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Teaching learning to learn

Fostering skills

Teachers need to teach and scaffold so that their learners can:

  • set challenging yet appropriate goals
  • identify useful, important, and relevant success criteria
  • plan appropriate learning steps
  • give and receive feedback
  • interpret and use assessment information and feedback
  • evaluate their progress.

Teachers need to provide regular opportunities for their students to use these strategies. Learning to learn should be taught in the context of real learning.

Providing a supportive environment

Classroom communities need to nurture trusting relationships so that learners feel safe sharing their learning outcomes and needs with others.

Classroom layout can also facilitate reciprocal interaction and enable learners to access required resources, including their assessment records.

Fostering learner identities

Children begin developing their identities as learners from a very young age. Their early experiences help to form learning dispositions.

The fundamental purpose of education for the 21st Century ... is ... facilitating the development of the capacity and the confidence to engage in lifelong learning. Central to this enterprise is the development of positive learning dispositions, such as resilience, playfulness and reciprocity.

Claxton and Carr, 2002, ECE Educate

Teachers can help students to identify their personal learning preferences and challenges so that they can take greater control of their own learning and achieve their goals.

Students’ self-confidence grows as they become aware of the conditions for learning and find they can control some of these conditions.

Absolum et al., 2009, page 21

Key tasks for the teacher include:

  • ensuring joint construction of and clarity about goals and learning outcomes
  • planning learning opportunities that support learners’ goals
  • checking frequently on learners’ understanding of learning intentions, on progress in relationship to success criteria, and on next steps
  • enabling learners to develop the language and metacognitive skills to discuss and reflect on their own learning.
Teacher and student reading.
Case study

Starting young

At Mangere Bridge School, all students from year 1 work towards becoming self-regulated learners.

“The expectation and experience is that all students have the capacity to take ownership of their learning, given the training and opportunities within the classroom. A key point is that these skills have to be taught and supported to continue,” says Rosina Prasad, a year 1–2 teacher.

Sharing of assessment information enables students, teachers, and parents to work in partnership to improve teaching and learning.

As teacher Elizabeth Crisp says, “Sharing that data with [students] empowers them to do something about it. And it also becomes important in sharing with their parents, because that leads into a learning partnership between home and school ... It means we are all on the same page, and we can all work to help the children achieve those learning goals.”

Mangere Bridge supports its students to articulate what they have learnt and work out their next steps in partnership with the teacher, a process giving them ownership of and responsibility for their learning. In the words of one younger student, “Well, I know how to write a sentence now ... What do I need to do? I think I need to be able to write two of them.”

Teacher Don Biltcliff says, “Once they see the need for their next piece of learning, I can incorporate that into my planning. And I make it explicit to the children that this is my job. My job is to make sure that you understand what your next step in your learning is going to be.”

Guiding questions He pātai

  • How well do our learners understand and use language and concepts for effective setting and assessment of personal goals?
  • Do our classroom systems support learners to regularly and routinely monitor their personal progress?

Download the full print version: Issue 21: May 2012 (PDF, 1 MB)