planning to meet them is part of the LQ approach in planning and it is sometimes referred to as learner centred teaching.  New topics can be approached in a number of ways and asking the learners to identify the most appropriate (even if this involves an element of guiding) helps share the ownership and responsibility for learning.  It also develops LQ since lessons can be learnt from the how of learning as well as the knowledge or understanding itself. Sharing this aspect of planning is a little like offering a choice at meal time, it is difficult to push the plate away and say, “I don’t like this” when you have chosen it!

Here are some more LQ planning questions and requirements for you to consider:

  • How do I share my enthusiasm for this topic?
  • How do I elicit and include the ideas of the learners in my planning, preparation and resourcing?
  • How do I describe achievement and how will the students recognise it?
  • How do we work together to achieve and in doing so share the challenges?
  • What will my role be in the learning process be and how do I signal this to the students?
  • How will we celebrate achievement together and as individuals?
  • How does the student go about reviewing their achievement against their learning map (what they believe they can and cannot learn) in order to re draw it to include new information about themselves (LQ)?
  • What resources will be required to support them emotionally through the learning challenges?

LQ involves considering emotions and feeling about learning and coming to terms with them as a natural part of the learning environment.

One emotion that features a great deal at the start of something new is fear. Fear is often associated with rejection, of no longer being part of a group with which we want to be identified. If you have ever experienced rejection you will see why failure is so feared.

Having a sense of belonging* is one of our four basic needs as learners without it we find learning much harder. We need to recognise that this emotional state is often the starting point for many learners when faced with a new challenge. If we fail to consider it in our planning then we are being rather cruel and possibly limiting the success of learners.

I firmly believe LQ is an antidote to the fear of failure and leads to the sense of inclusion that builds belonging and leads to successful learning experiences.

If you want to find out more about LQ then follow this blog and Tweets from @4c3d. Please also remember if you would like to provide a workshop or organise a talk about LQ then your organisation can contact me by e-mail to make the necessary arrangements.

*Belonging is part of the “Please Be Child Friendly” approach developed by ace-d and stands for the 4 learning needs:

Power – Belonging – Choice and Fun.




Learning Intelligence and the link to Self

self image

We believe we know who we are. We think we know how we would react or behave in different circumstances and situations. We think we have the measure of others and can predict how they will behave too.

What if none of this is true? What if we have no real idea of who we are and have no way of predicting how others will react? I would bet that we would all feel rather uncomfortable.

So how does the idea of ‘self’ work?

The concept of ‘self’  features a lot in our language: behave yourself, you are not yourself, being self-assured, self-motivated, being selfish, self-centred, show self-control, self-help books, myself, help yourself etc. It could be that anything that is important tends to feature more often in language. This would indicate ‘self’ is important to us.

This summary about ‘self’ is based on the book by Bruce Hood, The Self Illusion [i]

  • The concept of ‘self’ is not associated with any organ in the body other than the brain
  • There is no ‘self’ centre in the brain
  • We have an image of ‘self’ that we develop
  • ‘Self’ is a reflection and can change according to your social environment
  • ‘Self’ is a set of behaviours others are accustomed to
  • ‘Self’ appears to provide some behavioural control function

There are times when ‘self’ appears to be more active and this correlates with key phases in our development. These phases are associated with social activity and influences. At the age of four we start to be concerned about how others see us. How others see us becomes very important around adolescence and can have a major impact on behaviour. When we can see an image of our self, for example in a mirror, it affects our behaviour too.

Labels play a part in establishing ‘self’ and we need to be careful of these. Strangely enough the first thing we do is label children; we may even do so before they are born. For example, picking names can be stressful. If you have an image of a John or Joan that is rather negative I bet the names will be put at the bottom of the list. Likewise a favourable personality, perhaps somebody you admire, named Marcus or Mary will make you think about including them in your possible list. Even before naming though is the label of sex, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ is one of the first questions we get asked after the birth. Our sex can be a major part of ‘self’. It may be the very first factor in building ‘self’. Phrases such as, “Boys will be boys” and girls are made of “sugar and spice and all things nice” is part of many cultural gender images.

How is the ‘self’ involved in how we behave and therefore learn? Earlier I the used the phrase “behave yourself” and we know that sometimes people are “not themselves.” Both phrases are related to how we expect ‘self’ to regulate our behaviour or that of others according to the picture we hold of them or they hold of themselves. We may behave as others expect of us rather than how we would instinctively behave because of their expectations of us. We have not all been “tested” in every conceivable situation and so we use a picture of ourselves to imagine what we would do in different situations. This picture is important to us, it helps define our “character”, the way we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. We also hold pictures of others and use these to predict their behaviour too.

Our image of ‘self’ and how we form it is a complicated affair but it also relies on social interaction. We are how others see us. Labels are how others describe how they see us. Labels carry social stigma and values and whilst we care about how others see us they can influence how we behave.

These points about self and behaviour are especially important in learning. In a learning situation problems arise when these pictures are poorly formed, incomplete, or distorted or we are unwilling to change them. If we think of this picture we hold as ‘self’ then we can explore it as if it were a character in a book. It will have a number of traits along with behaviours we come to expect of it. Within this picture of ‘self’ are our beliefs about our ability to learn, I call this a “learning map” and we begin to draw it the day we are born. Like all maps it shows where you are and where you want to be and the roads that connect the two together. When we can see an easy path between the two points we interpret this as something we can learn without a great deal of effort. If the route is a little more twisted or perhaps has more of an incline we may need encouragement to begin the learning journey. Should the map show no route between the two points we can assume it is not possible to get there and decide it is something we cannot learn. Of course the ‘self’ is the traveller and like all travellers it may decide to ignore the map and find its own route. Like all travellers the ‘self’ has a character, it may be stubborn or resourceful, and this will determine how successful the journey is in either acquiring learning along the way or in reaching the destination.

I hope you can see how useful a metaphor the map is in linking ‘self’ to learning. The metaphor also gives us a way to see how LQ can play a part in learning and in developing the ‘self’. Re drawing the learning map through the application of LQ allows us to discover new things about the ‘self’. We may think we have no way of reaching a destination only to find a different route because we begin to look around us for an alternative. Think of it as crossing a stream that blocks our way by the building of a bridge. This action may occur because we think of ourselves as resourceful, perhaps resilient, or creative.

What this means for the Teacher

  • There is a link between behaviour and our view of ‘self’ (that of ourselves and the ‘self’ of others).
  • Be wary of labels and how they can affect ‘self’. Don’t pre judge based on ‘self’ images you hold linked to behaviours and expectations of those you teach.
  • There may be different ‘selves’ and by creating the right learning environment you can attract and develop the one most appropriate to the learning challenge. For example by managing failure correctly in a lesson you can help form a self-image of a learner who can overcome such challenges and find other ways to succeed (a key LQ behaviour)

What this means for the Learner

  • You are not programmed to behave or act in fixed ways; you can adopt behaviours that make it more likely for you to succeed if the ones you are using don’t work.
  • You are influenced by others and the images they hold of you. Make sure you always act in a way that helps you achieve rather than limits your achievement. Be prepared to show others they are wrong about you when they think you can’t achieve by finding other ways (use your LQ).
  • Labels are removable and they can fade in time. Labels describe behaviours rather than abilities, they are not who you are just how you are seen sometimes. Work to create the right labels for what you want to achieve and not to reinforce the limiting ones. For example if you are labelled as being lazy don’t create a self that is lazy, see it as a challenge to change the other person’s view of you.
  • When drawing your learning map be careful not to allow limiting self-images to affect where you want to get to and how you will get there. Use your LQ as a compass to guide you to where you want to be.

A final word about the link between LQ and ‘self’

In many ways ‘self’ is the toolbox from which LQ draws when building a learning environment that suits our learning needs.  When faced with a learning challenge think which ‘self’ would be successful. A resourceful ‘self’ will always find a way to learn and overcome an environment which limits learning. An energetic ‘self’ will always find the resources and have the drive to complete a learning challenge. A confident ‘self’ will always pick themselves up after knock backs and failures and see these as part of the learning journey.  A thoughtful and reflective ‘self’ will always manage their behaviour in a way that brings about the outcome they are looking for in the least destructive way.

Follow up this article with a further look at selfhttp://wp.me/p2LphS-5y

About the topic of LQ

I coined the term “LQ” 18 months ago when I was writing my first e-book “Understanding Learning Needs”. As I reflected on my teaching career of 30 plus years and the challenges in helping people to learn, I found I needed something to describe my own learning journey and how I had overcome my learning barriers as well as the strategies I had used successfully as a teacher to help others learn. I describe LQ as a way of managing your learning environment to meet your own learning needs. Seeing the challenges in education change it became evident that we needed to equip learners with a skill set and understanding so that they could manage their own learning environment to meet their needs, LQ is my answer to that challenge.  In this way no matter how toxic the learning environment the learner would be able to learn comfortably and with confidence.

As I try to build a career as an educational consultant my own LQ is helping me develop new skills and overcome new learning challenges so I know it works.  I hope reading the articles I have written is making you think about your own learning journey and how you have developed your own LQ.  There have been over a 1000 views of my articles on LQ since publishing the first on August 11th this year and 500 downloads of the e-book Understanding Learning Needs since it was published a year ago. I am hoping that this developing audience is an indication of an awakening in others of the value of the concept of Learning Quotient in managing your own learning.

Finally – don’t be afraid to ask! If there is anything you want to know about LQ or would like me to present my ideas to a group of colleagues just get in touch, others already have. Whilst I may not be able to attend in person there are always ways of communicating.

[i] Bruce Hood, 2012 The ‘self’ Illusion: Why There is No “You” Inside Your Head, Constable & Robinson

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