As teachers we break a subject down into components or elements of knowledge and understanding, into learning steps if you like. We then find the “best” way to deliver these steps in a way learners will, with a measured degree of effort, assimilate. This process is influenced by our knowledge and understanding of pedagogy and our relationship with the learners. In short we “scaffold” learning. Fairly straightforward but have you thought about it from a learner’s perspective? No? – Well read on!
Using what we know to learn what we don’t know
I have come to believe that we learn by building on what we know. This to me is a sort of mental map of my knowledge and understanding, knowing and learning (yes there is a difference, see this article: http://wp.me/p2LphS-ba). The bigger and more detailed the map the more confident we are and easier we find learning something new. For example it has been shown that speaking more than one language helps in learning a new language. I have a way of visualising this process of building on what I already know and call it “anchoring”. I look to make sense of what it is I am trying to learn or understand by referencing it with what I already know or understand what I have already learnt. I make links between what I already know and what I need to learn.
Anchoring essentially involves problem solving, an important aspect of Learning Intelligence, LQ (download a leaflet here: about-lq-with-lq-graphic). This is how this approach works and how a teacher can use it effectively in their lessons.
From the learner’s perspective
1) As the topic or subject is introduced we have to look and listen for words or phrases we already recognise.
2) We cannot assume they mean the same thing in this scenario as they do in others so we need to seek clarification and check meaning and relevance.
3) We take enough time to reflect on how what we know fits in with what we are learning. This also involves asking questions to check the links are valid.
4) Next is a sort of consolidation phase, where we explore a little further trying to see where what we know already and what we are trying to learn may take us.
5) This leads to as a sort of prediction phase where the links are established and we are ready to embark on a new learning journey. We can make educated guesses or predictions if given certain pieces of information.
So learning starts by seeing learning as a problem to solve and a period of analysis and reflection.
From the teacher’s perspective
1) Ask yourself what students need to know or understand in order to make a start on this topic and prepare questions you can ask to check before starting the topic.
2) Don’t assume understanding. Often the same words or phrases can be learnt without understanding. Build in a check and reflection phase during the topic introduction. Acknowledge and praise where students show understanding or can make links with relevant knowledge.
3) Create an opportunity for students to identify what they already know and how it can be useful in the learning process.
4) Introduce risk taking in the learning process. Encourage students to make assumptions or predictions about the new topic. Here are some questions that can be used to initiate this process. “Knowing what we know already what might happen if…?” “How do you think this might link to…?” You are actually leading up to “Let’s find out”
5) Don’t underestimate how much effort this takes on the part of the learner. Allow for structured mental breaks and reflection periods. Build in activities that create opportunity for pair or small group work and class feedback sessions.
The proof is in the pudding
I have tried this out on myself in learning about path-finding algorithms used in game programming and after 50 minutes I was in need of a mental break despite being very interested. I went through all the steps I suggest a student goes through here. During the process I was not passive, there is no good sitting there and hoping you are on the same page as the teacher. Learning intelligence, LQ, is about managing your learning environment and that means interacting with it.
There are two other observations to make about this approach. Firstly I was able to contribute much sooner than if I had just listened. I was in an active learner state earlier. This is important if we as learners are going to maximise opportunities for learning. For teachers it means a greater rate of progress.
Secondly I have a deeper understanding of the topic in a much shorter period of time and anchors that can be used to recall the learning links later. These anchors can be thought of the start of trail of “bread crumbs” marking our thought and learning associations. In case of reviewing or revisiting what we have learnt, and possibly forgotten, we can pick up the trail again starting from an established anchor point. By following the same trail we reach the same understanding but importantly we can do this independently using our internal prompts. A simplified example is knowing that 12 x 12 is 144 so when asked what 24 x 12 is we can start at 12 x 12 and quickly recognise we are talking about twice as much.
I would be interested if you scaffold your teaching or learning in this way too.
Schools are pushing students at this time of year to make or exceed their target grades. A great deal goes on both during school, after school and during holidays to finish coursework or to revise topics. Revision strategies most commonly ask students to go over ground they have already covered, often in the same way with the same teachers and approach. What if there was a better way to reach those targets grades?
If we take a sporting analogy for a moment we can see that there is more to performance than learning how to do something and practicing it. Athletes have to believe in their ability to succeed and without this mental state it matters little how often they practice or train. What if our students did not believe in their ability and what if we did little to change that state of mind? Would it matter how much revision or practice they did if at heart they did not believe they would succeed?
In 2016 Roy Leighton was involved with a school in Leicester in changing mind-sets of a group of Y11 students. They were using a ‘better way’ to help students achieve and it does not involve revision in any school subject but it will pay off across all of them. In fact it will have a lifelong pay off for the students because they will believe in themselves.
I had the opportunity to accompany Roy on a visit to the school to meet with some of the students during the Easter Holiday and to see the better way in action. The better way is actually called the “Butterfly Model” and it is something Roy has been developing and refining very successfully. I have known Roy for some time and our work has a number of common elements including enabling learners to manage their own learning and to understand the emotional impact on our ability to learn. Roy once said to me: “We are holding different ends of the same stick” and I take this as a both a compliment and encouragement for developing my work on Learning Intelligence seeing how big the stick is that he is holding.
I recommend you check out his work on personal transformation here: http://www.royleighton.com/the-butterfly-model1.html
What gets students engaged and motivated?
From my own experience and work on getting Y11 ‘down to it’ I know that getting them motivated is the essential. I have identified four key elements that are necessary to getting people to engage and hence motivated. The first is PBCF.
PBCF “Please Be Child Friendly” is a way of remembering the four elements shown in my graphic below. I would challenge you to find anything in which you are actively engaged that does not involve these four components.
The second aspect is LQ and shares the same roots as Roy’s stick! It’s about a mindset and them enabling and supporting the engagement of learners by developing the Skills, Attitudes, Attributes and Behaviours that form the enabling aspect of LQ. You can read more about LQ, starting with an introduction here at LQ Introduction
Back to the school and students who voluntarily came in during the holiday to meet with Roy and carry on with the programme. This was his 4th visit and there are others to come along with “hangouts”, text messages and online resources that are part of the programme. This may sound like an advert for the Butterfly model but hey if you see something that works you should share it – right!
The session focused on being the person you want to be, making the changes you need to make and recognising the powerful emotions that influence our self-beliefs as learners. “Getting from here, to where you want to be”. Not your typical exam boosting session but one that is as essential as any in achieving success, just ask any athlete.
As students reflected on the last session and what they decided they wanted to keep, develop and let go you could see their energy rise ready for the challenges this session would provide. A significant difference to getting students to go over work they have already struggled with again which does little to alter their “learning map”, what they believe they can and cannot learn.
Looking at ourselves and recognising our strengths and our weaknesses is difficult, acknowledging these and then deciding what to do about it even harder, but hardest of all is actually doing something about it. I saw students fully engaged in this journey, facing up to the challenges and changing their beliefs about themselves as learners and having fun while they did so.
With the pressures schools face and not forgetting how these find their way to the teachers it is refreshing to see a school take a different approach, a better way, to achieving success. Some may even say a “braver way” and in many respects I would have to agree. Doing what is the norm, even if it does not always work, is less risky than doing something that is right when it is not recognised. The students who attended this session are in many ways pioneers and deserve recognition. I am sure they will show others there is a better way and I look forward to hearing of their success.
Want to explore the PBCF and LQ intervention and how it can help your students?
Get in touch with me via e-mail here:
Part 4. The impact of the no one learning environment cont.
A blame culture, the ultimate outcome of the “one way”.
Earlier I explored the impact of the one way not working. I described how in my experience it leads to the tightening of monitoring and checking systems, inflexible frameworks and the limiting of creativity (or in some cases finding “creative” ways around inflexibility). Now we turn to whose fault is it the one way is not working.
If the one way to learn, the prescribed approach, is not working then it is the fault of someone. Who is that “someone”? At the start there are always a lot of things to point the finger at, after time though the number dwindles. That someone was the Local Education Authority, trendy (lazy) teachers, progressive teaching methods, low aspirations, parents, disruptive students etc. Now it is either the leadership of the school or the teacher or a lack of effort on the part of the learner (also the fault of the teacher). In such cases it is easy to get into a cycle of finger pointing or a blame culture.
We in the UK are definitely into a blame culture and as we move further and further into it the language used by government gives this away. We hear things like “we are introducing a new check”, “pupils at risk of falling behind” , “target those areas” and “children aren’t being given a fair shot to succeed”. More the language of war you would think (the outcome of desperation?) than education perhaps. Then there is the “takeover” manoeuvre (there is that war analogy again!), the one where those who were “in charge” or responsible are no longer trusted and a new regime is installed. In the UK it is academy trusts who take over “failing schools” but these are also failing (as we would expect if the one way does not work!). It’s certainly a dilemma for any government that persists on the one way path. I suppose with so much invested in the one way, both personally, as well as politically, it is hard if not impossible to even consider another way let alone more than one way.
What we do know is the learning environment created by the pursuit at all costs of the one way is very toxic for those involved in leadership, teaching, and learning. Finding a way to deal with this environment is the key to improving teaching and learning. We know that through regulation and inspection leadership and teachers have their hands tied so this leaves the learner. A simple analogy that describes how we may proceed in dealing with a toxic environment that is not going to change is living somewhere really cold and wanting to be warm. You can ask for sunnier days, less snow and ice each year or longer summers and shorter winters until you are blue in the face (ignoring climate change). You are asking for the unlikely if not impossible. The more successful way is to acclimatise yourself to the environment and seek ways of managing it in order to get what you want – to be warm. So you learn what clothes to wear and how to wear them, you practice ways of getting and keeping warm and after a while you are warm, despite the environment.
If we take the same approach in teaching and learning then it’s not about changing the learning environment to meet the needs of the learner it’s about equipping the learner to manage the learning environment to meet their learning needs. This is important not only because of the one way problem but because we do not learn just in schools or managed environments. We have the opportunity to learn in a number of different environments. For example at home, in work, during leisure and in a social setting are all potential learning environments. My experience is that some learners do not do well in one school environment but thrive in another, some do not do well in any formal education environment but thrive when on work placements, and some excel in leisure pursuits but do less well in school. They are the same person but achieve differently in different environments. If we wanted evidence that we need to equip learners with the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours (SAAB) to manage their learning environment then we need look no further than these examples. Where their SAAB matches the environment they flourish, where it does not they struggle.
My claim is that in these situations the learner possesses the appropriate SAAB profile for the environment in which they thrive but not the profile for those where they struggle. It occurs to me that we need to broaden or develop the SAAB profile of the learner such that they can thrive in any learning environment. We need to work with the learner to explore their learning needs and how this impacts on their learning beliefs. To build in the learner the ability to see a difficulty to learn not as a personal weakness but as a result of the environment they are in and not having the SAAB to mange it effectively.
Links to earlier parts are:
In the final part of this article I will suggest that it is time to re-evaluate the foundations of teaching and learning and describe what I believe are the true foundations of any education system we should seek to build on to ensure learning remains at the heart of what we do.
It is time to go back to basics of teaching and learning, not those of the 3 R’s, or of rote learning, of the industrial revolution or that of the information technology revolution but instead the basics of relationships and trust in education. It is time to rethink our pedagogy. A time to wipe the slate clean and rethink things from the beginning and not keep adding things that we think will or should “work”. It is not a case of what can be done but rather a case of what should be done with the tools education has at its disposal to promote teaching and learning.
Imagine starting again knowing what we know now about how education has evolved and been influenced by the revolutions that have occurred over the last 150 years. I hope you will have decided that the foundation of any education system must include building relationships between the teacher and the learner. Apart from three other key elements all the other “stuff” is just, well stuff. It comes and goes according to, for the want of a better word, “fashion.”
Some time ago I wrote about understanding learning needs. This led to an e-book based on both reflection on my time as a teacher and research. As I read studies and ideas about teaching and learning, old and new, time and time again I came across references to the importance of the relationships between the teacher and the learner. Thinking about my own time in the classroom when things went well I had a good relationship with my classes and when things went badly or were stressful for me it was because these relationships had not yet formed. A target driven system that distances the teacher from the learner is not what learning is about.
Building relationships and maintaining them is not always easy and is often more complicated than we think. Perhaps the divorce rate confirms this! I have boiled it down to four key learning needs that require being satisfied most of the time if we are to build learning relationships. The graphic below describes the four learning needs. It would be my approach to include these in any foundations. The acronym Please Be Child Friendly offers a suitable reminder of the aim as well as providing a memory key for the four learning needs. Ignoring learning needs is not what builds engagement and is not what learning is about.
I have also developed a “learning responsibility ratio” graphic. The graphic aims to show how the dynamics of the learning relationship should change over time. It highlights how the learning relationship may also come under strain at times, especially during a transition point. At the start the biggest responsibility lies with the teacher in learning about their students, planning the curriculum and developing resources. At this point the learner has only a small responsibility, that of “paying attention”. Later as time passes the ratio of responsibility should transfer from the teacher to the learner. There are points where there is some element of reclaiming responsibility but these need to be part of the learning journey. If there are too many occasions where the teacher reclaims responsibility the downward trend of the line, the responsibility transfer, is slowed and may never reach a satisfactory stage. The result of such an action means the learner remains dependent on the teacher and takes little responsibility for learning. In a high stakes system it is all too easy for the teacher, who is often most “accountable” to reclaim responsibility in order to maintain control of the learning. Incorporating the dynamics of learning relationships is also a key element in the foundation of an education system. Making or allowing the teacher alone accountable for learning is not what learning is about.
The third block in the foundation is the continued professional development of the teacher. It is important that the teacher models learning to their students. This has two effects. Firstly it will demonstrate that learning requires effort. As the teacher shares the emotional challenges of learning as well as the practical aspects they can show how taking on a learning challenge can be both daunting and rewarding. Secondly it grounds the teacher in the learning experience. This is important because in building successful learning relationships there needs to be both empathy and understanding of the student perspective. Roy Leighton’s work on the Butterfly Model and specifically the Learning Line demonstrates this aspect of learning. Another example of the trials and challenges of learning can be seen in the Hero’s journey once it is adapted to learning. Ignoring the learning journey and expecting a standardised approach and progress is not what learning is about.
The fourth block is a natural requirement of the learning transition. It is no good expecting the learner to take responsibility for and manage their own learning unless they are prepared for and supported in doing so. This last element is one that appears obvious but we do so little in education in this area. We need to directly develop the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours that support the learner in managing their own learning environment to meet their learning needs. The term I have used to describe this is “Learning Intelligence” or LQ. Failure to develop in learners an understanding of how they can manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs is not what learning is about.
So there we have it, the four corner stones of the foundation of any education system we care to develop based on learning. I would claim that if we remain true to these foundations then we can adapt and adopt all that is good and useful in teaching and learning from whatever source. We are in effect guided by the foundations in selecting only those that adhere to the principles and therefore sustain them. I would claim that such a foundation is both agile and secure. It is able to respond to changes in curriculum, forms of delivery and use whatever technology is appropriate to support teaching and learning.
Want to see any of the first 4 posts?
Part 1: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nz
We need to go back to the start, to look at teaching and learning from the beginning to find out if we have lost our way.
Part 2: What if everything we thought we knew about learning was wrong? http://wp.me/p2LphS-nD
How far back can we go with teaching and learning?
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?
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?”
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
What is in a name and how important is it that people know your name?
What does your name say about you?
We are all given one but have you ever stopped to think how you would find your way in the world or how others would find you without one! In fact there a lot more questions about your name once you stop to think about it.
- Do you like your name?
- Does your name reflect who you really are?
- Do you think people treat you a certain way when they meet you for the first time possibly because of your name?
- Does your name help or hinder you as you make your way in the world?
- Would you, or have you ever thought of, changing your name?
- If you decided to change your name what would it be?
- Do people call you by your given name or have you a nickname they prefer to use?
So now you may be thinking about your name a little more and if it is Kevin, like mine, then you may be happily reflecting on the “fact” that Kevin means “handsome”.
You may be asking where am I going with all this name stuff? Well let me get to my point.
In 2011 I had achieved 33 years of being a successful teacher and a few more after that outside of the school environment exploring and working in the “real world”. Having a little more time at hand I started to reflect on my learning experiences. It occurred to me that successful learning and teaching was based on a set of skills, attributes, attitudes, and behaviours. The more I have prodded and probed this notion the more secure I am in my belief but I digress, more of that later. I truly believed then, as I do now, that I have something unique to say about learning and teaching and decided I needed to tell the world about it because as far as I could find out no one else had put the various bits together in the way I had. To me it is both blindingly simple and obvious at the same time, not complicated at all. A sort of eureka moment you would call it.
I needed a way to spread the word and let others know of this simple truth about how to make learning easier, be a great teacher and have successful schools.
In 2011 I decided to set up a company, a website, blog and Twitter account and tell the world about what I have discovered. In order to do so I needed a name for the company. Something that said what I was about and was easy to remember and search on the web so people could find me easily. This is where I was probably too clever for my own good because I have come to realise how important a name is and I may have got mine wrong. Let me explain.
I realised that if we did more of what we have been doing in education, especially in the UK, then we would get more of what we have now. To summarise: stressed teachers, stressed students, a waste of talent, mediocre results, more of a focus on meeting a target than being the best we can be, a lack of creativity or individual expression, too much change and a lot more negatives along the way. I realised we needed to do something different and that we needed to be creative in the way we did it. I still have the same aspirations for students, schools, and education as those who set targets or standards to aim for I just think there is a better way of going about achieving it, one that does not carry with it all the negative aspects we are seeing now. I wanted my company name to reflect this more creative approach and to emphasise the possibilities of being the best as a result of adopting it. There was also the need to be unique on the World Wide Web, a challenge in itself.
The name I chose, “ace-d” ,takes the “a” from advocating, the “c” from creative and “e-d” from an abbreviation of education and stands for advocating a creative approach to education. The word “aced” is also an idiom for doing very well.
Did you get all that or have I been too clever for my own good?
So “ace-d” was born along with a “leet speek” version for the blog and Twitter called “4c3d” (the 4 replacing the “a” and 3 as a backward “e”. I had to use this approach because “aced” had already been taken as a Twitter and blog name and since creativity is a core principle of ace-d it seemed appropriate to find a creative solution.
Then there is the “ace” connotation of the name and its meaning in general use. We do not have to tear down walls to bring about positive change in teaching and learning, to ace it (too clever again?). As Ellen Langer has pointed out in her theory on mindfulness, we just need to be creative and approach things differently. A one degree change in your course when sailing can bring a different shore into view. Going around an obstacle is just as effective as going through it and there are plenty of obstacles in education!
So why do I think I got the name wrong? Well because it is now 4 years since I set up ace-d and although some people have found me and some of those have become colleagues, some have become listeners and some have asked questions I feel I have only been able to directly help a handful of individuals and schools. That is far less than I know that can benefit from ace-d’s approach and that is what makes me think I got it wrong. If people are looking for help would they find it, would they find ace-d? Try Googling “ ace-d LQ” and let me know if you found me.
Advocating Creativity Ltd is the formal company name for ace-d and I offer an independent advisory service for those seeking significant and sustainable improvements in learning and teaching. This is primarily achieved by adopting a concept developed by me based on experience and research and called Learning Quotient, LQ for short, or Learning Intelligence. LQ is about developing a set of skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours shown to significantly impact learning and teaching. You will find elements of Dweck, Hattie, Glasser and many more embedded in the concept of LQ. LQ is about an approach to learning that is both simple and powerful but one that as we chase targets and standards I fear we may move further away from.
If you are a teacher, leader, or a learner and would like to find out more about how ace-d and LQ can help you I would be pleased to hear from you, now you know the name of course.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Links to website
Link to Twitter
The value of the staffroom in schools (FREE CPD!)
There may be two polarised views about the staffroom in schools. On the one hand a place for gossip and rumour and possibly dissent to thrive and on the other hand a rich source of informal professional development, somewhere to unwind, and a communication centre. Of course it can be many things to many people but where does the balance sit in your school?
[There is now a shorter version of this post available on TeacherToolkit website. The link is https://t.co/6f2aHXvmBH ]
I was once told by a wise bursar that you can tell a lot about a school by the staff toilets. I think the same is true of the staffroom. In my experience you can make an initial guess at what the staffroom is to a school and what it provides by seeing who is there are key times of the day. If it is like the Mary Celeste for most of the day and you only find people there at time required by SLT and certainly not after the bell has gone at the end of the day you may decide that the staffroom is a waste of space. On the other hand if as soon as you open the door to the staffroom you are hit with a wall of chatter, people meeting and greeting each other and the smell of coffee you may regard it as one of the most important rooms in the school.
In my experience any school that abandons the staffroom does so at the risk of losing a great deal both in terms of staff cohesion and informal CPD. I know that in large schools travel to and from the staffroom may take some time and with short breaks and almost none existent lunch periods it is much easier for staff to ‘stay local’ as it were. Easier is not always better though and I would urge that arrangements are made to make the opportunity available for staff to get together in the staffroom once a day or at least a couple of times a week. Of course with social media, texting and e-mails available people may argue the staffroom has had its day but where else can you inadvertently pick up what can be valuable information about what is going on, student issues and offer your help or advice to those staff facing challenges that may be new to them.
Staffroom dynamics have always been an interesting reflection of the attitudes and values of a school too. At one school I worked in each member of staff had ‘their seat’, and subjects ‘their corner’ of the staff room. Crossing these invisible boundaries was unheard of and on one occasion where I ‘mixed it up’ it caused some concern for a little while. I some schools it was seen as a sanctuary away from the leadership of the school and went strangely quiet if they entered and in others a collegiate melting pot where position or rank was regarded only after experience and value of advice or comment.
Fun, the lubricant of the teaching and learning engine.
One great advantage the staffroom has is that it can allow people to let their hair down a little and have some fun. Here are two examples from my own hands of using the staffroom for a little fun.
Imagine the summer term and the end of the academic year. Students started their holiday on Wednesday and teachers returned on Thursday for two days of training. Imagine how staff must have felt coming back to school on that first training day. L
Now imagine turning up to the staffroom to find a beach scene with palm plants (Blue Peter style), paddling pool, a crazy golf course, tunes of the Beach Boys playing and a certain member of staff in ‘wild’ Bermuda shorts and shirt with a drink in hand sitting under an umbrella. Well the look on staff faces as they came up to the staffroom was priceless, from a frown into a smile in an instant. The mood was set for the two days. I really should have told somebody though because the Head was a little nervous about what our guests would think when they saw it. We need not have worried, one rolled up his trousers and went paddling, and the other had a game of golf. Both said what a great way to inject a little fun and admitted they had been a little concerned about how staff would receive them with it being the end of busy term and staff tired. Result J
At a particularly stressful time for all during the opening of a new school with unfinished buildings and temporary accommodation resulting in a split site, the staffroom was a very important place. However on any given day there is always something to celebrate if you look hard enough (a ‘on this day’ search). For one day each month I found something to celebrate and turned this into a one lunch period celebration event. The event and its requirements need to be published ahead of time to give people time to plan and to have something to look forward to.
One example was the forming of the Bank of England 1694. With only a little money spent on cakes and a few photocopies little preparation was required. The entry fee was by showing a pre decimal coin. This lead to some ingenuity by staff and forgeries were accepted!
So if you think your staffroom could play a much needed part in the life of your school perhaps you could start by celebrating something one lunch period each month and see how it goes.
If you want a few more ideas on how to make the most of the staffroom or want to share one of your own you can reach me at email@example.com
For more details about my LQ concept and any of my other ideas and strategies for school improvement, training, and teacher coaching then drop me an e-mail and I will contact you to arrange a time to discuss your needs.
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?
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.
We instinctively know that tour learning environment is important to us because we try to create that which is comfortable and avoid that which is uncomfortable. This leads us to a question about our learning environment, just what is it? Take a moment to answer the following question.
What makes up or is part of your learning environment?
a) The “landscape” (buildings, rooms, outdoor spaces, light, sound, temperature, furniture)
b) The people (teachers, parents, other learners)
c) Your learning map (what you believe you can and cannot learn)
d) Your emotions (those we recognise as influencing our learning. For example feeling confident.)
e) Other (please let me know if you believe there is another element to our learning environment)
What decision did you reach? My belief is that it is a) through to d) but I am not ruling out anything else that comes along. For example the presence of technology, now such a large part of our lives, has made a significant impact on our learning environment. We can have “anytime, anywhere learning” through appropriate use of technology.
In this review of LQ I want to look at a slightly different aspect of the learning environment, one where people are the focus. People can cause a number of issues in the learning equation in the same way as our physical environment can. For example a chair may be uncomfortable and cause us to fidget or lose concentration in the same way as the actions or behaviours of others can achieve the same effect. People can make us feel insecure or embarrassed one the one hand and on the other confident and brave.
In the possible answers to the question of “What makes up or is part of your learning environment?” only one element is the physical aspects of the environment. In the remaining three options two are accounted for by your interaction with people. It is safe then to consider the need to have some understanding of people and specifically your emotions when interacting with people when seeking to manage your learning environment.
The concept of emotional intelligence as defined by Daniel Goleman [i] is now recognised as a key aspect of understanding a child’s success in the classroom. When we are stressed, placing our emotional centres in turmoil, we do not learn easily or well. Here is a question and answer from the website www.danielgoleman.info/ [ii]
“Q: Is EI (emotional Intelligence) also crucial to a student’s success in the classroom? And if so, why?
A: EI is crucial for all life success, including for students in the classroom, because of the basic design of the brain. Our emotions evolved as a tool for survival, and today emotions have a privileged position in the brain. When we are upset the emotional centers can hijack the thinking centers, rendering us unable to think clearly, focus on the task at hand, perceive in an undistorted manner, and even make it harder to remember what’s relevant to what we’re doing (instead we remember easily anything about what’s upsetting us). So whether in the workplace or the classroom, managing our emotions is the prerequisite to learning and focus.”
EQ or “EI” is well documented and to ignore its impact on learning and the learning environment would be to ignore a key element in managing the learning environment and in understanding LQ. Being aware of your own emotions is only part of the LQ equation; you need to be aware of the emotions of others too. In short you need to be able to “read” other people, to recognise the behaviours and signals that give away how they are feeling and perhaps why they are behaving as they are. When we get this wrong our world can turn upside down in an instant. Further it can have long lasting effects on how we interact with our learning environment, sometimes making us withdraw altogether. Have you ever mis-read the signals from a parent, teacher or boss and “gone too far” before you realised it?
Earlier I wrote about how the learner needs to find ways of approaching the teacher that can help them acquire the support they need and avoid possible conflict. Some approaches made by inexperienced learners can be interpreted as a challenge. I also reminded teachers to be ready to listen and not to judge or jump to conclusions. Both are important aspects of the learning environment and both underline how important emotions are in that landscape.
I also mentioned how subtle the clues in individuals can be, especially at the early stages of display. For example we are all well aware of body language and can recognise displays of anger, fear, surprise, or love. What if these displays, however subtle, leave a “fingerprint“? What if there are clues we all carry which indicate traits we are prone to demonstrate? Being able to recognise the subtle markers of likely behaviours can help us navigate around those that have a negative impact on our learning and head for those that support us.
I have also commented on how we use our senses and how we interpret and diagnose by using them. In an earlier LQ article I also made the point that “Being aware of those around us, their behaviours, and emotions is part of our general survival toolkit. Not recognising when those around us sense danger could result in us being left behind so we are wired to respond in some way to others around us.”
A discussion with Alan Stevens [iii] who is described as a “face reader” and a recognised authority in his field came about as I was preparing this review of LQ learning environment article. His work is inspiring, especially for those who are working closely and collaboratively with people. As we talked a number of questions came to mind about things such as:
- nature and nurture influences
- when and if we get “hard wired” in our emotional responses
- is the face the window to the soul, do those facial muscles we use most often become more highly developed and change our appearance as a body builder attempts to do with their body
- what do you do when you recognise something in someone when they do not recognise it in themselves
- what about the issues surrounding prediction by reading somebody?
You can see my talk with Alan got my grey cells working. I would say I was using my LQ to explore a new learning landscape that was opening up to me. I am now faced with questions about such things as “micro expressions” and their impact in the learning environment (both for the learner and the teacher).
A key area for me to explore in relation to LQ is what happens if the teacher is not expressing or displaying the micro expressions expected by the learner and as a result sets up an emotional imbalance in the learner. Can this inhibit learning? We know anything that negatively impacts our emotions inhibits learning so the answer would be yes, but what to do about it. What can the learner do and what can the teacher do to address this imbalance and stabilise the learning environment? The first step must be to explore and understand these expressions and which ones match which situations. We know teaching is an art involving acting and acting involves duplicating emotions and expressions at will to suit a character or role. The better we are at acting the more believable our character is. The next question is what the teacher can do with the “intelligence” or information they receive as a result of accurately reading people. It would in effect cut the “getting to know you time” at the start of a course or term by many weeks and help establish working learning partnerships much earlier. Exciting times and I would recommend you check out Alan’s work.
A word about the courses and presentations I have developed around the LQ concept.
Having recently used the principles of LQ in coaching learners in literacy and numeracy I know LQ “works” and it brings about improvements in learning. Two presentations which can be part of a morning course if required are available. One is aimed at teachers and will develop the insight and tools necessary to promote LQ in learners and the second focuses on developing an understanding of LQ and the implications for learning in pupils/students (this can be customised for learners from the age of 9 up to adults). If you are interested in finding out more about the LQ presentations or courses then please contact me at ace-d. My e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to the original LQ article
[i] Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman Random House Publishing Group, 2012
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 self. http://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
If you arrived at this page because you Googled “bored” read on you may find out why you feel that way. At the very least you will waste another 10 minutes but you will look as though you are doing something!
Down to business
Can boredom really have anything to do with learning and can you learn if you are bored?
The common thinking is that if you are bored you are not going to learn and, whilst this may be true, boredom can come about for a number of different reasons within the learning process and all of them have something to do with you learning environment and LQ. Let me explain.
Sometime ago I read an article that suggested boredom, or a session of being bored was actually good for you. This is something as a father I used often when my children complained of being bored. “I am bored!” was met with the quick reply, “Excellent, it is part of growing up and is good for you. Enjoy the opportunity.” Not always a welcome reply but it certainly did the trick. I could even claim to be a good parent because I created or provided the opportunity for boredom – result. I have come to give this notion some more thought as I have explored the concept of LQ. Can boredom be a good thing? The short answer is “It depends.” A bit of a cop-out answer in one way but in another it does highlight the need to explore what boredom actually is and why it occurs.
It would be childish to ask if I am boring you but I have anyway!
I hope you are still with me as I suggest why boredom can occur. Let us start by suggesting boredom is the result of a lack of interest in what is going on around us, a type of response like anxiety or fear or excitement. We may feel in some way, and for some reason, excluded from those events happening right now and within our current environment. Another word that springs to mind is “engagement”, we are not engaged whether physically or mentally with whatever it is we are meant to be doing at a given point in time when the state of boredom is experienced.
Exclusion from learning can occur for a number of reasons but one that appears to be very important is an understanding of what is going on. To one person who sees and understands what is happening around them the moments may be filled with an immense amount of information, all of it of interest to them. They may be taking part in an activity which brings them pleasure or enjoyment and time may mean nothing to them, as it appears to pass quickly. Sir Ken Robinson refers to this as being in your “element”[i] . Being in your element is described as a point where natural talent meets personal passion. Certainly people who are in their element would be most unlikely to describe themselves as being bored. Having a talent often encourages you to keep practicing or researching or taking an interest in whatever that talent is related to. A talented footballer may have an interest in all things football related: statistics, players, news, transfers etc. They may notice things those who are not interested in or do not have a talent for football ever acknowledge or recognise. They are very aware of their environment and as a result take (learn) more from it.
People who claim to be bored, I mean genuinely bored not those who would rather be doing something else and so claim boredom as a strategy to move on, can be recognised by their show of a lack of interest in what is going on. This could be demonstrated by a reluctance to be verbally engaged or even being very vocal indeed. If you are a teacher you will recognise that look that some students display from time to time, the one that says “Go away, I am not interested, even if you spontaneously combusted on the spot I would continue to stare into space.” You have to be careful though because of the “pseudo-boredom” look too, the one that is peer group generated because it is not something the group is interested in and therefore neither am I, it is not “cool”. This is different altogether and more interest may be taken than you realise.
One of our natural needs is to be involved in something, to have fun, and if it is not being met in what is happening then other distractions are looked for. Teachers will be well aware of this when they think of disruptive students in their lessons. The boredom may come about because they may have experienced the same thing before, perhaps many times, so there is nothing new in it for them and no challenge. They may have tried to understand whatever it is, failed, and therefore decided it is not for them and no longer try to engage, too big a challenge.
Although not an in-depth answer I hope I have given you something to think about in terms of what boredom is and why it occurs.
Let us have a look at the next question “Can boredom be a good thing?”
Yes if you recognise it as a symptom of not being able to engage in whatever is going on in your environment and do something about.
No if you do nothing about trying to find a way to engage and ignore possible learning opportunities that surround you. I find there is always something to learn no matter where I am and what I am doing (ever wondered why “people watching” is so fascinating and popular?). Being disengaged means to drift and to miss opportunities.
Just asking yourself the question “Why do I feel this way?” when you are bored is a good start, you are beginning to re-engage with your environment. Just be aware that finding the answer is always the difficult part. Here are some possible questions that will help you find the answers to why you may experience boredom.
1) Do I understand what is going on? This may involve understanding any prior learning that is required. Not understanding may indicate revision or re visiting the topic in a different way.
2) Am I interested in what is going on? You may be absolutely familiar with the topic or activity and it may hold no new challenge for you. Should you be here and are you ready to move onto something new? If you are ready to move on why haven’t you?
3) Am I distracted by something else? It is quite possible your mind is elsewhere, some other event has got you thinking and you are unable to follow what is going on around you. You may “tune out” and miss aspects which ultimately leads to you being excluded from what is going on around you and you lose interest.
4) Are any or all of my needs being met?[ii] The four key ones are; a) Engagement or fun, b) Choice or freedom, c) Being heard or power and d) Being recognised for who you are, belonging.
5) Are any or all of my learning needs being met? This is the heart of LQ, being able to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs. A review of earlier posts will help you understand this aspect in relation to being engaged and limit boredom.
What this means for the Teacher
1) See an exhibition of boredom as a symptom and not behaviour to be challenged. Some learners, including those recognised as gifted or talented, may have already understood have prior learning and need to move on and be challenged. Have you pitched the lesson at the correct level or are your resources able to provide challenge to the entire class?
2) Resist requiring a public demonstration of understanding from those who appear bored. This does little to build or maintain relationships with the learners and can only serve to alienate you, as they will no longer be willing to trust you.
3) Ask probing questions or those that require synthesis of the material to those that appear bored in order to show even though they may understand what is happening now there is more to the topic should they challenge themselves.
4) Help learners to recognise that boredom is a signal to do something about their learning environment, about applying their LQ.
What this means for the Learner
1) Learn to recognise boredom as a feeling that you should do something about and not an indication that you cannot learn or that you do not have to make an effort to learn. Both beliefs are limiting your potential in the topic. With the right approach (LQ) and effort you have a better chance of learning or gaining a deeper understanding of the topic.
2) If you are experiencing boredom then find an opportunity to explain your feelings to your teacher. They may well have noticed your behaviour and a conversation can reassure both of you that you still want to learn and provide a possible pathway and maybe a new challenge or new approach.
What is next weeks topic?
In part one I made the link between what I claim to be the unrecognised aspect which impacts learning, the learning environment, and key transitions in the learning journey. I suggested what some of the behaviours may be where a change in learning environment takes place and would add a caution about accepting them without investigation. I want to finish of this article by considering what this means for the teacher and learner.
What this means for the Teacher
The first point is to be observant and notice changes in behaviour associated with learning. If you change approach, materials or resources note how this impacts on the learner behaviour and attitudes to learning. After some time you will establish the “learning map” of the learner to which you can refer when you notice any changes. Typical responses of a learner struggling to adapt to a changing learning environment include being more chatty and sometimes a little louder than normal. They can also find it difficult to settle down and get to work and being late to lesson is a typical behaviour. Distraction strategies include asking unnecessary questions, a clue you must not miss, and asking for resources they may actually not need. If a learner begins to engage, where they were before they were reluctant, explore any changes you have made and identify those that have had a significant impact. Learning to incorporate these, especially when introducing a new topic (often the most demanding of learning times), will help the learner adapt to new challenges.
Secondly find time to discuss with previous teachers or parents who have experience of interacting with the learner the behaviour of any leaner where there appears to be an anomaly with either behaviour or progress. Unfortunately the focus tends to be towards the negative aspects rather than also recognising the improvements. Parents will notice a happy child or one reluctant to go to school; both are indicators of how the learner is finding their learning environment. If you are not the sole class teacher this task is easier since not only do you have an opportunity to discuss with other teachers you also have the opportunity to observe the learner in a different environment. If you ever get the chance to shadow a learner I would recommend you take it. It is surprising what you find out as the learner moves from teacher to teacher and subject to subject. Where you may not be able to discuss with earlier teachers, perhaps due to a change of school, then ask for reports which include teacher comments rather than just grades or marks.
Include in any discussion with the learner not only the topic of the learning but also ask what makes learning more enjoyable for them. You may not be able to accommodate this learning need but having the discussion is one of the ways you can help the learner in seeing the link between their environment and their learning. You can also begin to discuss strategies to help them manage their learning environment to meet their needs.
What this means for the Learner
You will have an idea of which teachers or even which subjects you like best, the question you must ask yourself is why? Think about what is common between the teachers you like to learn with or the subjects you like to study. It may be some teachers allow you to study in groups, or it may be you are involved in an investigation style of approach. Whatever it is it is a suggestion of the type of learning environment you manage best in. Knowing this can help you develop strategies in other subjects or with other teachers to help meet your learning needs and enjoy those times too.
Of course it is not only your teachers or the subject which affects your ability to learn although they are a key part of your learning environment. You also need to consider your class or group when you think about where you learn best. A mix of certain people can really change your learning environment. Perhaps it is a little noisier than you like or some people are really competitive in the way they behave. Whatever it is you need to have a conversation with your parents and teachers to find ways of managing your learning environment to support your learning. A change of where you sit can help and in one school I know they allow students to wear a type of earmuff that cuts out some of the noise that can be a distraction.
A natural way to learn
There can be a conflict between the idea of learning as part of a team and providing individual performance assessment, but other than that, learning teams are one of the most natural ways to learn. The strange thing is that without an individual assessment focus schools are nothing more than a large learning team, so long as that is, all the members are involved in actually learning and not just instructing or managing.
Why is it then that the idea of team learning is rarely used to its full advantage and how does a learning team link up with LQ?
The advantages of Learning Teams
Being part of a group involved in doing anything requires co-operation, communication, roles and responsibilities and of course the focus or task. For individuals in a learning team, and I keep making that distinction, there is a host of opportunities to learn if they are recognised and recorded. LQ is about managing your learning environment to meet your individual learning needs. Being part of a learning team can mean apprenticing yourself to others in order to access knowledge or skills in a practical way as well as share those that you possess. This makes the maths of a team interesting. For example take two people learning independently but each one recognising that to maximise their learning they should join forces, work co-operatively as a learning team. The maths now goes like this. One and one make eleven! The team is more than the sum of its parts because there is a form of reaction associated with people working together. Does this mean that if three people come together then the sum is one hundred and eleven? Perhaps there is a limit.
The other advantage of a learning team is that the membership can change and this can change the dynamic of the team. Perhaps using LQ you could identify exactly what that change needs to be in order to maximise the learning.
An aspect of teams is that they offer security and safety for their members. This is particularly important of you consider how challenging and sometimes frightening learning can be. Teams offer through different communication channels an opportunity to test ideas and to check understanding without risk and in doing so can build confidence and develop a wider range of learning strategies.
In a learning team the teacher also has the opportunity to become a learning member and in doing so they can model the behaviours and attitudes that are a desirable aspect of LQ. They can show the advantages of not knowing and of failing in a way that helps young learners recognise these as part of the learning process.
The learning team is nothing more than another environment and set of resources that can be effectively managed through the application of LQ to meet your learning needs. Or is it? Something happens to people when you put them into a team. The learning team can be a way of unlocking strengths and talents that would of otherwise not surfaced. Those familiar with Belbin[i] will acknowledge that people can play a range of different roles within a team but are those roles fixed and can a learner actually learn to play different roles according to their learning need? With LQ I suggest you can. It is about taking a decision to learn from and within the team and its members rather than just focusing on completing a task.
Creating Learning teams
Putting people together and giving them a task is not the way to create a learning team. Putting learners together and setting a team targets and putting somebody at the head to make sure they meet them is not creating a learning team. A worthy read on the subject of learning teams is William Glasser[ii]. Glasser would call this arrangement “Boss –Management” [iii]and it could be a description of how some see the role of the teacher or indeed how education should be organised. In such learning environments LQ can be a way of turning things to the learner’s advantage. It such models it is difficult to build a relationship with the boss and other learning relationships need to be forged. The alternative, Glasser suggests, is “Lead-Management” where persuasion and problem solving are central to the relationship. Such a manager has more of a chance to be part of the learning team rather than just the one driving it. They have the opportunity to model the behaviors and attitudes they wish to foster in the learner and LQ can play a more integrated part making the most of this type of environment. You can see how this would change the role of the teacher and therefore the learning environments of schools if it were adopted. Targets and standards would become signposts rather than destinations in their own right. The teacher would move from being the sage, the boss to the guide and member of the learning team. It is perhaps this target driven focus that prevents schools using learning teams to their full advantage. The dilemma has always been how to identify individual performance or achievement when they are learning as part of a team. This ignores the fact that team members can help in this process if asked. The account of who did what and how well they played will differ greatly from a fan on the touchline to those that played in the team. I suggest that teachers who are not part of the learning team will find it harder to recognise the achievements of individuals than those who are part of it. Perhaps the final limiting factor in adopting learning teams is the concept of accountability. The prevailing question is who will be at fault if the learners do not meet their targets. Such environments, those that focus on accountability, are defined by the level of fear they generate. This is not something which makes learning easy, engaging, or fun.
It is important however to recognise that to engage people an experience needs to be authentic, recall some of the less engaging attractions or events you have visited. It is the same with learning there needs to be an authentic learning experience and creating an environment which omits this does little to engage learners. In such circumstances the learner themselves must look with the authentic aspects of what is being taught, they need to find relevance in order to be engaged in the learning process. LQ can help learners recognise this and look for relevance. I would argue that teachers who create authentic learning experiences, those that explain or provide the relevance of the learning, tend to be those who get the greatest enjoyment from their teaching.
What this means for the Teacher
- Consider switching from “Boss-Manager” to “Lead-Manager” if you find yourself in the former position.
- Look to creating learning teams in order to identify hidden talents or to give them an opportunity to develop within individuals.
- Recognise that putting people together to work on something is not creating a learning team.
- Create an authentic learning experience or environment when you can.
- Explain the relevance of what is being taught as well as the delivering the learning.
What this means for the Learner
- Use teams to your advantage and be ready to learn from others. This may involve observing others or apprenticing yourself to somebody.
- Look for the relevance in what you learn and raise such questions with your teacher. If they are unable to provide answers look elsewhere. Finding relevance in what you learn will help you engage in the learning.
- If you come across the “Boss-Manager” recognise them for what they are and try to build learning relationships with others. Recognise also that although they may be target driven managers that targets are important. Try to see targets more as signposts in your learning rather than just something to achieve in their own right. I liken this to a train or car journey where you take note of the scenery and views from the window rather than just looking for the signposts along the way.
- If you come across the “Lead-Manager” be prepared to be involved in the learning. Recognise that this will involve risk taking but that this is just part of the learning process as is failing at times.
- Explore your role within a team and try to vary what part you play.
[i] Belbin, web reference: http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8
[ii] William Glasser 2001 Choice Theory in the Classroom, Harper (See the chapter on The Learning Team Model)
[iii] William Glasser 1990 The Quality School, Harper and Row
IF YOU CAN’T REACH THEM YOU CAN’T TEACH THEM: Building effective learning relationships
I wanted the book to support teachers with the challenges they face throughout their career. The focus is on building effective learning relationships with their students, managing their time and remaining a learner throughout. Whilst teachers, schools, students and communities all differ I have found that there remains a core set of needs we all possess in order to engage in any learning activity (I include teaching as a learning activity). When these needs are not being met teachers face many challenges, not least of which is learner engagement, something that makes teaching ‘difficult’ and ‘demanding’. The book identifies and describe the core needs (PBCF) and shows how we can plan to meet them (in both our students and ourselves) in an effective and manageable way helping to improve teaching and learning and minimise challenge and stress. The book is a learning journal where teachers can reflect on their own practice as well as plan for interventions/changes that will improve their teaching and through PBCF build a dialogue with their colleagues to further their career as a successful teacher.
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