Learning to Learn

I have always felt that learning is an emotional business. It requires a willingness to take risks, accept failure and have the tenacity to try again. It is important to understand not only the ‘what’ of learning, in our case the curriculum, but the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ as well. This week I observed a lesson called ‘Learning to Learn’, a new course in Year 7, which all pupils receive for one lesson per week. The overall objective of the course is to create more independent, active and reflective learners, who approach their work with the right mindset and motivation.

The focus of the first term of lessons has been looking at the ‘Why of learning’. This has considered areas such as extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, comfort zones and self-belief, goal setting, growth mindset, the fear of failure, and self-awareness. Next term, the focus will be on the ‘How of learning’ and will consider some neuroscience, memory, learning preferences and the 4 Rs of learning – registering, retaining, reviewing and recalling.

The lesson I observed kicked off with a mental challenge, where one needed to think creatively in order to find solutions. I tried and tried again, becoming concerned that after 5 minutes I could not work it out, especially when a few of the class were clearly leaving me behind. I (literally) had to think outside the box in order to find the solution and in doing so liberate my mind from self-imposed securities and rules. It was an illustration for me that there are ways of training one’s brain to explore and learn better.

The Year 7 students clearly enjoyed the challenges that they faced. In their own words:

“This lesson involves a lot of discussion and fun challenges which teach us that it is ok to fail because you can just pick yourself back up and try again”.

“I have really enjoyed Learning2Learn these past few months and it has changed my perspective about things like making mistakes”!

“Personally, Learning2Learn has been a new adventure for me as it was not even an idea at my Primary School. However, it has taught me many different skills that will stick with me for life.”

“Learning2Learn has given me the confidence and belief that everyone is free to share what they think – that there is nothing wrong with taking a leap of faith and jumping into the unknown”.

“It gives you the chance to be imaginative and creative and to unlock your mind from numbers and letters. In lessons, you complete tasks on failing and learning to deal with falling down”.

I am reminded of a quote I saw some years ago. “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you”. I hope our students will be unstoppable.

M H P Walton