I’m still working through the material given to me by the staff at MMHS. Last week I picked up some flash cards they had given me, which, it seemed, encapsulated ELLI – Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory. There are seven cards, each inviting the learner to reflect on a different aspect of her own learning. The headings are: Meaning making, Resilience, Learning relationships, Creativity, Strategic awareness, Critical curiosity, Changing and Learning.The first thing that struck me was that all the words for these processes are abstract – produced by nominalization. How do young children cope with this?
The second was that it made explicit the thinking processes that go on in all of us learners when we are trying to come to terms with new learning. I should have been much more effective as a teacher if I had been consciously aware of this programme.
Illuminating as the analysis is, I wondered how it was used in practice in schools. Is it yet another subject added on to an already overloaded curriculum? Fortunately, Bob Farmer came to the rescue again with the recommendation of a book that describes how it works:
Ruth Deakin Crick: Learning Power in Practice
To answer my question: some time is indeed set aside for orientating learners to awareness of how their brains are working when they learn, but this seems to be a small part of it. The principal way in which learners are encouraged to reflect on their learning is by the teachers changing their lessons to incorporate conscious learning processes alongside the subject matter of the lessons. For example, when teaching a science lesson with a knotty problem, the teacher focussed on resilience, that is the need to stick at things. Even if she did not solve the problem, she was aware of success in improving her learning skills. Also, when giving individual tuition, the teacher has a language for helping a learner to improve in a specific way.
My two days at MMHS gave me an insight to this powerful programme in practice: most obviously, the way the French teacher made his pupils aware of the three stages of learning: input, activation and consolidation (more nominalizations!).
In the project lesson I visited, the learning process was at least as important as the subject matter being explored (the learners’ own family trees). I imagine that the project work which dominates the first three years is the main vehicle for training in reflection.
The whole programme accounts in large measure for the quiet, serious, friendly atmosphere of the school. I can’t wait to learn more! And oh, to be young again and starting over!