"Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt (that is only to be expected), but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves? 1
- Dorothy Sayers 1947
LEARNING TO LEARN
One of the key elements of personalised learning is teaching students HOW to learn. 'Learning to learn' is a key component of the New Zealand Curriculum, with "complex problem solving, communication, team skills, creativity and innovation recognised as necessary skills for success." 2
The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies:
Similar key competencies are outlined in countless articles and research documents, with the focus of key competencies more recently centred on digital literacy. Eric de Corte, as quoted in The 21st Century Learning Group report (2014) identifies a number of areas in which education needs to develop in order to sufficiently prepare students for the future:
“One dimension is the need to instil creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and entrepreneurial approaches. A second is to build digital literacy and media literacy. A third is to develop ‘adaptive competence’ — the ability to apply meaningfully learned knowledge and skills flexibly and creatively in different situations.” 3
EXAMPLES OF KEY COMPETENCIES
The Four R's
In Guy Claxton's book 'Building Learning Power', he outlines four key habits of the mind that are evident in successful learners:
The Six C's
Michael Fullan and Geoff Scott (2014) propose that learning goes beyond the development of fundamental skills and knowledge, to include the development of 'personal, interpersonal and cognitive capabilities that allow one to diagnose what is going on in the complex, constantly shifting human and technical conteext of real world practice and then match an appropriate response.' 4
Their model includes 'the Six C's':
What does this mean for us?
The consensus is that we need to equip students to be able to adapt to their uncertain and everchanging future environment. Therefore, changing our emphasis in education from teaching content to teaching skills is vital. Students will need to develop skills in:
King Solomon's statement "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9) is true for education today as we reflect on Dorothy Sayer's observations over 70 years ago:
"For the sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain." 5
1 Sayers, D. (1947). The Lost Tools of Learning. Presented at Oxford. Retrieved from https://www.gbt.org/text/sayers.html
2 NZ Ministry of Education. (2015). New Zealand Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World [Discussion Document]. New Zealand: Author.
3 NZ Ministry of Education. (2014, May). Future-focused Learning in Connected Communities. New Zealand: 21st Century Learning Reference Group., p. 33.
4 Fullan, M. & Scott, G. (2014). Education Plus. Seattle, WA: Collaborative Impact SPC. pp.6-7
5 Sayers, D. Ibid.
Credit flexibility provides an avenue for 'gifted' or 'accelerated' students to access advanced coursework when they are ready for it, and helps to alleviate potential issues such as demotivation or boredom while they wait for their peers to 'catch up'.
Schools worldwide are increasingly moving towards competency-based assessment as their educational governing bodies make fundamental changes to the way academic credit is awarded. With this change in assessment comes increasing flexibility in the method and timing of assessment.
In the United States, Oregon continues to be leading the implementation of credit flexibility and is encouraging districts to award academic credit based on mastery rather than seat time. Since 2002, the state policies allow districts to award credit based on proficiency.1 The Ohio State Board of Education has also adopted a plan to empower “students to earn units of high school credit based on a demonstration of subject area competency, instead of or in combination with completing hours of classroom instruction.”2
New Zealand is well on the way to improving its assessment strategy, and perhaps one day soon will realise Claire Amos' idea of a national assessment framework that:
...was not just same old subjects ‘anytime, anywhere’ but rather key competencies demonstrated ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’.3
By harnessing the opportunity digital technologies provide in gathering assessment data over a period of time and in the creation of portfolios of learning, students will be able to achieve credit for competency when they meet the criteria, without having to wait to sit an examination or achieve the prescribed age.
We are excited by these future possibilities, and by NZQA’s key goal of having ‘NCEA examinations online, where appropriate, by 2020’ 4, as these will enable gifted or accelerated students early access to coursework and examinations.
1 Frost, D. (2016). Moving from Seat-Time to Competency-Based Credits in State Policy: Ensuring All Students Develop Mastery. Competency Works. Retrieved from https://www.competencyworks.org/understanding-competency-education/moving-from-seat-time-to-competency-based-credits-in-state-policy-ensuring-all-students-develop-mastery/
2 Hanover Research. (2012, October). Best Practices in Personalized Learning Environments (Grades 4-9). Washington, DC: Author. p.20
3 Amos, C. (2014). The Biggest Challenge Facing Education. Education Review - Sector Voices. New Zealand Media & Entertainment. Retrieved from https://www.educationreview.co.nz/news/2014/sector-voices-the-biggest-challenge-facing-education/ p.29
4 NZQA Statement of Intent 2016/7 - 2019/20 https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/publications/strategic-documents/soi-1617-1920/assessment/
Dumont et al (2012) suggest that there are two primary 'gatekeepers' to learning: Emotion and Motivation.
The first gatekeeper, the emotional state of a student, directly affects their ability to learn. If a student is engaged in learning within an environment that promotes a positive state of emotion, they will be better able to utilise long-term recall, for example. Conversely, a poor emotional state will disrupt their ability to learn or to be able to recall information from the lesson at a later time.
While the emotional state of students can depend upon factors outside of the classroom, educators can seek to provide a learning enviroment that helps facilitate a postive experience for each student and therefore increase their ability to learn.
"Like emotion, the presence of positive motivation towards a learning task markedly increases the likelihood that students will engage in deep learning"1
Dumont et al propose that the role of the teacher should include providing the time, space and support for student reflection to determine the usefulness of learning strategies, as well as to provide positive support for those students who may have had negative learning experiences. In other words, teachers need to identify students' interests and help them to foster intrinsic motivation.
The Basic Principles of Motivation2
Students are more motivated to engage in learning when they:
Students direct their attention away from learning when they experience negative emotions.
Students free up cognitive resources for learning when they are able to influence the intensity, duration and expression of their emotions.
Students are more persistent in learning when they can manage their resources and deal with obstacles efficiently.
Students are more motivated to enage in learning and use motivation regulation strategies when they perceive the environment as favourable for learning.
1 Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2012) The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Innovative Learning Environments Project, p.4.
2 Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2010) The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Innovative Learning Environments Project, pp.91-107.
Personalised learning, also referred to as student-centred learning, places the personal learning needs of each student as the primary goal of education, rather than what may be the preferred, more convenient or logistically easier option for teachers. According to 'The Great Schools Partnership', personalised learning is:
"intended to facilitate the academic success of each student by first determining the learning needs, interests, and aspirations of individual students, and then providing learning experiences that are customized—to a greater or lesser extent—for each student." 1
There is a general consensus that the key components of personalising learning are:
Includes target-setting linked to high-quality assessment
David Miliband, an early advocate of personalised learning in the U.K. gave a speech in which he proposed that:
"decisive progress in educational standards occurs where every child matters; careful attention is paid to their individual learning styles, motivations, and needs; there is rigorous use of pupil target-setting linked to high-quality assessment; lessons are well paced and enjoyable; and pupils are supported by partnership with others well beyond the classroom." 2
Provides clear pathways through the system
Miliband later went on to state that
"Personalised learning means every student enjoying curriculum choice, a breadth of study and personal relevance, with clear pathways through the system.” 3
1 Personalised Learning (14 May 2015) in S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/personalized-learning/
2 Miliband, D. (2004) Personalised Learning: Building a New Relationship with Schools transcript of speech given at the North of England Education Conference, Belfast, 8th January 2004. www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/personalised-learning.pdf
3 Miliband, D. (2006) Choice and Voice in Personalised Learning, OECD Personalising Education, p.25
Vygotsky introduced the social aspect of learning into constructivism. He proposed that language and the conceptual schemes that are transmitted by means of language are essentially social phenomena, and therefore knowledge is not simply constructed, it is co-constructed. Vygotsky defined the "zone of proximal learning," according to which students solve problems beyond their actual developmental level (but within their level of potential development) under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.
John Dewey, often recognised as the philosophical founder of the student-centred approach to education, stated that students working together is vital to unity and success, and that "education is a social process."2
This concept was built upon by Jonassen (1994) who proposed that constructivist learning environments support:
1 Dumont, H., Istance, D., & Benavides, F. (2012) The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, OECD Innovative Learning Environments Project, p.3
2 Dewey, J. (1897) My Pedagogic Creed. School Journal, vol. 54 (3) p. 77-80.
3 Jonassen, David H. (1994) Thinking Technology: Toward a Constructivist Design Model. Educational Technology, 34, p. 35.
Being able to lock onto learning and to resist distractions either from outside or within.
Being able to draw on a wide range of learning methods and strategies as appropriate.
Being able to think profitably about learning and themselves as learners.
Being able to make use of relationships in the most productive, enjoyable and responsible way.
Building Learning Power, Guy Claxton, 2002 p.17