As a result of our desire in education to find the magic bullet, the one way to teach and ideal way to learn that will make our education systems the best I would argue we are neglecting the learner. We are requiring compliance rather than seeking engagement. I would go as far as saying we are disabling the learner. For part 1 of this article the link is: http://wp.me/p2LphS-qA
Surely every new idea, theory, or approach is aimed at making it easier or better for the learner. So how can this be? The answer lies in the impact on the learner and their involvement in the learning.
Building our self-perception as a learner
Experience should suggest to anyone in teaching or wanting to learn that we each have learning preferences, those things that we believe help us to learn. Some feel more alert in the morning or like to discuss ideas with others rather than read about them. It may be the environment we are in, who we are with or any number of other factors that influence our moods and energy levels. Our learning preferences often change too, they are after all preferences. Like all preferences they are influenced by context, our own emotional, mental and physical development as well as our environment. We present our learning preferences as learning needs (tangibly some times as motivators represented by desired rewards) to be fulfilled in order to learn. Understanding about the impact of and of the changes in our learning needs is part of LQ.
In situations where we do not have our learning needs met we feel uncomfortable, see ourselves as “unable” or struggle to engage and require significantly more encouragement or motivation to participate in the learning. We are after all fighting off a driving need, trying to put it to the back of our mind. This subduing of need, of not having a preference met, requires energy and concentration. Both of these would normally be allocated to the learning task at hand. We are therefore left without a focus on learning with our efforts being divided between two tasks. We are in effect being distracted from learning. Just ask yourself what your concentration is like when you are hungry or cold or the chair you are sitting in is uncomfortable and I think you will understand my point.
The split in our efforts to learn and in our efforts to meet our learning needs does not have to be an equal one. In truth very little effort may be available for learning depending on how significant our needs are, to what degree they are not being met and how much effort is needed to achieve or repress them. This may go some way to explain why some learners learn easier and are more relaxed in some learning environments than in others.
Repressing a need can also lead to a build-up of stress. How we respond when stressed depends on a number of factors, the range, and type of behaviours that we have learnt as well as our environment and our perceived options (self-efficacy). Chronic stress often occurs when we feel we have no choices and no voice. An excessive stress level also limits learning as it robs us of our objective thinking and disturbs our emotional balance. We often make irrational choices when chronically stressed too.
I find that “inexperienced learners” often perceive this struggle between meeting learning needs and learning as an indication that they are unable to learn. It influences our perception of ourselves as a learners. This perception can be, and often is, wrong. It is the result of this conflict in application of energy and effort to have our learning needs met and to engage in the learning process. The long term damage occurs when this turns from a perception into a belief. The power of LQ is that it gives the learner both the tools and insight to challenge these false beliefs. It allows them to redefine their perception of themselves as learners. LQ broadens the strategies a learner can use to overcome learning barriers caused by not having their learning needs met.
Our self-beliefs as learners is critical to our success as learners. What we cannot rely on as learners is there being one way to learn and that this way will always be created for us. It is a false hope that I suggest can have a catastrophic impact on teaching and learning. It is up to the learner to develop the skills, attitudes, attributes and behaviours that will allow them to master any learning environment. Learners need to focus on developing their Learning Intelligence in order to manage their learning environment.
In following parts I will explain why I believe that as there is no single ideal learner profile there is no one learning environment and no one environment that meets all learning needs.
Introduction to LQ
A Discussion about learning and Learning Quotient
Definition of LQ:
The ability to manage your learning environment to meet your learning needs.
It is easy to imagine the effects of a “toxic” learning environment, one where the learner is not able to access the learning or meet their learning needs. To begin with imagine what happens when the learner is excluded from the learning opportunities. Any explanation or instruction may be impossible to understand, as if spoken in a foreign language (“Blah, blah, blab bla”). Any activities look impossible to complete and actions impossible to mimic as if watching some strange dance being performed without music, rhythm, or purpose.
By describing the extreme, the most toxic of learning environments, my aim is to help you in recognising small elements within “every day” learning situations where learning is inhibited. The typical response of teachers in such situations is to explain, to see the lack of learning as a lack of understanding, to go over things again and perhaps vary the language or the example. I hope you can see how limited this approach is. The question is how can the teacher respond when the learner does not “get it”, they do not show or develop an understanding? Are we to assume the learner is incapable of learning? Do we look for a fault, a reason, to apportion blame for not learning? Do we, as teachers, give up? (A recent article looks at this issue through the concept of “Mindful Teaching”, see: http://wp.me/p2LphS-om )
It is my belief that learners soon recognise what they understand and what learning environments they can learn within.
Learners also instinctively relate the outcome to effort but in doing so they make value judgments about the learning.
The internal dialogue goes something like this “If the learning benefits me I will make an effort to learn.”
When I talk of benefiting the learner I am referring to meeting their needs[i] and briefly describe these as:
- Belonging – to a group, of having an identity.
- Freedom – to choose, to have options, and to make decisions.
- Fun – to enjoy what is happening.
- Power – to be heard or listened to. To be acknowledged in a way that provides recognition of emotions.
This graphic, part of the “Understanding and Managing Learning Needs” CPD course and e-book, shows how these needs influence the learner and acts as a reminder to the teacher t0 plan to meet those needs.
I suggest that where a learner does not have some of these needs met for some of the time they will begin to withdraw from the learning environment, they limit their interaction and reduce their efforts. It’s easy for us to remember to include ways of meeting these in our teaching. The acronym PBCF is remembered using the mnemonic “Please Be Child Friendly”.
As a learner, and once this process of withdrawal begins, we have to rationalise what is happening, especially if we are in a group and others “get it” and we don’t. This is where the work and theories of Carol Dweck [ii] come into play. I believe learners attribute learning to “aptitude” as a way of rationalising their inability to learn within the learning environment they find themselves in.
Learners begin to build their own mental map of learning which says “I cannot learn this.” The reason they give for this inability to learn is attributed to some something within them which they either have or do not have. They begin to see no reason for making any effort because no matter how hard they may try they will never “get it.” In their own learning map they have created they have laid down the foundations for future learning. Sadly for most it is limiting rather than exploratory. They have established boundaries and fences rather than a desire to see what is over the horizon. Hopefully you are asking, “What can be done about this situation?”
One response of educationalists has been to describe learners as having “learning styles” or describe their aptitude as “Multiple Intelligence”. Some have advocated teaching students according to their styles. This approach has received both support and derision. I happen to believe there is something in it but see it as a way of describing the symptoms of the problem and not the root cause. To me a preferred style suggests a “learning need” outside of the four I have mentioned earlier and it also suggests an aspect of “LQ” the learner has already identified but without recognising it.
The lack of recognition of LQ is because no one has described or discussed it with the learner.
In my own work where I have explained to learners the concept of LQ and impact it has on their learning and even more importantly what they can do about it the results have been nothing short of remarkable. Whilst I have no empirical evidence to support my concept of LQ other than decades of teacher, the very idea speaks to those I have worked with in a powerful way. It can bring adult learners to tears and it can give new energy to young learners because it explains to them and gives them the tools to do something about their learning mental maps and beliefs about what they can and cannot learn.
As teachers or as those who manage learning environments we can do something about creating the conditions for LQ to flourish. I am not suggesting the multiple learning styles approach but instead introducing the concept of LQ to learners and then giving them the room within the learning environment we manage to exercise it.
I am advocating the creation of a learning environment where we empower the learner, where we pass the responsibility of learning back to them. Not in a way that leaves them “high and dry”, or in a “sink or swim” situation but in a way where they have the knowledge and understanding of LQ and are skilled in managing their own learning environment.
I hope you are now wondering how to create a learning environment which is LQ rich and supportive for your learners. Just what this looks and feels like I will explore next. You can download a leaflet introducing LQ here. About LQ
Keep up to date
This is the first of many articles on the concept of LQ (Learning Intelligence) as proposed by ace-d.
You can view a summary Piktochart details the benefits of LQ
I would be pleased to hear any comments or receive any questions you may have about LQ.
I am available for conferences, workshops, TeachMeets, plenaries, online training, course design, webinars, and consulting. Your organisation can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss arrangements.
There are now many articles covering a range of aspects of LQ. Move forward through the blog to find out about links between LQ and resilience, empathy, designing, boredom and many more.
Research evidence: Education Endowment Foundation reports that Meta-cognition and self-regulation have a “high impact based on extensive evidence” http://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/toolkit/meta-cognitive-and-self-regulation-strategies/
[i] My book “Understanding Learning Needs” covers these aspects in more detail and provides for practical reflection and analysis for the teacher on meeting these needs for the learners in their charge. It is available from www.ace-d.co.uk – Go to News and Downloads page where you will see the link. Since it is in pdf format you will receive your copy instantly.
Please also see the work of William “Glasser Choice Theory in the Classroom” on which this work is based.
[ii] According to Dweck, individuals can be placed on a continuum according to their implicit views of where ability comes from. Some believe their success is based on innate ability; these are said to have a “fixed” theory of intelligence (fixed mindset). Others, who believe their success is based on hard work, learning, training and doggedness are said to have a “growth” or an “incremental” theory of intelligence (growth mindset). Individuals may not necessarily be aware of their own mindset, but their mindset can still be discerned based on their behaviour.
Summary source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Dweck