This is an article to celebrate the success of a student and of further success for a teaching approach defined by the concept of Learning Intelligence or LQ. Read on.
It was very late in the last academic year (2016-2017), in March actually, when I was asked if I could work with a Y11 student. The subject this time was maths and the target a ‘pass’ at GCSE (a grade C or as of 2017, a grade 4). School predictions and targets suggested this was a significant challenge, especially given the short timescale and me meeting the student only once a week for an hour. This was an opportunity for demonstrating my approach centred on my concept of Learning Intelligence (LQ) and learning needs (PBCF).
I can report that we were successful, “We” because this was a learning partnership and this is what my student had to say
“I just wanted to let you know that I got my GCSE results today and I got a 4 in maths which is the pass mark and what I have never achieved before. I am super happy and it means I have a confirmed place at college but I couldn’t of done it without your help and strategies to help me get through the exam… .”
So what had we done to achieve such a welcome result?
Essentially the approach is to see learning as a problem-solving activity, this helps in negating the emotional link to failure and personal self-doubt. Once this is accepted the limiting subject perceptions become secondary to the learning challenge and we can get on with finding ways of solving the learning problem, of managing our learning environment to meet our learning needs.
Please Be Child Friendly
Any teacher will know you need a willing student but also one who is confident and has a degree of self-belief. The student also needs to trust their teacher and have a learning relationship with them. Achieving this is my first step and uses the learning needs approach I have developed of PBCF.
“PBCF” stands for Power, Belonging, Choice and Fun and each element needs to be in place first before learning challenges can be set.
So, even with very little time available to me, this was my priority and strategies were used to first establish a sense of belonging, of me knowing enough about the learner in order to understand who they are and where they are and create a partnership. It is also important that the student knows something about their teacher, the sort of things that build in them hope and confidence.
This was then followed by power, effectively this means listening. It means giving the student a voice and recognising their emotional state in terms of learning. Anyone who feels powerless is unlikely to engage in any challenge. This stage is vital in understanding the barriers to learning that the student holds.
Offering a choice as to how we were going to tackle the challenge together is an essential part of the strategy and supports the first two. This in practical terms means creating both a coaching and mentoring environment.
Finally, our learning relationship had to have a sense of fun but more importantly tying this to achievement, we needed to celebrate our successes and find fun in learning.
I also encouraged my student to take the concept of PBCF with them into the school environment and use it when faced with learning challenges. The benefit of this approach is that of improving their awareness of the impact of not having learning needs met on their ability to learn. This helps significantly especially when we have an over compliant student who does not express their learning needs well in the school environment or a teacher who is not ‘listening’.
Solving the learning problem
Finding ways of overcoming the learning challenges, of solving the problem, is the second part of the strategy and involves developing the four aspects of LQ. I define these as:
- learning Skills,
- Attributes and
The advantages of seeing learning as a problem-solving activity are highlighted when we employ LQ.
Let’s consider an electrician as an example of a problem-solving approach. In repairing or rewiring a house in addition to the necessary knowledge we would expect him, or her, to:
- have a developed set of skills associated with the task,
- have the ‘right’ attitude, to do a good job and to not give up and walk away
- demonstrate attributes such as flexibility or creativity in completing the task
- behave in such a way as to be both professional and polite.
A deficiency in any of these aspects on the part of the electrician will limit their ability to solve the problem. So it is with learning but if we do not integrate LQ into learning within the school context, and instead focus on subjects, students see themselves as unable to learn a subject rather than lacking any of the elements of LQ to solve the learning problem.
My work with my student focused in a very short space of time in assessing their LQ and working to develop those elements that were necessary for them to solve a learning problem themselves. It does not just have to be maths either, any subject or topic of learning can be tackled in the same way. Often I find that once a student sees learning in this way they quickly adapt and their self-belief as a learner blossoms as does their confidence.
Can you scale up this approach?
My nearly 40 years of teaching experience says yes you can. The approach I have outlined was used in a developing literacy and coaching model successfully used by an independent tutoring service. The issue of scaling up 1:1 coaching successes with larger groups was considered by Bloom in his 2 Sigma question. The problem in achieving this most often results from sticking with the original teacher/learner mindset and approach. Changing an approach is simple, in fact it is probably the easiest and least costly change you can make in teaching and learning. It will certainly have the biggest return.
What about maths
On a subject-specific note, that of maths, since it is one of the least favoured subjects amongst adults and children alike, I strongly advise that we need to treat it like a language if we want students to become confident in tackling the learning problems it presents.
Think for a moment how much time we use written and spoken language each day compared to maths. Much of our day is taking up with talking, reading or listening. We even use language when thinking so it is no wonder we are conversant in it. How much of your day is spent on the four basic mathematical functions, those of adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing? One of my strategies with any student I work within the area of maths is to increase this time significantly by asking them to play number games with their family and by looking around them for number patterns and associations in everyday life and when out and about. Try it and you will soon see the difference.
See for yourself and take the LQ, PBCF challenge
If you are interested in PBCF and LQ and how it can help your students, your own children or teaching then get in touch. I can arrange 1:1 sessions with parents, teachers and all the way through to group work and whole school CPD either here in the UK or indeed anywhere I am asked thanks to technology.
You can contact me here: email@example.com
Wishing you success in your learning challenges
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
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: email@example.com
Link to the original LQ article
[i] Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman Random House Publishing Group, 2012
Why have we welcomed technology into our lives but resisted it in our education systems?
Technology is so much part of our everyday life it is hard to image a time without it, except that is, unless you think about education. Education has made use of technology but in many cases only to add to or enhance existing teaching methods and practices. There is a resistance to allowing technology to revolutionise formal education. If you move away from this then the instances of using technology to support and aid learning are numerous and all around us. Young people learn to dance by watching YouTube videos, facts are looked up, people researched and questions and issues discussed across cultural and geographic boundaries, all with the aid of technology.
What we take as technology or our description of it will include a link to computing in some form. The role of computers in our lives is pervasive and it has changed the way we do things for ever. There is no going back without the destruction of computers. There is no ignoring technology without being left behind. Technology is a great enabler if used purposefully. It is also capable of consuming great amounts of time for little obvious return.
As for the benefits, without technology I would have great difficulty in communicating my ideas to an international audience. For example this blog is being read in over 80 countries around the world. Technology allows me to easily share ideas with those who find them, who are part of the same connected world, and to receive feed forward, challenge and encouragement. If I am willing to explore and to listen I can learn from others and possibly innovate and develop new concepts based on this experience. Technology can support lifelong learning in the true sense, to use the familiar term perhaps, more of a 24/7 learning model if we let it.
My theory as to why we are so ready to accept technology is because what it offers appeals to our very core. It is the same list of things that is essential in engaging students in learning or employers in their work. In understanding how these needs impact learning it is easy to see the role technology plays. As I have discussed earlier we have a need for four basic elements one of which is fun. Computer based games that make use of the technology fulfil this aspect and some have tried developing learning games to tap into this need we have. In fact technology can help us meet the remaining three needs too and this is, in my view, the draw of technology. Technology can improve or enhance our sense of belonging (Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) Through the use of technology we can be heard (Twitter, WordPress, YouTube, etc). Our choices are widened because we can research and find information quickly helping to develop a sense of freedom (Google, YouTube etc).
What technology is effectively doing is giving us the tools to manage our environment. Here are some of the things technology allows us to do in terms of managing our learning environment:
- we do not need to be left out through a lack of understanding
- we do not need to experience the feeling of being lost, we can find our way around (metaphorically speaking)
- we do not need to remain ignorant
- we do not need to travel to see or discover
- we do not need to travel to collaborate or discuss
Let me give you an example from my own experience. My formal education years were devoid of computers up until the age of 21 when I left university. I was an early adopter of the new technology and bought my first computer in 1981. It did very little by today’s standards and it was relatively expensive. I had an instinct that this new device was going to help me overcome my barriers to learning. Having said I went to university you may think I had no barriers to learning but I did and they were significant to me. I disliked reading, especially whole books to find the key passages or points. I disliked even more writing, due in part to the speed of the process but also because of my poor spelling. Ideas were stopped in mid flow as I stumbled for a spelling and had to slowly make my way across a page with a biro trying to make my handwriting legible. It was the second of these barriers that technology first solved. The word processor that was available on early computers gave me my voice and allowed me to explore the ideas I had without worrying about spelling and handwriting. There was an unexpected side to this too. My colleagues were more inclined to read something I had written when it appeared typed or printed, it had a sort of ‘authority’ about it that they accepted.
Moving to the present my use of technology to manage my learning environment is pervasive to say the least. Not counting this blog, which is the product or evolution of the early word processor, let me give you one final example of how I manage my learning environment, even when I do not realise that I am in one or there is an opportunity to learn.
Watching the television is a pastime or an opportunity to relax for many of us and so it was as I watched a drama based on events of the 40’s, this is a period I have no personal experience of and history was not my favourite subject at school (all that reading and writing!). Central to the events, characters and the story was an event of which I had no knowledge. Putting the TV on pause I turned to my wireless tablet and typed a few phrases into a search engine. Within less than a minute I had the background to the event in my hands. Putting down the tablet and taking the TV off pause I was now in a position to fully engage in the story and follow events with an understanding that allowed me to experience the richness of the writing and the various twists and turns of the story. I had experienced a learning event when least expected it but the process was only possible through the use of technology.
The link between LQ and technology is a significant one. I won’t even say “if used correctly” because as my second example shows we do not know when learning will or can take place and at times we do not even know the ‘what’.
I want you to contrast my examples and references to technology meeting our basic learning needs to your own experience of formal education. An education that is meant to be the best we can offer but which in many cases is severely limiting learning because it does not allow for two fundamental components – LQ and technology.
What this means for the Teacher
- You may not be the source of all knowledge, be prepared to be challenged. Embrace this challenge in your approach to teaching
- Use every opportunity to meet the needs of learners, especially if you want them engaged, and this includes the use of technology in your teaching and the learning of the students. Give them ‘permission’ by example to use their LQ and technology to meet their learning needs.
- Accept that like when learning to walk people will stumble in their use of technology and may just enjoy the experience for a while before putting it to good use. Be a guide rather than a barrier at this point.
What this means for the Learner
- Not all technology is bad, despite what you are told by those who would control your use of it, but you need to demonstrate its positive impact on your learning through the use of LQ in managing your learning environment and describing the impact to others.
- Be ready for a learning opportunity even when you least expect it. When the opportunity presents itself take the time to learn because it will enhance the experience and deepen your understanding.
- Recognise the draw of technology and allow yourself some time to explore these aspects but set limits and maintain a balance.
- Look for ways technology can help you manage your learning environment to meet your needs. Here are a few to think about:
- Word processors will help with spelling and presentation but there is no need to use every font in the world.
- Presentation software can help you organise your thoughts and ideas in a flexible way. You can drop ideas onto a ‘desktop’ and link or move them in order to manage your thinking.
- Search engines can be useful, even more so if you learn to search effectively. It is worth exploring search terms to refine the results you get and save time. Use ‘bookmarks’ to record your search journey so you can re visit it later.
- Don’t believe everything you read or see. Maintain a healthy scepticism and look to build evidence and argument by exploring different sources and points of view.
- Technology can provide you with an opportunity to experience and engage in learning from different angles or perspectives or even means. You may prefer to watch than read or listen and contribute to a discussion instead of being passive in the learning.
- You can learn outside of formal education systems. This means if in class you do not fully understand a topic there are opportunities through technology to revisit or explore these in your own time and at your own pace (Khan Academy etc).
One final point concerning the mobile phone.
The mobile phone continues to evolve way beyond its primary purpose. In doing so it seeks to provide for or satisfy many or all of our needs. In my view it is doing this in a random way, as evolution often dictates it should, including services and facilities that may as time progresses fade away or no longer be offered. It has the opportunity to become an effective tool in managing our learning environment if we use it in that way. It also has the opportunity to become the next step in the evolution of the television (which it is beginning to emulate in so many ways). A technology that has so much to offer and yet we use it for such banal purposes as we use it to feed the most basic of our needs. Many schools will not allow students to use mobile phones in the classroom and often with good reason for we have seen them used for the worst of all reasons. It strikes me odd though that we teach learners to read so they can access books which, at the time, were the communication tool for learning and our approach in formal education to new technology is to put up barriers.
A word about future LQ articles
This is the 16th article I have published exploring Learning Quotient and during that time the number of people reading the articles had doubled each month. I think it is time to let people catch up, I have often led charges in educational concepts only to look behind me and realise I am alone! I will not be publishing a new article next week. Instead I will be reviewing each aspect of LQ and what it means for the teacher and the learner. If you are a parent you may be wondering why I left out that particular perspective on LQ, more of that to come later.
Whilst I am not writing any new articles concerning LQ I am busy putting things together in the form of three books. Early adopters of my concept of LQ have provided positive feedback on its impact in their own lives and their teaching. Whilst this is encouraging I would love to hear challenges or questions about how LQ can make a difference in teaching and learning. You can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you do not want to leave a comment on the blog.
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.