Ethos, Relationships and Space
Children’s experiences of learning are founded on the values of the school being lived out through a positive ethos, a psychologically safe space and developed relationships with adults and peers (Hart & Hodson, 2008). These interact to provide a powerful vehicle through which to communicate high challenge, expectations and support so that children are empowered to grow through productive success and struggle (Praetorius et al., 2018). We purposefully avoid any ability-based labelling such children being referred to as ‘top’, ‘middle’ and ‘bottom’ (Swann, 2014). The Learning Without Limits research team documented three principles common in teaching and learning communities that served to develop children’s learning capacity: co-agency, the ethic of everybody and trust. Dependent both on what children and teachers do separately and together, they emphasise the importance of establishing inclusive relationships, expectations and language that does not limit children and pedagogies that support children to take ownership of their own learning (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Children develop motivation through feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness (Guay et al., 2008).
We have identified three golden threads that hold considerable potential for fostering learning autonomy, vital for young people to grapple with the diversities of the 21st-century world. These threads develop in children’s self-regulated learning in relation to:
- Oracy and dialogue
- Playful enquiry
- Habits of mind
Habits of Mind
The ability of children to manage their own behaviours and emotions is a key part of self-regulation, a process increasingly recognised as pivotal in developing effective learning. As children learn how to learn, they make secure connections between success, effort and the deployment of appropriate strategies. The complex interplay between motivation, social and emotional factors and a child’s ability to think about knowledge and thinking (metacognition) is widely accepted as central in influencing performance and structuring memory (Whitebread, 2000). Children’s view of self-efficacy is key and is supported through dialogue that shapes thinking that success or failure is something that children have ownership of and can change through their actions (Yeager & Walton, 2011). The 16 factors of learning were termed Habits of Mind by Costa & Kallick (2000).
Oracy and Dialogue
In a world that is increasingly interconnected, complex communication skills are widely recognised as invaluable characteristics of productive and intercultural citizens (Autor, Levy & Murnan, 2003). It is therefore essential that a school curriculum enables the potential for learners to develop an ability to articulate their ideas and through active listening engage in ‘inter-thinking’ where they can build on the ideas of their own and others (Alexander, 2017). This kind of talk in which children listen to each other engaging with ideas, share relevant knowledge and justify their ideas and reasoning is known as ‘Productive’ or ‘Exploratory’ forms of dialogue (Howe & Abedin, 2013). Children need opportunities to both learn through talk and learn how to talk.
It is recognised that children experiencing some feeling of being in control of their environment and their learning is fundamental to them developing confidence in themselves, and their responsibility to positively manage setbacks and challenges (Goswami, 2015). In play, children set their own tasks, which may or may not be goal oriented. Sometimes the pleasure in a playful activity is gained through engaging with and exploring a process, with no particular end in mind. Children spontaneously set themselves challenges in their play and, given a choice, will often choose a task which is more challenging than one which an adult might have thought appropriate. Providing children with achievable challenges, and supporting them so they can meet them, is a powerful way to encourage positive attitudes to learning, and the children’s independent ability to take on challenging tasks (Whitebread & Coltman, 2016).
A set of ‘pedagogical repertoires’ (Alexander, 2000) help our educators to nurture the types of autonomous, creative and articulate attributes we seek to develop in our learners. We:
- Encourage every child to contribute
- Empower children to lead their own learning (e.g. through a self-regulating environment)
- Plan irresistible learning with excellent subject/skills knowledge; made meaningful through cross curricular links
- Design purposeful learning tasks that engage positive behaviour
- Develop pedagogical and subject-specific expertise in ways that brings learning alive
- Develop classroom cultures, ethos and norms where everyone is expected to learn more, better and be ambitious for themselves and everyone else in the school community
The following core pedagogies outline some of the common approaches used at our school to support children to access the curriculum .