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Think of a particular learner who (as far as you are able to tell) seems to be an effective learner. What can you see/hear that learner doing/saying which makes you think they are an effective learner?
This reflection regularly leads teachers to identify areas such as:
making connections (between experiences, ideas, people, contexts)
using a range of sources and resources: people
offering a commentary on the process of learning
being able to plan, review, change strategy etc
demonstrating curiosity and risk-taking.
Such qualities are rarely given explicit support or development in many aspects of school life, yet they are core features of what is understood to be an effective learner. The word 'effective' is rarely defined, despite being used frequently. In order to define it we need to recognise the context and the goals: effective for when? Effective for what? In current times:
Effective learning in classrooms
The typical classroom is not necessarily the best-designed environment for what we now know about learning. The busy, public, multi-dimensional nature of classroom life makes it one of the most complex environments on the planet. Classrooms sometimes seem to develop a life of their own in which learning is a neglected focus. Yet, against the odds, there are times when effective learning occurs in that context. So, what can we learn from the best of those times?
No single (or simple) learning strategy
Effective learners have learned how to become effective learners. This involves not just the acquisition of strategies, but the monitoring and reviewing of learning to see whether particular strategies are effective. No one strategy works for all goals and purposes (although some of them are sold as though this was the case!).
an activity of construction, not one of reception
handled with others, or (even when alone) in the context of others
driven by learner's agency (intentions and choices).
Effective learning is all of these at their best, plus the monitoring and review of whether approaches and strategies are proving effective for the particular goals and context. How can you help learners become more effective at checking whether their strategies are effective?
How can I teach for effective learning?
When planning teaching for learning, our task as teachers, is to focus on the experience for learners, rather than on what we are going to say and do.
Learners go through four phases:
Do Review Learn Apply
in a circular, ever-developing manner. The following matrix plots these four phases on each of the aspects which evidence has shown to promote effective learning.
Learning about learning
Tasks are designed for learner activity, using or creating materials, texts, performances
Tasks in small groups connect to create a larger whole (by roles or by parts)
Learners exercise choice and plan their approaches
Learners are encouraged to notice aspects of their learning as they engage in tasks
Learners stop to notice what happened, what was important, how it felt, etc.
Learners bring ideas together and review how the group has operated
Learners monitor their progress and review their plans
Learners describe what they notice and review their learning (goals, strategies, feelings, outcome, context)
New insights and understandings are made explicit
Explanations of topic and of how the group functioned are voiced across the group
Factors affecting progress are identified and new strategies devised
Richer conceptions of learning are voiced and further reflective inquiry is encouraged
Future action is planned in light of new understanding. Transferring that understanding to other situations is examined
Future possibilities for group and community learning are considered
Plans are revised to accommodate recent learning
Learners plan to notice more and to experiment with their approaches to learning
Knowing where to turn for help and advice before you start your student placement and first teaching job will assist you to thrive, not just survive. This handy booklet - new for 2013 - not only includes tips on things like finding your first teaching job, settling in during the first few weeks, parents' evenings and writing reports, but also answers commonly asked questions and explains how ATL can help and support you. This edition replaces two previous ATL publications, Into the Classroom and Ready, steady, teach!, which were specifically for student teachers and newly qualified teachers respectively.