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?
What does an assessment mean to you?
b) A time of dread
c) A signpost and recognition of achievements
d) A mark or grade and little more
e) A way of helping you to choose where to focus future efforts
f) A way of setting future targets or goals
Before suggesting or considering an answer we need to reflect on John Hattie’s table of effect sizes which claims to answer the question “what has the greatest influence on student learning?”[i] Here are the top 11. An effect size of 0.5 is the equivalent to a one grade increase at GCSE.
|Influence||Effect Size||Source of Influence|
|Student’s prior cognitive ability||1.04||Student|
|Student’s disposition to learn||.61||Student|
|Challenge of Goals||.52||Teacher|
The term feedback is a broad one and includes providing commentary on what they (the learner) have done well and where they need to improve. Importantly, and this is where the link to LQ comes in, Hattie believes students can receive feedback on the process or strategy they have used to complete the task and regulate (the LQ term for which is manage) their own learning.
With this in mind what did you suggest an assessment meant to you? You will recognise, no doubt, the elements of an assessment which are of greatest value link directly to Hattie’s effect table and especially that of the top effect “Feedback”. You will also note that the source of influence for feedback is associated with the teacher. So how do you as a teacher give feedback and how do you get learners to see the importance of the different elements?
Hands up if, when you give back the marked test papers, your students do the following:
1) Look at the overall mark or grade first followed by a question about what is acceptable/a pass/a fail etc.
2) Check your arithmetic in the hope of challenging you on the total or grade given.
3) Check with their friends to see you have given the same mark for a similar answer, just in case they can score a few more points.
4) Check to see what others got to establish either ranking or comfort themselves.
You would be no different to many other teachers if this is how your class of learners respond. How many of these fall into Hattie’s description of feedback? None perhaps! If you are a learner then once again you are probably no different to many other learners who respond in an identical way when they get their papers back.
The challenge is to change the way we respond to assessments, especially the rich source of feedback that is so often overlooked or missed. This is even more of a concern when you think it could make the difference of two grades at GCSE. We are failing to make the most of a valuable resource but why? In part it has something to do with targets and the focus on achieving them. If we know we should get a “B” for example, and we score a B then we are reluctant to dig any deeper. If we get an A then we rejoice and investigate no further. If we get a C or less perhaps we lick our wounds and look to what or who we can blame for the failure. This last course of action is where the most damage is done and a worthy read is Dweck’s work on “attribution theory.” A learner may attribute their success or lack of it on external factors such as luck or decide it was an exceptionally hard test. This type of response does not help in future growth or learning as it suggests the outcome had nothing to do with their efforts.
LQ is a valuable asset in managing the process of feedback for both teachers and learners but both must work co-operatively to achieve the greatest benefit. The simplest and most effective strategy for the teacher is to mark and comment on an assessment but not total the overall score or give a grade. Try it and see where you get for you have just prevented the most common reactions detailed above. So how will the learner respond, well much depends on how much work you have done regarding LQ and in discussing managing the learning environment. If you have done little or nothing then uproar and rebellion may result. There may be a demand to give them the standard results they expected, a grade, or total score, but you must resist. Instead you can now get them to focus on what they did well in, what they need to improve and set their own personal targets for future learning. This is a relatively easy task but requires some preparation and a little bit of colouring in! Here is how you do it.
Decide for each question or assessment task what, in terms of response or score, defines the following:
a) a sound answer demonstrating a good grasp of what is required. The sort of response that suggests mastery or understanding and an ability to apply what has been learnt in an unfamiliar situation. You would consider it unnecessary for the student to spend more time on this topic or material.
b) an answer which shows a developing understanding of what is required. Typically the key concepts or ideas are applied but there may be mistakes or errors that indicate a degree of uncertainty and a need for further practice or revision.
c) An answer which shows a lack of understanding of what is required. This may be characterised by large unanswered sections, the wrong facts or approach used. This would indicate a need for more than just revision but instead re visiting the topic and building understanding from a known point.
In essence this is all you and the student should be interested in. Your next task is to decide what these answers look like in terms of marks or grades if that is how they would normally be marked. For example, out of 10 each category may look like this:
a) 8+ marks,
b) between 5 and 7 marks and
c) anything less than 5 marks.
To help visualise what this means in terms of LQ and quality feedback we can colour code each category of answer or provide smiley faces to ring or delete at the front of the assessment is an ideal way to do this.
If as a teacher we consider the class response in terms of outcomes to the assessment and, if this represents multiple questions, we get a clear direction of where we need to focus and, when considering LQ, how we need to help learners meet the challenges of the learning environment. For example if in the above example of a final assessment all students received a red category (the lowest) in Q6 but the rest were orange and green then we would know we need to address a specific topic or area. It may not be the topic that limited the learning but the resources, teaching style or learning environment in which it is taught. Thinking about these areas will help the teacher provide quality feedback and help in deciding if it would be appropriate to approach a class or a topic in a different way.
What this means for the Teacher
A key principle is when designing assessments is to start with the understanding, knowledge, or skill you wish to assess and work backwards to the method, question or strategy you will use to allow the student to demonstrate what they have learnt and for you to gain your assessment of them.
When administrating assessments take time to explain the purpose is to establish what has been learnt and not to gain a particular mark or grade.
What this means for the learner
If you are presented with a traditional assessment mark or grade try to unpick from your answers what you are a) competent in, b) need to revise and c) need to revisit to gain a better understanding.
Think about your preparation and look for alternative approaches to those things you need to revise or revisit. This is LQ in action, learning to manage your learning environment to meet your needs.
[i] Professor John Hattie’s Table of Effect Sizes can be found at: http://www.teacherstoolbox.co.uk/T_effect_sizes.html
- a) important
- b) dangerous
- c) a waste of time
- d) something to be discouraged
- e) the source of challenge and disobedience in schools
- f) something to be encouraged
- g) a useful tool in managing your own learning
A stark way to begin an article perhaps but in many ways it demonstrates the two sides of the coin that is initiative. As far as learning intelligence is concerned it an essential coin to have in your pocket but with it comes the drawback of its twin personality. Sometimes showing initiative will get you out of trouble and at others in it up as far as your waist if not further. Let me explain why and why it is an important aspect of learning intelligence, LQ.
The basis of LQ is the ability to manage the learning environment to meet your learning needs. Managing anything requires a degree of resourcefulness, not everything always goes to plan, and as we discussed earlier resilience is the face of knock backs is an important trait for survival. However merely repeating what you did before and hoping for a different outcome is hardly any form of intelligence. I believe Albert Einstein is attributed with defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” We are left then with doing something different when we have experienced a “toxic” learning environment, i.e. one that does not meet our learning needs.
So we need resilience to have another go, we need to be aware of the emotions we have attributed to our learning experience and not let them hold us back and we need to find another way to learn. If you look back over earlier articles you may notice that a thread running through LQ includes the concept of showing initiative. To me initiative is a personal action; it is something unique to you. You have solved a problem that you face in a way that is novel, different or unexpected. If you think of the hero in a Hero’s Journey, the basis of nearly all adventure stories, then you will see why initiative is important. Here I have altered the Hero’s Journey into a format that reflects learning.
There is action not inaction in showing initiative, in the learning environment you are doing something and not being passive. Just pulling up a list of synonyms emphasises the “action” aspect of initiative, these include:
- Readiness and ability to initiate an action
- Eagerness to do something
Action also suggests ownership of the learning and this is something key to LQ. Looking to others to help you is a strategy that can work but only if the other person is aware of LQ and is able to adopt a flexible approach to helping you learn. Telling or showing you again and again in the same way will hardly improve the learning for you. It is much better if you can look at learning as a problem to solve (see earlier article on the link between LQ and the design process) and look for a solution to the learning problem. You may need to be a bit of a “Hero”, especially if the learning environment is fixed and those responsible for shaping it are a little reluctant to changing it.
What this means for the Teacher
Be accepting of challenges from learners, they may not be aimed at you personally but at the learning environment you have created.
Encourage initiative. Don’t always present the learning path as a fixed and well-trodden one. On occasion challenge the learner not only with learning but also with creating a learning environment that suits them and in finding the path to understanding.
Praise strategies and not people when it comes to recognising success.
Show initiate in your approach to learning. For example consider the “flipped classroom” or instead of asking students to demonstrate their understanding of a subject you challenge them to find an alternative learning strategy or resource. Demonstrating or discussing this to the class can help other learners.
What this means for the Learner
Be active in the learning process. This may involve re assessing your learning map (what you believe you can and can-not learn) based on prior experiences.
Take a fresh look at the learning environment and note what supports and what hinders your learning. In doing so reflect on what works and how you may duplicate this in other learning situations.
Learn to challenge any frustrations you feel into looking for solutions.
When something does not suit look for alternatives to overcome any limiting factors in the learning environment. For example look for on-line learning materials to support you or for other ways to support you in overcoming a limiting or challenging learning environment.
Develop your skills in approaching those that manage or provide your learning environment. Work at making sure your approach and behavior is not seen as a challenge.
The next article published on the 2nd of October will look at LQ and learning teams.
What do you think about when the work creativity is mentioned or you are asked to be creative? Do you admire creative people for whatever it is they do? How would you assess creativity?
Let us start by briefly exploring and raising a few issues about creativity and schools. I started with three questions about creativity but if you ask a number of people I would bet you would get debate about each. Defining creativity is not straight forward and that can cause difficulty for schools that often appear to need to convert the world and its concepts into subjects in order to teach them to children (and perhaps assess too). We could probably look to the creative arts for a list of subjects and most people would include music, drama, art, dance, and writing and perhaps design. There may be others who claim physics is creative, or mathematics or any number of other subjects. So we are back to the subject problem when thinking about creativity. It may be easier to say that creativity pervades everything and forget about subjects!
A little bit of background
Over a decade ago the Arts Council of England asked the NFER to look into creativity and summarise research and theories on creativity and early childhood[i]. This is their list of common components:
- originality (the ability to come up with ideas and products that are new and unusual)
- productivity (the ability to generate a variety of different ideas through divergent thinking)
- problem solving (application of knowledge and imagination to a given situation)
- the ability to produce an outcome of value and worth.
The National Advisory Committee for Creative and Cultural Education, chaired by the then Professor Ken Robinson (now Sir) suggested, “All people are capable of creative achievement in some area of activity, provided that the conditions are right and they have acquired the relevant knowledge and skills.” The now Sir Ken Robinson later wrote, “I firmly believe that you can’t be creative without acting intelligently” [ii] however there is a question about any link between creativity and intelligence.
Do we need to be creative?
Consider the alternative! Earlier I wrote about four basic needs; Fun, Freedom, Belonging and Power. If we are unable or prevented from satisfying some of these needs most of the time then internal stresses build. Not being heard is a common angst amongst most people. Having an element of choice through freedoms is core to being involved or engaged. Fun is also an important aspect and perhaps most present when you are doing something that you are totally involved or immersed in. Having a presence, having an identity or being recognised, and being part of a group is something we all strive for. I would suggest that in life we hold creative people in high regard, we listen to what they have to say, we even copy what they wear or do. My answer would be, yes we need to be creative. Being creative means you have devised an outlet for the imagination, for wonder and questions within. Without an outlet questions give way to receiving facts without question, to failing to stop and wonder but instead take for granted and to forget to see alternatives to those ideas you are given.
In the link with empathy I talked about our senses, perhaps creativity is the seventh sense, the one with which you truly interact with or sense your environment. Moving through life without being creative mean you pass through without noticing, engaging, or commenting upon those things around you. Opportunities go un-noticed and experiences are missed. Looking and seeing opportunities for change, for adaption, for integration, for finding something that will help you on your journey, that will allow you to express yourself in a unique way without taking from others, without becoming a simulacrum, is perhaps the gift of creativity. To ignore the act of being creative can affect a person deeply, just in the same way as limiting creativity in others can. The effect becomes the treacle that slows down the pace of time, the friction that makes days grind by slowly.
How does this link to LQ?
Whatever we agree on or not concerning creativity we would all probably agree creativity is about doing things differently, about generating something that did not exist in the same form or manner prior to the creative event or action. It has been suggested that if the conditions (I would say the environment) are right and we have the skill and knowledge to act or react then we can all be creative. I would ask the question do we have to create the right environment in our classrooms for creativity to happen or should the creation of the environment be down to the individual who wishes to be creative? This is where, if you have been following the earlier articles, you will recognise the link to LQ which is about managing the learning environment to meet your needs. I said earlier that moving through life without being creative distances you from your environment; you are not “intelligently” acting and reacting to it. The degree of creativity shown by somebody could be an indicator of how much they are interacting with their environment, how much they are displaying their LQ, their learning intelligence.
There is a sort of flip in this too; being creative allows us to manage our learning environment effectively which in turn allows us to be creative. This in itself brings rewards for it helps us meet the four basic needs I identified earlier. Acting creatively is more than being engaged in something it is immersion. As Sir Ken Robinson would say you are in your “element.”
Is it that easy to be creative in managing your leaning environment?
I suggest you download the article from my website “LQ and Netherlands Conference”. The link is: http://www.ace-d.co.uk/id10.html
The article describes the learning problems I faced when attending a conference partially delivered in Dutch, a language I do not speak. I was able to follow the lectures by using my creativity to manage my learning environment.
What this means for the Teacher.
In essence it means supporting and providing a creative environment.
Move from mindless learning to mindful learning (again you will find an article on this at the same link as above – “A Mindful Approach to Learning”). Include the student not only in what they will learn today but why they will learn it. Ask at the end of the lesson not only what they have learnt but why they have learnt it.
Look to use problem solving approaches to topics. Ask questions such as
What would you do
- to find out,
- in response to,
- if this happened to you?
Don’t appear to know everything, be ready to learn too and to ask how.
Be ready to accept and accommodate originality in your lesson planning and not see it a challenge to the planned process of learning.
What this means for the Learner
Firstly it means not being passive in the learning process or environment. You can challenge and find alternative ways of learning if you approach the situation creatively. This does not mean stamping your feet or throwing a tantrum because things are not as you would like or want them. It does mean seeing where the problems in learning lie and relating these to your own needs. It means finding non challenging ways to approach those directing the learning in order that your needs are met.
You can use phrases like:
- Can you explain that to me another way please?
- Have you anything I could read before the next lesson to help me learn this topic?
- Is there anything on the Internet I could look at that you know of?
- Could we have a discussion about the topic?
Ask yourself questions like:
- What do I already know that can help me?
- Where/when did I begin to struggle with this topic?
- Who else could help me?
- What can I change about my approach or attitude to this topic that could help me?
The next article will explore resilience and persistence and the link to LQ and will be published on the 18th of September.
[i] Developing young children’s creativity: what can we learn from research?
[ii] Sir Ken Robinson 2009 The Element How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything Penguin
Other articles on creativity: https://4c3d.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/why-creativity/