Our beliefs, values and experience amongst other things impact how successful we are when we undertake tasks. How we behave when involved in activities is also influenced by similar things but perhaps also our nature or disposition. Some people are regarded as naturally positive, a ‘glass half full’ attitude to life whilst others may be regarded as suspicious, conservative, inflexible etc.
Put together a number of people with a ‘leader’ (in education terms think ‘teacher’) and those individual dispositions will determine behaviours which in turn will influence both the process and outcome of any commonly undertaken task or activity. There will be views on the ‘right way’ or ’best way’ to do something and people will adopt ‘positions’. This is something recognised by Edward deBono in his book on a method of thinking, the “Six Thinking Hats” [i] In my work to bring a tangible consciousness to LQ I continue to explore the wider landscape on thinking, this is one such exploration.
Six Hat Thinking
Edward deBono makes some interesting claims for his approach based on a perceptive observation about thinking which as a learner and teacher I can relate to. He suggests “The main difficulty of thinking is confusion” and that “emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity, all crowd in on us”. As it is with using the six thinking hats so it is in the adoption of a learning mindset through the LQ approach. “He or she becomes able to separate emotions from logic, creativity from information and so on”
He goes on to say that “Within the Six Hats method, the intelligence, experience and knowledge of all the members of a group are fully used.”
There are parallels here too with LQ.
With the mindsets of LQ an individual’s intelligence, experience and knowledge are used effectively along with the awareness of emotions such thinking promotes.
Further, he says that in the same way “it is totally absurd that a person should hold back information or a point of view because revealing it would weaken his or her argument” I believe it is absurd for a learner to hold back a question for fear it would make them look stupid.
In exploring the nature of thinking associated with each of the six along with the benefits this approach brings I have become aware of how a similar approach, that of adopting learning mindsets, a direction of thinking when faced with a learning challenge can improve our learning.
In the next part of this article I will describe the six different hats and begin to show how we can develop similar mindsets so that as the thinking of a group can be enhanced, so can the learning of an individual.
[i] Edward deBono. 2000: Six Thinking Hats. Penguin Books
The original article was published at “The Staffroom”
“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle” George Orwell
Sometimes the obvious is on our doorstep, often ignored and rarely noticed. So it is with my experience as a teacher and in the development of the concept of Learning Intelligence, or “LQ”.
After a career of nearly 4 decades in teaching I have taken an opportunity to step out of the classroom on a daily basis and take the time to reflect and research. It is a chance to read all those authors and study their ideas and theories with the benefit of experience. If education is guilty of anything it is the jumping on an idea and wanting it to solve all the problems surrounding teaching and learning. The list of theories and game changing concepts in teaching is significant and probably an indication of the fundamental importance of needing to “get it right”. Do we need another theory or concept, that of Learning Intelligence or LQ[i]? I think we do and this is why. Let’s face it, it has to be better than “back to basics”, the “3R’s” or the PISA[ii] ranking stick we are often beaten with.
Imagine something so big that no matter which way you look, up/down, left/right, it almost blocks your view. It is a colossal structure and its surface is a multitude of fine intricate patterns and textures coloured in every imaginable shade and tone. It is impossible to see it all at once and the best you can do is to look at one small area at a time. As an outsider you have no idea how it functions or really how it does what it does. It is too big to study all of it in any one lifetime. So people focus on just one small part and try to predict how the rest of it works based on the discoveries they make, no matter how small or controversial. We call these people “researchers”.
Those who want to control or master it are not those that study it but they do make claims about what must be done to improve it. As each new discovery is published new practices that sweep away the old are introduced. We call these people “administrators”.
Then there are those that work in it, know only what works and what does not work and follow their instincts. They have little time for studying it as they are too busy “doing it” but they must take on each new practice as if it will solve every problem and make whatever this huge thing is efficient. We call these people “teachers”.
This has been my experience in education, but after a career which included some challenging situations, I have had the benefit of almost 5 years to study what the researchers have come up with and piece together with the aid of experience something of the big picture.
I have not the space here to list all the theories or ideas I have been subjected to or tried to make work. Nor to list the authors and speakers I have listened to. One thing I have been able to do though is to trace some of the ideas back in time and explored their roots through the lens of experience. It has proved enlightening. For most I have found a grain of truth, an element that when blended with others does indeed work.
The outcome is simple, it occurred to me we may be going about teaching back to front and the evidence is there right in front of our noses. This is the background to my concept of LQ so let me explain what it is.
Let’s start with a couple of propositions. Learning is a personal journey, whatever we see or experience each of us may take something different from it. The education system tries to standardise learning and assessment. This process involves both curriculum content and teaching but more significantly assessment. Unfortunately assessment has come to mean only qualifications or standards. This is despite the work by Dylan Williams and Paul Black [iii] who promoted the importance of assessment for learning.
With this “engine” driving education it is easy to see how the process of teaching and learning is susceptible to a somewhat mechanistic approach. Use this tool to fix this problem, use this method to achieve this goal. The learner is only required to conform to the policies, practices and ambitions of the system, to be compliant, in order to be successful. This standardisation though brings with it responsibility, that of having the right tool, policy or method. If anything is wrong with these then we risk limiting individual achievement for the sake of compliance[iv]. I asked Sir Ken Robinson if compliance was a learning disability within the education systems we have. His reply was whilst it may not be a disability it is a disadvantage.
As a result of this approach we hit a buffer, we are brought to a halt, when it is found that not all learners are the same, or more to the point given the same input the outcomes are not the same for all learners. We have seen this outcome explained by saying students having “abilities” or “aptitudes” in certain subjects or being referred to as “Gifted and Talented”, in short labelling learners. These labels set expectations and the mechanism could grind on with the variable outcome now explained in terms of the raw material or the people who operate it
There was another shudder in the machine when it was suggested that we had what were referred to as “learning styles” or “multiple intelligences” [v]and that if we learnt in a way that satisfied these then standards would rise[vi]. The machine that is education duly took responsibility for changing practices, it could do no other. When this did not “work” we looked for other reasons for why some learners are more successful than others. Maybe it is not the machine that is at “fault” perhaps learners don’t have a “growth mind set[vii]” or display sufficient “grit” to do well.
I would claim that education is at fault for taking responsibility for learning and by trying to control the learning environment to suit every type of learner, although given the circumstances I have suggested it could do no other. The responsibility to raise standards weighs heavily and so ultimately becomes the only focus for teaching and learning[viii]. Anything that is not already credited with raising standards or is not the outcome of research or a product of legislation is seen as too risky to attempt. It will probably continue down this route too unless something changes and I suggest LQ is that change.
So what makes LQ unique or different? Well firstly it see the education system as an environment, one that with the right skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours we can manage in a way that allows us to meet our learning needs. I need you to read that again, it’s what’s has been right under our nose all along. Instead of the learner being the passenger we teach them to be the driver able to understand and navigate their own learning. This is not “learning to learn” , it’s about understanding and managing learning.
LQ is a construct; a form of narrative that brings all the pieces, ideas, and theories of the jigsaw together in a meaningful way, it’s the 3D viewer that allows us to explore the colossal structure that is education. LQ is something we need to develop in learners if they are to manage any learning environment they encounter. LQ will allow us to create lifelong learners. As Albert Toffler[ix] warns “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”
There is much more to LQ than I can discuss here and to date I have published well over 50 articles on the various aspects of LQ both from the perspective of education, the teacher and the learner. You can find them all on my blog at https://4c3d.wordpress.com/ You can also find out about my work as an author, consultant, coach and speaker at www.ace-d.co.uk
Should you wish to find out about how LQ can make a significant difference to you then please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will start a conversation!
[i] If you want to skip the rest of this article and don’t suggest you do, and go to the heart of LQ go here:
[ii] The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international survey which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. https://www.oecd.org/pisa/home/
[iii] INSIDE THE BLACK BOX: Raising Standards Through Classroom Assessment Jan 1990
[vi] See Barbara Prashnig’s article on this subject “Debating Learning Styles” http://www.creativelearningcentre.com/downloads/Debating%20LS.pdf
[vii] See Carol Dweck Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential
The original article was published at “The Staffroom” visit:
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.
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:
How we see ourselves as a learner has a significant impact on the “what” and the “how” when we are in a learning mode. But how accurate are our self-perceptions when it comes to learning and how do we build them?
In part one I will suggest that our self-perceptions as a learner are formed as a result of the idea that there is one way we all learn. In further parts I will describe the impact of this notion on learners as well s explore the impact on the learning environment as we try to find the one way to teach and to learn.
Unfortunately as we experience school we are not encouraged to develop our view of ourselves as learners. We are given labels and expected to live up or down to them. This all stems from one false “truth”. Let’s explore this “truth”.
Education theory has a demon it cannot shake off and the outcome of this is that we are constantly being directed towards a “better way”. We seek to find a better way to learn, a better way to teach and a better structure on which to base our education system. This emphasis on the “better way” suggests there is one, and only one, way. This is why we see theories come into fashion and then go out again only to be re-discovered when the latest one has failed to “do it for everyone”. Those with influence on policy and practice also carry with them their favourite which they are reluctant to accept may not suit everyone. In the UK we have seen, and continue to see, education formed in the image of some individual or persuasive group who believe their way is the right way.
The real truth is that there is no one way. No one way at any moment in the challenge of learning. No one way to teach. No one design on which to build an education system that will meet the needs of everyone. This is hard to accept. Even harder to consider when you want to standardise things. Impossible if you want to monitor or predict outcomes.
The sad thing is that so long as we look for one way to learn, to teach and structure education we fail to see the benefits of those ways that work for some of us, some of the time. It’s like holding a bunch of keys and trying them, one at a time, in a lock that does not have a single key to open it. We pick up a key, try it and then throw it to the floor and try another. When we run out of keys we pick them up off the floor and continue to try them one at a time again. When you have more than one person jostling to try their key in the lock then we see the real dangers of this approach. Power and influence are brought to bear to get to the front. Any other key holder is attacked in order to diminish their chance of trying their key in the lock. They would be just getting in the way anyway and delaying us opening the door to the “better way” wouldn’t they!
See this site for a list of learning theories. Then ask yourself how many are still “popular”, how many have been “attacked” and why some still have supporters despite being attacked. http://www.learning-theories.com/
There are no one set of circumstances, no single way to teach, no one system of education that will produce a “better way”. The way that counts is the way that works for you.
To discover what works best for you requires you to be allowed to explore learning and evaluate the “how” for yourself. You need to be exposed to different learning strategies and shown that what we see or regard as “ability” may be influenced by more than one thing. We need to avoid labels.
Warning – this may produce “challenging behaviours” in a system that believes in and promotes “one way”.
What I am proposing is not revolutionary in terms of new theories but it is in terms of approaches to learning. Well it appears to be to me and I have been in the education profession for nearly four decades! The fact that we have not yet changed our approach to education that we persist along the “one way” path suggests one of two things. Firstly there is a vested interest in this process that it serves some purpose we have yet to discover. Secondly our egos are bigger than our view of education. If there is a third reason then please let me know.
What I am proposing is based on the idea that there is no “one way”, no “best way” to learn, that the lock on the door of learning needs multiple keys to open it. It may even be that the lock changes from time to time too making it necessary to look for a different combination of keys. This is the concept that sits behind my idea of “Learning Intelligence”, or “LQ” for short.
More about LQ in part two.
Here are the 10 questions I have asked people to consider before attending the ATLLeicsTM in order to prepare for my talk on “Cracking the Learning Code”
#2) Remember the challenges you have faced and overcome as a teacher.
#3) How many times has your passion & the challenges you face taken you out of your comfort zone?
#5) Think about how we identify and recognise learners and their needs.
#9) Does working strategically rather than re-actively lesson the demands on your time?
Following the Teach Meet I have attached the slides I used to introduce the concept of Learning Intelligence.
Here is to creating life long learners who can take control of their learning environment.
The skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours you need to take control of your own learning environment.
There is a truth in education, we believe in “ability“, the abilities of the students we teach. The common belief is that students have an ability in a “subject”, good at science or maths, yet subjects are an artificial construct. I would argue that a truth based on an artificial construct, purely designed to make teaching more manageable, is fundamentally flawed.
What then if this truth is wrong, a form of reflection of something we don’t directly see but that determines our ability to learn?
I believe we are born to learn. However before developing a spoken language we are not aware of what we can or cannot learn, we only experience learning. We do not have these experiences in isolation, we are bound to our environment and those we share it with. It is impossible our learning experiences are without influence from our environment and those within it. Our behaviours are moderated by the social norm we live in. Our attitudes are influenced by how those around us approach their challenges. We develop attributes that are encouraged by our peers and mentors. The skills we acquire help us to navigate this environment and in part adopt a role within it.
We may be blind to the influences of our environment through our learning experiences and that of others too. We could just be accepting “ability” as a simple truth because it is far less complicated and easier to accept.
My own learning experiences and those of teaching others suggest an alternative truth, one that takes into account the influences of our environment. I suggest that there is such a thing as Learning Intelligence, “LQ” and that it can be developed.
I define LQ as: the ability of the learner to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs.
There are parallels to this theory that we exhibit in our early learning years.
Learning to walk we use props to steady us and to help raise ourselves up, we show resilience when we fall over.
Learning a language involves mimicking others and responding to feedback. It involves trial and error and risk.
These are just some of the strategies we use to manage our early learning environment. Those we need for later learning are the result of the subtle and often unrecognised influences of our environment. We begin to build these influences into what I call our learning map, a representation of what we believe we can and cannot learn. They take the tangible form of skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours and are the tools by which we navigate our learning map and hence our learning environment.
Those learners that are successful in schools are often those whose learning map and LQ profile match the school environment. They have the skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours that allow them to access the learning and they feel comfortable within that particular environment. Whilst many go on to achieve within life there are some who find learning outside of the school environment difficult perhaps because they have through the lack of challenge, of being compliant, failed to develop their LQ. I have asked the question “Is compliance a learning disability?” and you can find the article here.
There are many who don’t do well in learning at school too. These pupils are either seen as being “unable” to learn (less able), or who have emotional or other behavioral challenges that cause them to respond poorly to the school environment. Once again I claim this can be dealt with successfully if we look at the symptoms rather than the outcome (often the behaviour) and develop their LQ.
My belief is that we desperately and urgently need to address the issue of this false truth.
We need to develop in learners the skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours so that they can manage their own learning environment to meet their learning needs and in doing so take control of their learning. When we do learners will be able to demonstrate their true abilities.
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 email@example.com
Links to website
Link to Twitter
It’s the Holy Grail in teaching, to ensure all learners reach their potential, and we have tried all manner of ways to find it.
What if the answer was staring us in the face all along? Would we recognise it and would we grasp the opportunity with both hands? My experience as a teacher and consultant suggests not. Along with my solution, that of developing Learning Intelligence, here is why we have not taken the opportunity so far.
Politicians consider it too risky to leave education to what they perceive as chance and imagine they can dictate and control it through inspection and the setting of targets. The trouble with this is we only see the things we are looking for and only hit the things we aim for. This limits creativity, innovation, and risk taking. It also sets a limit on what can be achieved, if you are required to hit a target at 100m why try to hit it at 1000m? There is no point in making the extra effort. The target has got to be constantly revised otherwise there is no challenge and “moving the goal posts” hardly appears fair when you were so close to achieving it. Targets may do more to de-motivate than to motivate.
Leadership misunderstand their responsibilities. It is often interpreted as the imposing of policies sent down by politicians, even if it does not foster a learning relationship between the teacher and learner. This behaviour can inhibit them from reacting to local needs and conditions. The true role of leadership is to ensure only those initiatives and ideas that actually promote the learning relationship are supported.
I find that teachers are inclined to teach the way they learn and were taught. Perhaps it is difficult to even imagine another way when the way you learnt was so successful for you. The drive to be a teacher is often to help give the opportunities that became available to you as a result of your education to others, so why do it any differently. Teachers are the instruments by which policy is applied and targets achieved so they have little freedom to explore alternatives or little inclination to take risks.
Parents have bought into the passive learning model. Their children go to school to be taught and that model is one they themselves experienced. In this model the responsibility for a lack of achievement is easily directed at the teacher and certainly away from them as parents or their children as learners. They insist the school tries harder, sets more homework, and makes their children learn so long as it does not take up too much of their time.
Employers are not sure what they want an education system to do to prepare young people for the world of work. We hear that many of the jobs our students will be doing when they leave school don’t exist yet so I suppose this makes it difficult. In the absence of a clear picture of what is required we hear the common call for “the basics”, but often that is left vaguely defined and what is the basics for one employer may not be for another. Many call for “soft skills”*, skills that complement the job related or “hard skills”. Schools are not measured or given targets for these skills so they do not form part of the directed curriculum and therefore are not given a high priority.
The solution, the one that is staring us in the face. There is a simple way of enabling learners and we can find fragments of it scattered through current and past research, writings, and practices. Some call for better feedback in the learning cycle, building learning power, some for a more mindful approach to learning and others of requiring grit from the learner.
Each has a piece of the jigsaw but no one person or concept has it all. No one, until now that is, has brought what we know about teaching and learning together under one unifying approach or concept. So we move from one initiative or idea to another. Each time hoping that each will help find the Holy Grail. What we should be doing is unifying our efforts into working with learners to develop their ability to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs. Just take a moment to reflect on this statement before I go on to explain what this means.
I claim that successful learners are those who are able to interact with their learning environment and that their environment meets their learning needs. This explains why some learners do well at school but not as well as adults and why some learners who struggled in school do well in the real world. Where there is a match between the school environment and the needs of a particular learner they will do well, where there is not any learner will struggle to reach their true potential in that environment. Other factors must come into play for an individual who is mismatched with their learning environment to achieve their potential.
An analysis of this reality suggests that there are a set of skills, attributes, attitudes, and behaviours that learners who are successful in any environment have or display. They are able to adapt their environment to meet their needs and overcome environmental limiting factors. I call this “Learning Intelligence” or LQ for short and it represents the way we can help all learners to reach their true potential.
The evidence that supports the concept of LQ is there for us to see if we adopt an open mind to the issues of learning. Perhaps the first glimpses we have seen of LQ in action has been as a result of the changing of the learning environment through technology. For example the Khan Academy and YouTube have shown that learners can respond successfully to a different learning environment to that of the school. What these new learning environments provide is a better match to the learner’s needs. We hear also of the “gamification” of learning as we see the effort people are willing to put into these type of environments. It seems obvious then that if we develop the learner’s ability to manage different learning environments to meet their learning needs by developing their LQ that they will be in better position to reach their potential.
There are numerous benefits to the LQ approach to learning too.
- We do not have to worry about what new initiatives or ideas that may come along for the learner will be equipped to deal with them.
- The concept of life-long learning becomes a reality because the learner will be able to cope with any change in learning environment.
- Teachers are not asked to plan and deliver lessons to accommodate numerous learning styles and can focus on what matters – building relationships and turning knowledge into understanding.
- Parents can be helped to understand how the environment they create at home also impacts learning.
- Politicians can relax a little knowing that they have a society of learners that can adapt to changes in the skills, knowledge or understanding required of them during their working life.
- Employers will get the employees they are looking for.
So we have a simpler and better way to approach learning if we want it.
For an introduction to LQ go to: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2297869-learning-intelligence
For workshops, keynote speeches or for more about how developing LQ can release the potential of learners you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Graphic from: http://erdmute.deviantart.com/art/holy-grail-png-100234405
The original post below was written
THREE FOUR years ago now. Has anything changed?
It’s not exactly easy re-reading an article you wrote some time ago and finding that it’s still so relevant to education in the UK. Hope appears to takes a bit of a bashing when this is the case. So here is my hope once again and what I see as the responsibility of school leadership to make it happen.
The leadership mantra
“If whatever change comes along supports or enhances the relationship you have with your students and will improve your teaching and their learning then make it your own.
If on the other hand it will erode or fracture your relationships with the students you teach and thereby make teaching and learning harder than it is then find ways to either deflect the change or modify it in a way that causes no harm.”
The original article, see how many things have changed since 2014
“All Change – or is it?”
Here in the UK a new term is about to begin and we have new direction from Ofsted in the form of revised guidance and a new Secretary of State for Education. Some teachers will be joining new schools and many will be facing the challenges of getting to know and teach new classes. Some teachers may even be taking on new challenges in the way of responsibilities or even the subjects and syllabi they will be teaching. The school may be facing new challenges or targets and there may even be new leadership intent on bringing about improvements. A new timetable always brings with it a certain level of stress too as teachers and students try to remember where they should be and when and with what. A timetable can have a significant impact on the quality of teaching and learning and when the “tail wags the dog” instead of enabling as the timetable can sometimes do many pay the price during the year. You would be forgiven for being overwhelmed even before you sit and listen to the Head setting out the challenges and goals for the year ahead.
The principles on which teaching is based
Luckily there are the routines and traditions that can form the refuge for the bewildered and confused and these can be found in the classrooms, corridors, and playgrounds of the many schools facing the new term. There will be a desk and seat, a teacher, a focal point, a register to call, rules to follow, expectations and things to learn. These are the everyday realities of teaching and even with interactive whiteboards, improved planning rubrics, simpler assessment systems, computers and tablets, 3-D spaces and the odd new pencil case, little if anything really changes when it comes to the actual job of teaching.
It’s not all about resources
I have seen some of the best teaching with the most basic of resources and simplest of systems and some of the poorest teaching with the most sophisticated of resources and most intricate of systems. I have also seen some of the best teaching with the least motivated of learners and some of the poorest teaching with those learners so eager to conform and please.
If you are now expecting me to call for a back to basics approach or to ignore change because we have all seen it before and no doubt it will come around again then I must disappoint you.
Neither am I advocating that you jump in with both feet and take on board whatever change you face with as much enthusiasm you can muster. What I am reminding you of is the importance of building the firm foundations that will allow you to teach and then I am asking you to consider everything else in light of this one responsibility and this is it:
If whatever change comes along supports or enhances the relationship you have with your students and will improve your teaching and their learning then make it your own.
If on the other hand it will erode or fracture your relationships with the students you teach and thereby make teaching and learning harder than it is then find ways to either deflect the change or modify it in a way that causes no harm.
In my view it is the role of the leadership team to ensure that the learning environment and the relationships between teacher and learner are protected at all times and from all directions.
Leadership responsibilities and change, reform and new ideas
Below is a diagrammatic representation of what I see as the principle role of leadership in this respect. There is a lot to take in in one go but focus on the learning responsibility ratio (the rectangle shaded blue at the bottom) which, if protected, should naturally over time move from an emphasis on the teacher to prepare, plan, motivate, engage and encourage to the learner taking more responsibility for managing the learning environment to meet their own needs. This transition has a great deal to do with “Learning Intelligence” and “Learning Needs”* (not learning styles). Although I have not shown what happens when the leadership fails to protect this relationship in effect the responsibility reverts to the teacher and we end up with a “saw tooth” rather than a straight line transfer. In extreme cases the learner may abdicate all responsibility for learning since any immediate consequences fall on the teacher and not the student.
If you would like to explore the Teacher Learner Relationship then please see this article.
If we accept that it is the teacher’s responsibility to manage the learning environment then here are my four foundation stones for teaching.
There are “Learning Needs” and we all have them. When planning lessons make sure you include these four headings. The 4 learning needs are based on 35 years of teaching experience but the headings come from William Glasser [i] Its an easy set to remember – just Please Be Child Friendly in your approach and planning!
1) Power – how will I give my students a voice and show them that I am listening to their concerns and needs?
2) Belonging – what can I do to build a sense of belonging as I develop my relationships with my students in a way that builds trust and loyalty?
3) Choice – what choices will I allow and how will I link these to consequences? How can I show them that they can have some control over their learning environment and that in doing so they can make learning easier?
4) Fun – how will I build the link between fun and achievement and how will I ensure we celebrate success to make learning fun?
* Want to know how you can develop this model in your organisation or find out more about how LQ can improve the performance of your students?
* For more on the school learning environment see an earlier article “The First LQ Topic Review – LQ and the School Environment”
I can be contacted by phone at 01604 891229 or 07519743941
By e-mail at email@example.com
Through Skype: ace-d.co.uk
* For an alternative way to explore planning through what I call “Learning Intelligence” then see the article “Learning Intelligence (LQ) and Lesson Planning” at: http://wp.me/p2LphS-a6
For an introduction to Learning Intelligence then see: http://wp.me/p2LphS-3p and a graphic covering the skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours at: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/2297869-learning-intelligence
For a detailed exploration of learning needs I have published an e-book “Understanding Learning Needs” available for download at: http://www.ace-d.co.uk/id10.html Priced at £4.95. This book has been recognised by experienced professionals as an excellent reminder of the important things in teaching and learning and by those mentoring and guiding new teachers as sound advice and guidance for a successful career.
[i] William Glasser (2001) Choice Theory in the Classroom, Harper
As teachers we know that our classes can fall into three groups, this is especially evident at reporting time.
There are those that do well, are active participants in the learning, question and who are confident. You know these well and find it easy to say something about their progress, attitudes, and behaviours. “Well done. Keep it up” There are those who have presented challenges, often of a behavioural or engagement in nature. Once again you know these well and you do not struggle to offer advice on how to do better next year. “Learn to focus and avoid distractions” The last group are not so well known to you. They are often quiet, do as they are told and take up little of your time. In short they are compliant and when it comes to writing reports often provide the biggest challenge.
The size of each group may vary but I would bet they still exist in many classes.
The first group
We could argue that the first group find the learning environment to their liking and are comfortable within it. They are comfortable with the approach, resources, pace, language and tasks. This group are often the “volunteer” group and will take part in extracurricular activities or be members of out of class groups. As a result of their learning needs being met they do well and make progress.
The second group
The second group do not find the learning environment to their liking, something is missing, and they are not comfortable but do not have the language or skills to express what is wrong in an appropriate and helpful manner. Although they seek to express their needs they do not fully understand what it is that is missing or what to do about it. The result is a series of challenges as they seek attention to help them resolve the issues they have with their learning environment. This group will often take up a greater percentage of resources than their numbers suggest both in terms of the teacher and support provision. This support may not produce as much impact as wished too because it often does not address the issue of the learning environment and the missing needs. A little like giving glasses of water to somebody when they ask for water when actually what they need is the fire brigade to put out a blaze.
The third group
The third group, the compliant learners, don’t make a fuss even if the learning environment is not meeting their learning needs. They may “self-label” as not very bright and have reduced expectations of themselves as they reflect the expectations placed upon them. When we rely on past performance as a predictor of potential or future performance this group often go unchallenged since they achieve within the expected or predicted range even if this is way below their true and as yet untapped potential. When there is a threshold associated with targets and grades this group will often be seen as the “borderline” students, those who with more help could achieve a little more. What we give them though is more of the same and yet we are still not meeting their learning needs although some will do better because of the greater expectation we have of them.
Do you disagree with me?
If you disagree with me then for you these groups don’t exist, you have never experienced them, and report writing for you is a case of limiting what you have to say rather than trying to find things to say about some of your students. You do not see compliance as a learning disability?
If you agree with me and these groups do exist what can we do about them?
Firstly we know there are students who do well in everything they do at school. We may see or recognise these as “more able” or “gifted or talented” students. Perhaps we should also see them as students who have the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours to manage their learning environments to meet their learning needs in whatever learning environment they find themselves. They know that whatever they face in terms of learning challenges there are ways around the obstacles and they can do something about it, a form of “acceptance compliance.”
Next we have the anomaly of a student who does well in one subject and not in another. Rather than exploring the differences in the learning environment we rather comfortably explain this by saying they have a natural ability in a subject or perhaps it is because they get along with the teacher of that subject. For whatever reason we accept their lack of performance or achievements in other subjects as a result of this “reasoning.” The students go along with this and see themselves as being better in some subjects than others, another form of “acceptance compliance.” We do not question their ability to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs nor do we seek to develop their skills or challenge their attitudes and behaviours. It is uncommon to find those students who do not do well
It is uncommon to find those students who do not do well in any subject at school being offered a “different” or “alternative” curriculum. This has the radical effect of changing the learning environment in a number of ways. Something they are likely to go along with for their present experience is nothing more than uncomfortable, to say the least. There are many cases where students unexpectedly excel in this different environment and this is often put down to the lack of academic demands or the student being more interested and therefore more motivated to learn. Once again what is not explored is the learning environment and the match to the learning skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours of the learner that may bring about this change. Further, we do not take this success and use it to demonstrate that where the learner has succeeded in a learning environment that suits their needs that with the appropriate support they may be able to learn to manage other learning environments too and therefore extend their achievements.
The case for Learning Intelligence or LQ
LQ is the ability to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs. In the examples I have given above I would argue that we tend to ignore the learning environment and our ability as learners to manage it. We find ways of explaining achievement in some areas and not others and ultimately may reject some learners. We accept compliance and make no link between the level of success of a learner and their ability to manage the learning environment to meet their needs. I argue that it is at least worth exploring LQ as a factor in learning and that working to develop the skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours of learners will ultimately be a better approach for all learners than compliance, more of the same, support or an alternative curriculum.
Link to Learning Intelligence graphic:
There may be a coincidence that many “turned off” learners try to hide and themselves away and adopt the “hoodie” because it offers them a form of anonymity and way of withdrawing. What we think we see when we look at the learner on the left above may be as untrue as the world being flat. If you could not dance and were gangly you would probably want to melt into the background and more than likely would not be found on the dance floor at any party. So it is for many learners in our schools, they don’t fit in and have learnt to be anonymous and, if challenged, sometimes aggressive or uncooperative. They rarely put up their hand or venture an answer willingly.
What can be done to re engage reluctant learners?
The carrot and stick approach is unlikely to work. They have learnt that the carrot tastes awful and they have become immune form the stick. The key is in discovering two critical things about themselves and one truth.
- The first is that ability is not just measured by tests or examinations
- The second is that their learning environment can impact their ability to learn more than they think.
- The truth is more often than not we can if we think or believe we can!
The first of the thing reluctant learners need to recognise is their potential and I am not talking about the 3 R’s or ability to remember and recall facts. Discovering that they have a host of abilities in a range of areas helps in developing self esteem and breaking down the idea of being a failure.
I attended the National Conference of the AIM Awards this week and specifically the workshop on a new offering the Personal Potential Award. What is special about this qualification is the process learners undertake in ultimately recognising their abilities. In many ways it is learning without subject matter. Through a series of activities and guided by the leader of the course learners discover they have a lot more to offer as well as recognising the need to work cooperatively with those around them. A common factor with those who have faced the challenges of formal education and not succeeded is a mistrust of education and a fixed mindset. The Personal Potential Award does much to dispel both the fear and the mindset. Once they see themselves as able to learn they are better placed to re engage in learning. Nothing comes easy though and this leads onto the second key fact.
The Learning Environment
In the same way as our physical environment affects our health and well being so does the learning environment affect our ability to learn. The type of learning experiences we receive can make us either put up our hands or turn our backs. We need to make the link between our success as learners and our learning environment. Unfortunately few learners understand that they can manage their learning environment in away that meets their needs. Further few actually acknowledge or understand the emotional impact of a negative learning experience. Unfortunately the experience itself is often forgotten but the effect lingers into teenage and adult life. This impacts on future learning opportunities and the spiral continues in the wrong direction.
How Can LQ Help?
The purpose of LQ is to provide a language to both challenge and explore past learning experiences as well as to develop ways of coping with future ones.
LQ asks “Is what you are doing working for you?” This can be expanded to include setting personal goals or developing aspirations and to getting what you need rather than what you want. Being withdrawn and shunning any form of education or training rarely gets people what they need or furthers their journey towards their aspirations.
LQ challenges limiting self-beliefs by exploring our learning maps, what it is we think we can and can-not learn. We build these maps as we encounter learning experiences and evaluate our successes often through the strength of emotions rather than objective reflection.
LQ helps the learner work smarter by learning how to cope with learning environments that do not cater for their learning needs and in finding other ways to achieve the necessary understanding or skill. This works for any learner at any level and in any situation.
I would recommend to anyone to take the time to exploring the Personal Potential Award. A common factor with those who have faced the challenges of formal education and not succeeded is a mistrust of education and a fixed mindset. The Personal Potential Award does much to dispel both the fear and the mindset.
I encourage you to explore the many articles on this blog to do with Learning Intelligence, “LQ”. Understanding the link between the learning environment and behaviours and attitudes is as important for teachers as it is for learners. A negative learning experience can set up road blocks and fix traffic lights to red unless the teacher deals with it appropriately.
There is a strong link between the Personal Potential Award and LQ. I see LQ providing the answer to the question “Why?” the Personal Potential Award and then developing the understanding of how to apply the changes that take place in themselves as learners as a result of undertaking the Award.
I can be contacted via e-mail if you want to find out more about LQ or perhaps arrange a workshop to explore how it can make a real difference to the achievement of your learners.
I would argue that in any new learning situation that the starting point for learning is different for each of us and that adopting a common approach is limiting. Do we ignore this when we operate education systems and if so what are the implications?
Sometimes to see the foolishness of an action or decision we need to look at it from a different perspective. Let’s explore the idea of a common starting point and activities, a one size fits all approach, in a different context and see if it makes sense.
In exploring our education systems I would need an example where a group of people are brought together in a controlled form for a common purpose but possibly with different needs and expectations.
Imagine 520 tourists getting off an A380 arriving in, say Singapore, for the very first time. No one has been here before; they are all new to this island country in Southeast Asia. This gives us the cohort, different needs and expectations but a common starting point.
It is highly unlikely they will want to travel as a group whilst in Singapore but that is not possible where we have controlled or timetabled activities. In normal circumstances they would not have the same intentions or interests, visit the same places at the same time, meet the same people, and have the same interactive experience with the country.
If we made them get off the plane as a group and manage them as a group (one size fits all) as we do in schools then this way of doing things would probably be unfulfilling for many of the tourists. Why? Well as they are organised and taken off to experience something they have no control over what happens. They may be made to see something they are not interested in at all and possibly miss out on something they were fascinated by and looking forward to doing or seeing, there would be disappointment and disengagement. Some would want more time in one area over another and possibly get frustrated by this. Some may want to explore on their own and others happy to be directed or guided here and there and some may be happy to dip in and out again depending on what was on offer and their interests.
Now image those 520 tourists getting on the same plane at the end of their “group” visit and the feedback they may present to the tour operator having this “one size fits all” type of holiday. Imagine many are unhappy and vow never to travel with the same operator again.
In an effort to make the next trip more successful the tour operator decides it is a case of needing to promote the idea of travelling in this way and not the idea itself that is in need of change. An obvious solution is to use the normally wasted flight time to prepare the passengers for their visit. He is sure that if the passengers understood why he did it the way he did that they would be more agreeable. He sets about having history and geography as well as language “classes” on the flight out with the expectation they will get more out of their visit and be more agreeable. There is a lot to cover and so a timetable is devised with short breaks in order to get it all in and flight attendants deliver the programme.
It still does not go as he had hoped and the feedback is not as good as he would like. He sees the need to find ways to further improve the service.
As the passengers fly back he decides to quiz them to see if they have taken it all in and to see where improvements can be made. Papers are issued and questions asked and short essays written about what they have seen and experienced. Flight attendants issue the papers, mark, and return them to the passengers having entered the data into a database for review later. Small rewards are given to those who have done well in an effort to encourage them to use the same tour operator next time. It is hoped that when others see the rewards they will try harder next time.
He finds some have had a great time and will fly with him again, others speak of being bored having no interest in the things they have been made to see. Others complain about the lack of personal choice or freedom to explore on their own. Many say they feel the service is too impersonal and they do not like being treated as if they were just a number. The “quizzes” did not go down too well with some either. Flight attendants complain about the additional workload and de-motivated passengers.
A review of the data suggests 55% of people had what could be referred to as a “good time.” 10% had a “great time” and 5% a “fantastic time.” They decide that the aim for next year will be at least 60% of passengers will have had a good time and the flight attendants have been instructed to achieve this target. A series of inspections are planned to check that the on-board classes are delivered according to set guidelines and that they are good or better.
I hope you can see where I am going with this analogy. I have not even started talking about the cabin crew (SLT), passengers in first or business class (G&T), or economy (At risk) or longer flight times, selection processes or “free airlines” run by chains of tour operators who promise better satisfaction rates . At some point what was thought of as a good idea just becomes absurd. What follows is also absurd as we find ways of justifying what we are doing, often in the face of common sense. Here is an example taken from the Sabre Tooth Curriculum [i]
“Don’t be foolish,” said the wise old men, smiling most kindly smiles.
“We don’t teach fish‐rabbing to grab fish; we teach it to develop a generalized agility which can never be developed by mere training.
What also results is that people start to take sides. Those that support what we have and those that propose something different. For example Sir Ken Robinson [ii] is seen as a speaker of truth by some and a misguided snake oil salesman by others. Here is a quote from Pragmatic Education blog “Sir Ken’s ideas are incredibly seductive, but they are wrong, spectacularly and gloriously wrong.”[iii]
My point is that what starts off as a good idea can quickly get into trouble if we do not step back now and then and see where we are going in trying to improve what we are doing. It is easy to get drawn into the “make it better” or “try harder” rather than “change it” syndrome. We certainly need to stop treating all learners as the same because of their age and we need to stop doing all things for learners all of the time, and we need to stop expecting them all to reach the same stage at the same time too. In fact there is a lot we should stop doing in order to just improve our education systems. We need to think outside of the box and this is where I am with my concept of Learning Intelligence.
Other posts on this theme:
The Need for Learning Intelligence as a Concept (http://wp.me/p2LphS-gY)
Knowing and Learning – What is the Difference (http://wp.me/p2LphS-ba)
I believe we can learn a great deal from our ability to survive when it comes to learning.
The picture shows such a challenge. It could represent the need to make a link between knowledge on the left bank and understanding on the right bank. The solution overcomes the challenge of the raging water and steep sides of the ravine by using what is available to build a bridge linking the two. We take knowledge and build a link to understanding within our learning environment. I would argue being able to build your own bridges means you have some control over your learning environment.
To survive we need to adapt to, and adapt, our environment. We need to make use of the things we have to overcome what we lack. We need to avoid what threatens us and embrace what supports us. We need to understand our purpose and possess the fortitude to overcome obstacles. We need to take what we know and be able to apply it to what we have yet to understand.
In the same way as we cannot ignore the environment when trying to survive neither can we when we wish to learn. We have a greater chance of surviving if we are alert and aware of our surroundings and so it is with learning.
We have made learning a process, one that ‘gives’ you an education and in doing so we have dulled the senses to the learning environment. As a result many learners look to others for solutions when they face challenges and fail rather than learning to use what they have, know, or understand. Using my analogy and the picture at the start of this article we would see learners waiting to have a bridge built for them or one pointed out.
Many are concerned by this and advocate an approach to education and learning that will rectify the situation. Problem-based learning, lifelong learning, enquiry skills, flipped lessons are all ‘solutions’ to an unspoken problem, that of learning to manage our learning environment to meet our needs.
It is my experience and opinion that we fail to share this concern with the learner. As a result, learners see subjects to learn rather than understand the challenge is how to learn the subject. We work at developing new flavours to entice the parched to drink when no one is thirsty. How can we demonstrate such things as independent learning, thinking, and enquiry skills are important and necessary if we have made learners so dependent?
We have made learners dependent by holding the keys to learning. We set the curriculum, the standards, and the value of knowledge. We have applied rules and regulations to education. We have constructed a ridged ladder of progression and labels to identify position and status in this most complex and fabricated of environments that we call education. To make students lifelong learners and thinkers we would need to shatter this illusion. We would need to de-regulate education. Are we willing or able to do this? Shattering illusions is not anarchy or as dangerous as some who regulate education would have us believe for it can release our creativity.
Being creative is a human trait, if we allow it. I would even go as far as to say that not allowing creativity to thrive is inhuman. There are ways in which learners can creatively work within the regulated education systems we have but we must first make them aware of their environment. This is the true challenge and one that the approaches I mentioned earlier seek to address. What they fail to do however is have the conversation with the learner, they do not start by explaining the ‘why’ of these approaches. They do not start by sanctioning the process of challenging and exploring the learning environment. They do not say it is okay to find ways of learning that suit you rather than learning the way you are being taught. They do not explain that failing to meet your learning needs is limiting your ability to learn and not your ability that is limiting your learning.
We have heard of long-term prisoners not wanting to go back into a world without rigor or regulation where they have to think for themselves. Is this any different to expecting learners to see the value in lifelong learning, thinking and enquiry skills when we have subdued them?
We develop learners thinking and enquiry skills by making them aware of their learning environment, the true environment not the one we have created for them. Then we show how they can begin to manage this for themselves. We look at the skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviours that support learning. We do this by exploring and developing Learning Intelligence (LQ), the ability to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs.
You will find many articles on this blog about LQ. Here here is one relevant to challenging your learning environment, one article exploring creativity and learning through the what I refer to as the design process. http://wp.me/p2LphS-40
Questions and challenges always welcome and my thanks to those with whom I have debated LQ over the last 5 years. Your input continues to help me refine the language and descriptions of LQ.
You can Skype me at: ace-d.co.uk or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this article I want to explore one of theories about how people learn, that of learning styles, and why it has become discredited. I am not going to explore the VAK approach or any other specific aspect on which learning styles is based. Instead I want to look at why it became so popular and why now, even though some try to discredit it, many still support it. I tend to come at issues from a different direction and this time it is no different. Although it may not appear initially as having much relevance to the issue at hand I want to start by asking a couple of questions.
What has astrology and the idea of learning styles in common?
Why astrology may promote the idea of learning styles.
Surely we cannot use a “pseudo-science” to understand how we learn. Bear with me whilst I explore a theory.
One of the first questions I faced as a teacher was why some students “got it, kept it and used it” and others did not. I am of course referring to knowledge and understanding. My first instinct was that I took something for granted, that there was a step in the learning process that I missed because “I got it” and that I needed to look at what I was teaching again to find “it”. I even asked experienced teachers if there was something missing in my understanding that I was not conveying to learners who did not get it. I was reassured there was not, but this did little to help those students who were struggling learning, retaining or using what I was teaching. From this point I have always been on the lookout for anything that helps explain how people learn and for ways of improving my teaching.
A number of theories and ideas have come forward concerning how people learn. Science has begun to offer insights of its own through Neuroscience. There is even this thing called “IQ” which has been around for some time. Learning styles and multiple intelligences are other theories about how we learn best and how to manage learning. 21st century skills have made an appearance on the stage of learning due in part to the advances in technology and Cognitive Psychologists may be disproving everything we presently hold true about learning. Nevertheless this only goes to show that there is an interest in how we learn and how to improve learning. We want to explain things and possibly offer a few labels. This is okay so long as we do not return to a description of a patient found in the register of an asylum in the late 19th century that labelled them “Born an idiot.”!
We want answers to the learning equation.
We like the idea of unpicking this particular problem in the same way as we would like to find a cure to cancer. Once we have an understanding of how learning works we can prescribe the course of treatment that will allow everyone, who wants to, to reach their full potential. We will be able to categorise or label people. We will be able to give all the “slow learners” a speedup treatment, all those who are always mentally jumping all over the place a slowdown treatment, and those who forget things a memory improving treatment.
The fundamental problem is…
To me this is the fundamental problem in exploring how people learn. We use ideas or theories to label people rather than to start a dialogue about the challenges they face in learning. My way of exploring this problem is by looking at how people respond to labels and why we appear to like them. Although on first glance it may be a strange association between astrology and learning but what can your horoscope have to do with your ability to learn? Let us start by looking at what they both have in common.
1) both astrology and learning styles are believed by some and discounted by others, they each have their supporters.
2) they both try to predict something, either the future or how learners will learn best.
3) they both result in the application of a label, either a star sign of the Zodiac or a learning style.
4) both appeal to our need for an identity or to belong to a group.
5) they both offer characteristics which we may find inwardly attractive. For example the perfectionism of Virgo or the ease at which a visual learner decodes charts.
6) they are both a good way to start a conversation. Many strangers have started out by asking, “What star sign are you?” in order to start a conversation and many teachers have wanted to know how learners learn best and asked what they find difficult about the lesson.
I would claim that the first five are distractions of the true value that any of the theories or ideas offer, especially learning styles, is that of starting a conversation. Does it matter if theories such as learning styles, brain based learning or multiple intelligences are more fiction than fact if it starts a conversation and is only used in that way? What we must do as teachers is to avoid labels, no matter how seductive they are.
A final example of why I believe the theory of learning styles found support in teaching.
The theory of learning styles appears to be right because learning is often presented as just being a function of memory. About taking in formation and retaining it for use later. Learning is more than just creating a memory or storing information. Perhaps we would understand why many teachers have, and continue to do so, supported the idea of learning styles if we see them as “learning cues“. I believe that we initially pay more attention to some forms of information than to others, they get our attention faster. As teachers know getting the attention of students is key to engagement and then the trick is to help them learn.
Why do we “pay attention”?
Getting your attention has been a key survival trait and one that persists today. Advertisers know this and use it to sell, well to first get our attention. The smell of freshly baked bread, the colours, and warmth of a summer day, the freshness of a spring morning, the tune that reminds you of your youth. You get the point.
I would claim that whatever our learning environment is we are pre-disposed to notice things according to our senses. Some favour one over the other, although all are at play. Perhaps the one that is favoured is part of a distant memory because it was more of a threat in whatever environment we found ourselves in. If the danger came first as a sound then we may favour taking notice of auditory clues. If the danger presented itself not through auditory clues but was stealthy and we needed to recognise a shape or shadow then we may favour visual clues. The same may be true for identifying or recognizing danger through tactile means, identifying a particular shape from another in order to avoid danger. Failing to acknowledge or pay attention could have resulted in an untimely end. Has evolution got something to do with what we pay attention to and how we respond in the first instance? Possibly, it has certainly been used to explain a great deal of other forms of human behaviour. The key from a teachers point of view is that once we have the attention of the learner we need to find ways of maintaining it. One such way is to recognise and celebrate achievement. Another is to show the learner how they can manage their own learning environment to meet their learning needs. This last strategy is the basis for my own theory that of a learning intelligence or LQ for short.
Learning Intelligence (LQ)
I define LQ as the ability of the learner to manage their learning environment to meet their learning needs.
Link to LQ concept graphic:
It may be that at an early age we pay attention to certain cues within our learning environment and these are then developed through preferred use, or because they are successful or they bring reward. This may ultimately lead to a dominance or preference interpreted as a “learning style”. In effect we are just paying attention to our environment in our preferred way. Our preference can change over time and can be influenced by technology, friendships, experiences, in fact many things. I believe it is important to a learner to be able to recognise and interact with their learning environment in a way that brings success. I also believe that when they do not then they build a negative picture of themselves as learners.
In many ways LQ is a construct made up of skills, attitudes, attributes, and behaviours. You can find over 20 articles exploring LQ both from the teacher’s perspective and that of the impact on the learner on my blog here at 4c3d.wordpress.com
I am working through the process of writing my book on Learning Intelligence, LQ, at the moment. A number of fundamental question have arisen from this work including this one.
Is there a difference between knowing and learning?
I see learning being the bridge between knowledge and understanding and that once across this bridge understanding facilitates creativity. Let me give you an example of my thinking on this question and how I arrived at this conclusion.
Why 12 x 12?
It’s a simple question, why do we learn our times table up to 12?
By exploring something we all are taught at a very young age, the “times tables”, or “multiplication tables” I hope to show my thinking. The question may not be relevant to understanding knowledge and learning but why up to 12? I know my times table, I know that 1 x 1 is 1 all the way up to 12 x 12 is 144. Why did I stop at 12 x 12? Why not go all the way up to 19 x 19 or further? If 12 were decided upon as the upper limit because of imperial measurements, 12 inches in a foot and 12 eggs in a dozen etc, then why when we went decimal in the UK did we not decide to only go as far as 10 x 10? Continental and ‘metric’ Europe may only teach up to 10 x 10 but what about America and Canada? There must be a rational explanation why knowing our times table up to 12 is necessary. No one ever told me as a learner why.
If we take the “You will need it in everyday life” consequences of knowing something then there has been countless times when my times table has been immensely useful and I can only think of a few situations where more than 12 x 12 would have been needed. Perhaps there is something in it and if you know the reason behind this please let me know.
Does knowing help?
Accepting then that there is some rationale behind the range of the times table, does knowing this help me in some way or is there something more to it? I have already said there are everyday life examples where it does help but knowing 12 x 12 is 144 is one thing, understanding why, I would claim, is another.
This is where it got interesting, well to me anyway! Let me explain and I think this is the route to the difference between knowing and learning.
Learning by rote, often by chanting or repetition, may help build up neural pathways. Each pathway forming a sort of highway with a fixed destination for each starting point. As soon as I see 6 x 6 or verbalise 6 x 6 my highway connects me to 36 and I retrieve the answer. The answer can be retrieved as fast as any reflex and in schools this was often the basis of competition in learning my tables. Now whenever I encounter a number between 1 and 12 and need to multiply it by another number between 1 and 12 I have the answer almost instantly because I know it. Where does this leave me though if I want to know 13 x 13? I argue that I need to understand something, I need to understand the basis of the times table in order to advance it beyond knowing.
What about learning?
If I know the times table not only by chanting it over and over but the principles on which it is based then I would claim I have a chance of applying that to working out what 13 x 13 is. If I only “know” my tables then as soon as I progress beyond 12 x 12 I am at a loss.
In understanding the principles I would have “learnt” about the times table and I would claim this is a step up from knowing it. Having the tools through learning about the times table and learning the relationship with having “X” lots of “Y” being the same as X times Y allows me to apply an element of logic taking the process a little further again. I am in effect being “creative,” I am solving problems with what I have learnt and what I know. 13 x 13 may now present itself to me as 10 x 13 = 130 and 3 x 13 = 39 giving me the answer of 169. I know 3 x 3 is 9 so I can work out that the final digit should be 9 too. If encouraged or perhaps out of interest born from understanding and wanting to learn further I can go on then and explore other relationships within the table. For example recognising 8 x 9 is the same as two lots of 4 x 9 or that 12 x 6 x 2 is the same as 12 x 12. I am now into number patterns and relationships and building my own knowledge.
This to me is the key, with the process of learning as opposed to just knowing you can build your own knowledge beyond that of what you are given. You can solve problems, well at least attempt to solve them, using principles which you understand rather than just know.
When knowing something is not enough
One final example from my own experience of learning and knowing. During the early phases of learning German in school and in an effort to make us comfortable with the language (my claim at the time it was to keep us in order I think!) the teacher had us learn a German play. Each member of the class had a part and lines to “learn”. We learnt them and could make a fair attempt to perform the play. Outside of this narrow knowledge of German though we could not engage anyone or attempt to communicate. To this day I can remember some lines from my part but unless somebody approaches me offering me chocolate I am stumped as this was my prompt to speak my lines.
There are times when knowing something is enough and it can be really helpful (quiz nights perhaps) and at other times learning is far more important. Learning and through this process developing understanding allows the individual to apply, to be creative in using what they have learnt. It opens up the creative process and helps in solving problems.
It would be fair to say that in any education there are times when knowing is important. For example knowing what sounds letter make is one step towards reading and verbalising the code that is writing. Many people who would drive education policy suggest a “back to basics” approach focused on knowing. Those who call for back to basics never actually say how far back they want to go though and there may have been a time when this meant clubbing mammoths and lighting fires! Since we all have our own ideas what the basics are they tend to receive sweeping support from those who find failings in the education system but this does not move us forward.
Looking for a balance
I would suggest a need for a balance between knowing and learning but where should this balance lie and over what time frame? Should we start off with more knowing in the early years of education and then more learning towards the end of formal education or should there be a seesaw effect with a shifting emphasis? A lot more questions but I have this nagging feeling that if we could come up with the right questions, the one that would provide us with the answer we are looking for, we could identify those policies and practices that would take education forward and out of this loop we appear to be in.
Comments always welcome and so if I have stirred up your thinking let me know.
“Question. What are the 10 ways to explore learning?
Answer. As a teacher and as a student.”
This is a Tweet I posted a little while ago. I had seen that blogs that start with offering ten ways of doing something were popular, and since we all want to be popular I thought I would give it a go.
My twist was to take a sideways step in thinking, just what we sometimes need to do when teaching, and use “10” in binary notation instead of decimal. “10” in binary has a value of two and hence we get our answer – we can explore learning as 1) a teacher or 2) as a learner.
Well it was not re-tweeted, the sure sign that somebody else is not on the same wavelength. It must have fallen on deaf ears, gone over their heads or people just did not get it. I based my idea on the T shirt slogan which sells in the thousands so there must be a few people out there who get it you would think. (Picture acknowledgement: http://www.thinkgeek.com)
I was sure it would attract the attention I was looking for and get the message across that teaching and learning often involves thinking outside of the box, looking at what is around you in a different way and seeing new meaning (in learning) or opportunities (for teaching). In other words: being creative
What is does show perhaps is the problem of disconnect, of not knowing your audience or where they are in their thinking. This for a teacher is a fundamental problem, getting to know who you are teaching is critical in forming the learning partnership. If you get it wrong then the outcome is often one which involves coerced learning rather than engaged learning. The classroom takes on the character of being teacher centred, (pushing the learning and the teacher taking responsibility for learning), rather than student centred (discovery and ownership of the learning).
So where does this leave me? It means I need to work harder and smarter at sharing my learning journey and understanding why what makes sense to me in my context may not work for others within their context. It means finding the right words and examples etc. to share my ideas in a way that others will see what it is I am driving at. This is very important to me in my attempt to bring to people the ideas behind the concept of LQ (Learning Intelligence). In teaching we use examples and metaphors to help explain, describe, or involve others in the learning all the time.
Something to think on.
What does it mean to us as teachers if we do not share the same contextual map that makes our explanations, descriptions, and metaphors relevant to those we are trying to teach?
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.
Can we face up to and meet the challenge that LQ lays down when so many education systems are under pressure to perform and achieve results?
In the article “The LQ Rich Environment” (http://wp.me/p2LphS-3u) I said the following:
“My belief is also that if you make the learner aware of the challenges presented by their learning environment and help them develop the tools and skills to manage it in a way that meets their learning needs they will develop strengths or abilities in many more areas. The challenge to the teacher then is not to teach in a manner that seeks to meet significant strengths or preferences that have been developed (thereby further promoting them) but to provide the conditions whereby the learner is guided and given permission to go exploring their learning needs and how to meet them.”
In most education systems, especially those that are target/grade focused, this is a significant challenge. I believe we are beginning to see creative ways this can be accomplished. The ‘flipped lesson’ is one example of where the teacher is creating an opportunity for the learner to explore the learning in a way that meets their own needs. Where in the past we may have used the term ‘differentiation’ and gone about trying to achieve this by attempting to meet everyone’s learning needs in the space of a single lesson, technology is now allowing us to have a lesson of almost infinite length. More than this though it allows for ‘anytime anywhere learning’, a concept which is very much in line with LQ since it is the simplest definition of the term Learning Intelligence we can have. Being able to learn when it suits us best is when there is a need established. This ‘need’ can happen at any time and can be part of the strategy of the teaching and learning or naturally occurring through the learner’s curiosity being piqued.
Although the strength and power of the LQ concept relies on a personal responsibility to manage the learning environment yourself we cannot ignore the teacher’s role in developing the confidence in the learner to explore and begin to understand LQ. The term that has been used to describe this role for the teacher is “The guide at your side” and the flipped lesson embodies this approach. The challenge is providing the resources necessary to support the teaching in such a way. It will be interesting to see how these resources develop. One concern I have is the lack of ‘personalisation’ that may occur as this approach moves out of the hands of the individual teacher and into the commercial industry that supports education. My example would be the use of interactive whiteboards in classrooms. Early adopters of this technology developed their own resources to support their lessons, their teaching styles, and the needs of the learners they were teaching. Early adopters are normally characterised by their enthusiasm and energy for new developments and will put in the time required to explore and learn what can be done. Others who follow are not as adept at the technology and want something ‘off the shelf’. In my experience this does not always work out well for the teacher, they have not fully embraced or understood the needs of the new approach and it falls flat. The approach is derided and a return to the old ways is ‘proven’ to be the best way in their eyes. We have to ask where this will leave the learner. A teacher who sees requests, questions, and enquiries about how they are being taught from learners as a personal challenge will do nothing to develop LQ in their students. Unless we develop in learners an understanding of LQ I believe they will be confused, a confusion that could bring about more harm than good.
I therefore argue that we cannot successfully change the learning environment and therefore learning without equipping the learner at the same time with an understanding of LQ. LQ will help them make sense of new learning opportunities both through managed lessons and those made available through technology (anytime anywhere learning) in a way that helps them re draw their learning map (what they believe they can and cannot learn).
Developing LQ in learners can range from little more than a discussion about how they feel when learning something and bringing out into the open the anxiety, stress, lack of confidence and impact on self-esteem that forms part of the emotional landscape at this time. It needs to include a discussion and exploration of learning needs and understanding of how these come. Developing LQ can go as far as the learner preparing their own learning resource both for themselves and, if we extend this process, for others who share the same learning needs.
What developing LQ in learners means for the teacher is having the confidence to first research and explore for themselves their own LQ and relate it to how they learn and manage their learning environment. It is worth exploring a learning styles analysis along with a teaching styles analysis. Both are available on line from a number of sources. The one I use is available from Creative Learning.
The next step is to find creative ways of starting a discussion about learning needs and the emotions involved in learning. Few teachers actually explore this as part of the teaching and learning which strikes me as odd. We take our time to teach so many aspects and provide encouraging comments as we do so each time failure is encountered in everyday life yet when it comes to teaching we appear to forget to teach about learning and instead focus on subject matter.
Moving on from this point will involve changes in the approach to teaching and learning and this may face challenges from within an organisation and even from those learners who have not understood the advantages and application of LQ to their learning. It may be seen as a waste of time or being off task but actually it is neither. I think of it as putting in place base camps as if I were climbing a mountain such as Everest. Each camp is strategically placed and resourced in order to support a successful attempt on the mountain in the most efficient and safe way possible. Time taken to establish these base camps is far from wasted and ultimately secures the success looked for.
The next LQ review and what to look forward to
I have published an article each week since the beginning of August and there are now 20 of them to discover. I am now focusing on putting together the LQ guide and will spend the next 4 months organising my thoughts and researching. This means I will have to suspend the weekly article for now. This is not to say there will be nothing new posted on my blog, it is hard to ignore and not make comment on some of the things happening in the world of education. I will be able to answer any comments or questions about LQ so if you have them e-mail me or leave a comment on the blog and I will answer them.
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.
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