Building powerful learners with purpose

In response to the challenge posed by technology, there needs to be a shift in education, not only in what is studied, but in how students are developed as learners, writes Jann Robinson, Principal of Sydney’s St Luke’s Grammar School.

The knowledge world has shifted significantly with the impact of technology. This has put access to information in the hands of young people. No longer will success be measured by what young people know, rather it will be measured by their ability to know what to do with what they know. Young people still need a grounding in the fundamentals of knowledge but they need to be able to be adaptable and flexible if they are to adjust to the changes they will encounter. This shift comes at a cost because uncertainty does unsettle young people as they seek to make sense of the world and their place in it.

In response to the challenge, there needs to be a shift in education, not only in what is studied, but in how students are developed as learners, and, ultimately as people who can take their place confidently in the world. The work of Guy Claxton in Building Learning Power, shifts the emphasis from students being passive learners and having education “done to them” to empowering them to be learners who can meet the challenges of a changing world confidently. The model actively teaches seventeen learning dispositions, allowing students to take ownership of their learning. The dispositions needed to be powerful learners are the same character traits needed to be able to cope in a rapidly changing world. Claxton’s model has four domains (resilience, resourcefulness, reciprocity and reflectiveness) encompassing the intellectual, emotional and relational aspects of personhood. Claxton’s work is well researched and there are a number of schools throughout the UK and Australia who have become building learning powered schools as they face the challenge of developing students who will be able to flourish beyond school because they are people of character.

Character is built by the habits developed day by day. These habits start with every choice made to act in a particular way. It is the repeated nature of making the choice that results in the habit being formed. Seeking to establish good habits comes about by the explicit teaching of the dispositions for becoming powerful learners. This teaching cannot be done in isolation, rather it must be done alongside the academic content if it is to gain traction. At St Luke’s, for the past three years, this is what has been happening. In every classroom, teachers design learning experiences not only with knowledge outcomes, but with an explicit opportunity for students to develop the dispositions. Significantly, students are able to talk about how learning has changed for them and how they are less focused on marks and more focused on understanding themselves as learners.

As the students grow their learning dispositions, they grow into people who are not just focused on themselves. Many of the dispositions have a focus on others with the dispositions of empathy, listening, collaboration, perseverance and making links being critical. Many of these dispositions are in the emotional domain. Students are being enabled to become critical and creative thinkers who can see more than one dimension.

Beyond Claxton’s four domains, St Luke’s added a fifth domain, to reflect the School’s Christian faith. This domain, restoration, has the dispositions of grace, humility, justice and compassion. These dispositions are practised in the classroom where students are encouraged to have a humility of mind, to be open to new learning and to act with grace towards one another. In the wider world, students explore justice and compassion working with those who don’t have the same opportunities. They are being encouraged to give back to the world, not to just be consumers, but striving to be the difference in the world they want to see.

Five tips for students to build powerful learning habits:

  • Reflection: Ask yourself how will this shape me as a person?
  • Resilience: Don’t give up when learning is hard.
  • Reciprocity: Develop empathy by learning to listen.
  • Resourcefulness: Think about the choices you make and the impact of those choices.
  • Restoration: Be humble enough to engage with new ideas.

Five tips for parents to build powerful learners:

  • Reflection: When your child is stuck don’t just give the answer but ask questions like “Have you seen something like this before?’
  • Resilience: Encourage perseverance.
  • Reciprocity: When asked a question about something, before you answer say “what do you think?”
  • Resourcefulness: When things go wrong ask, “what might you have done differently?
  • Restoration: Allow children to take risks in their learning. Don’t just look at the marks, but ask about the learning.

About St Luke’s Grammar School

St Luke’s Grammar School is an independent Anglican, co-educational School, with two campuses on Sydney’s beautiful northern beaches.  One campus is located in Dee Why (Pre-K to Year 12) and a second campus is in Bayview (Pre-K to Year 6).

Families choose St Luke’s because they place value in their child attending a local and reputable mid-size School that seeks to provide small school individualised student focused learning, with larger school co-curricular opportunities, experiences and results.

Share this