The Learning Challenge: Guiding Students Through The Learning Pit The materials contained in this PDF are copyrighted, and the availability of these

121 KB – 41 Pages

PAGE – 2 ============
This document is an authorised extract from The Learning Challenge: Gui ding Students Through The Learning Pit by James Nottingham Full copies of the book can be bought from: Bazalt Œ Dutch version Corwin Press Œ US English and UK English versions available www.corwin. com Dafolo Œ Danish version Natur och Kultur Œ Swedish version The materials contained in this PDF are copyrighted, and the availabili ty of these materials does not constitute a transfer of any intellectual property rights. James No ttingham encourages users to use these materials to support learning but the materials and any deriva tives created by users may not be sold or distributed without the written consent of James Notting ham™s company, Challenging Learning. Further details of The Learning Pit can be found on the following sites: Twitter: @TheLearningPit

PAGE – 3 ============
171. INTRODUCTION TO THE LEARNING CHALLENGE The most important points in this chapter include: The Learning Challenge is designed to help students think and talk about th eir learning. In some ways, it is a child-friendly representation of Vygotsky™s Zone of P roximal Development (1978) in that describes the move from actual to potential understandin g. It can help develop a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006); prompt people to explore alternatives an d contradictions; and encourage learners to willingly step outside their comfort zone. The Learning Challenge can work with all school-aged students as well as wi th adults. Originally, I developed the model to help 9-13 year olds understand the role of uncertain ty in learning but then broadened its application to be useful for anyone from the age of 3 onward s. Although it wasn™t published until I wrote my first book, Challenging Learning in 201 0, it has been shared far and wide at education conferences and workshops since the late 1990™s. Si nce then, it captured the imagination of educators, students and their parents. It has featured in many periodicals, articles and books. It appears on many classroom walls around the world. It h as even made it into the UK™s Financial Times newspaper (Green, 2016). I™d like to think its popularity is due to its contribution in making learn ing more engaging and long-lasting. And from what many people tell me, that is indeed a key reason. Bu t of course it doesn™t explain the whole story. Other reasons would include how w ell it sits alongside 1.0 PREVIEW 1.0 INTRODUCTION1. The Learning Challenge encourages learners to investigate contradictions and uncertainties so that they might more deeply understand what it is they are thinking about. 2. The Learning Challenge is a frame of reference for students to talk and think more accurately and extensively about their own learning. 3. At the heart of the Learning Challenge is ‚the pit™. Someone is said to be ‚in the pit™ when they have a set of unresolved, contradictory ideas about something they are trying to understand. 4. Learners are not in the pit when they have no idea. To be in the pit is to have many ideas that are as yet unsorted. 5. The Learning Challenge is designed to help learners step out of their comfort zone so that they might discover insights that are more meaningful and long lasting.

PAGE – 4 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 18John Hattie™s Visible Learning (Hattie, 2011) and Carol Dweck™s Mindset (D weck, 2006). The model also helps to explain and build on the SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs and Colli s, 2007) and is an effective way to structure Philosophy for Children (Lipman, 192 2-2010) and other approaches to dialogue. It can guide metacognitive questions such as ho w does my final answer compare to my earlier thoughts; which strategies worked best for me this ti me; and what could I do better next time? It also offers a rich language and framework for ta lking about Œ and thinking about Œ learning in general. Perhaps the main reason for the popularity of the Learning Challenge is its s implicity. It is easy enough to be understood by the youngest learners in schools and yet complex e nough to keep the most advanced learners interested. Although that can also be a bit of a dou ble-edged sword leading to some ‚interesting™ misinterpretations, the simplicity and complexity is also part of what makes the Learning Challenge relevant to so many people. As with so many models, the Learning Challenge did not start life as the one you se e described and illustrated in this book. In fact, it began life as the Teaching Target Mode l. I created the ‚Teaching Target Model™ early in my teaching career as a way to exp lain to my students what progress looks like. This is how I explained it to them: The (CA) line represents Current Ability. This is the upper limit of wh at you are able to do independently. The (SA) line represents Subconscious Ability. This is what you are able to d o ‚automatically™. It is something you can do without having to think at all about it, like hold a pen, wal k normally, say your name and so on. The (PA) line represents Potential Ability. This is how far you can reach bey ond what you can do comfortably right now. Typically, you will need to be challenged and/or s upported to get to this next stage of development. A good example to think about is learning to ride a bicycle. Presumably the fir st bike you rode had stabilisers (or trainer wheels) on the back. Though you might have foun d it strange to begin with, no doubt you will have got the hang of pedalling and before long will hav e been riding a bike with stabilisers with ease. This is what we could call an action within yo ur Practice Zone. You didn™t need to deliberately think about it; you just got on and away you went . Figure 1: The Teaching Target Model Performance Time Learning Zone Practice Zone ˜˚˛˝˙ˆ˝ˇ˘˝ ˝ ˙˛˝ ˝ ˝ ’š˙š˝˜ ˜˚˛˝˙ˆ˝˝ ˜˛˜˝ ˘˘ˇ˝˝ ˝

PAGE – 5 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 19Later, one of your parents will have suggested taking your stabilisers of f the bike. Then what happened? You wobbled. You fell off and got back on again. You probably compl ained that it was it was easier before and asked why you had to do it. Nonetheless you perseve red with encouragement and kept going until eventually you got the hang of it. Throu ghout that time of wobbling, feeling unsure, wondering if you would ever succeed, you were i n the Learning Zone. One of the best-known Educational Psychologists, Lev Vygotsky calle d this the Zone of Proximal Development but we will call it the Learning Zone (or the Wobble Zone if you pref er). That is what learning is all about: wobbling. If you are doing something that yo u can already do then you are practising. Whereas learning requires you to step out of your co mfort zone; to go beyond your Current Ability (CA) and try things that will make you w obble. Playing it safe by staying in your comfort zone and doing what you can already do, will probably re sult in correct answers and completed work. I used to remind my students that we are here to lear n together, not just ‚do™ together. So I encourage you to take every opportunity you can to g o beyond your Current Ability (CA) and be prepared to wobble. If you are wobbling then you ar e learning. And if you are learning then you will flourish. My students generally responded very well to this model. They felt as if they w ere being given permission to take risks, try new things and get things wrong. This contrast ed with a common belief they had developed earlier in their school life that the most import ant thing was to get things right, even if that meant playing safe and going for the easier option. O f course I wanted them to get things right but I also wanted them to learn. So if it was a choice between getting things right or learning through mistakes then I was very much in favour of the l atter. A drawback to the Teaching Target Model however, was that I would represent t he movement between practice and learning as a series of peaks and troughs, as you can see in F igure 1. My students would often interpret this as a series of mountains and valleys , with the top of the mountain representing the most ‚wobbly™ part of learning. Though i n many ways this was nice, it just didn™t quite feel right to me. On the one hand, I was trying to use the model to re assure my students that learning often makes people feel uncertain and vague but on t he other hand, they were recalling the feelings of achievement and satisfaction people of ten feel when they reach the top of an actual mountain. So I knew it had to change but I wasn™t sure how. Then when I heard John Edwa rds (see Acknowledgements) talking about a pit, I had my ‚aha™ moment. I jus t needed to invert the Teaching Target Model and make the ‚Wobble Mountain™ a ‚Learning Pit. ™ That way, the uncertainty and risk of learning could be represented by a pit rather tha n a mountain top. And so the Learning Challenge evolved into the model you see today; one that ha s a pit at the core. Figure 2: The Learning Challenge Clarity 1234Confusion THE PIT 1. Concept 2. Conflict 3. Construct 4. Consider ˇ˝ ƒ˝ ˝ ‹˝˛˝ ˝ ˛˝ ˛˝ ˝ ˝˜˚˘ˇ˝˝ ˝ ˛˝ ⁄˝

PAGE – 6 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 20The Learning Challenge promotes challenge, dialogue and a growth m indset. It offers participants the opportunity to think and talk about their own learning. I t encourages a depth of inquiry that moves learners from surface level knowledge to deep unders tanding. It encourages an exploration of causation and impact; an interpretation and compariso n of meaning; a classification and sequencing of detail; and a recognition and ana lysis of pattern. It builds learners™ resilience, determination and curiosity. And it nurtures a love of learning. At the heart of the Learning Challenge is ‚the pit™. A person could be said to be ‚in t he pit™ when they are in a state of cognitive conflict. That is to say when a person has two or more i deas that make sense to them but when compared side by side, appear to be in conflict with ea ch other. Deliberately and strategically creating a state of cognitive confli ct in the minds of learners is at the heart of the Learning Challenge. Examples of cognitive conflicts that commonly arise during Learning Ch allenge episodes include: Ł I believe that stealing is wrong but I also believe that Robin Hood did the right t hing. Ł Children are taught that an odd number cannot be divided into two but 3 cakes ca n be shared equally between 2 friends. Ł I think it is wrong to kill animals but I also eat meat. Ł Young children should not talk to strangers but are advised to approach a po lice officer or shop worker if they are lost. Ł A liquid is thought of as a substance that flows freely but so does sand and that is n ot a liquid. Ł Students know that studying will help to improve but often can™t see the poi nt in studying more. Ł Telling a lie is viewed as a negative but writing fictional stories is viewe d as positive Œ so what is the difference? Ł Food is a substance that gives energy and yet many things give energy (e.g. sun shine or encouragement) but are not normally regarded as food. Ł A hero is someone who takes risks on behalf of others but then so do terrorists. Ł Young children are taught that an odd number cannot be divided by two and yet if a c hild has five pieces of fruit then they can still divide them equally between two pe ople. Ł Justice is seen as a good thing whereas revenge is thought of as a negative and ye t they both seem to be about settling a score; so what is the difference? Ł When we hold discussions with our students, we expect them to show respect f or other people™s ideas and yet there are many extreme views that perhaps we would not w ant them to respect. When people think through these or other examples of cognitive conflict s then they are said to be ‚in the pit.™ There are more examples of cognitive conflict throughou t chapters 5 and 10. 1.2 THE LEARNING CHALLENGE: A QUICK GUIDEThe Learning Challenge is designed to encourage (literally: give cour age to) your students so that they might better understand themselves and each oth er more; so that they develop a sense of clarity and discernment in their thinkin g; and ultimately so that they become more aware of who they are and what they stand for. As one of my students once said: ‚how do you know what you think until you™ve thought it?™ ˘ˇ˝˝ ˚˝ ˝ ˇ ˝ ˛€˝ ‘˛˝ ˛˝ ˇ

PAGE – 8 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 221.3 UNDERPINNING VALUESThere are many values and beliefs upon which the Learning Challenge is base d. Here are the most important ones. 1. Challenge Makes Learning More Interesting At the heart of the Learning Challenge is the belief that challenge makes learning more stimulating and worthwhile. This is in contrast to making learning simp ler and more elementary, which has its place but is not ideal much of the time. To illustrate the point, please compare the two paths shown in Figure 3. As you wi ll see, the path on the left is straightforward and is likely to get you to your destination qui ckly. Whereas the path to the right is filled with obstacles and will require greater effort to reac h your goal. Of course if you were in a rush then the obvious path to take is the one on the left. But if I were to ask you to choose the path most interesting then which one would you go for? Which one looks to be the more engaging and thought-provoking? Which one is m ost likely to lead you into discussion with other people about the best strategies goin g forward? Which one are you most likely to look back on and review with enthusiasm? Which is going to g ive you the most satisfaction when you eventually reach your goal? And which route ar e you most likely to remember months, maybe even years from now because of the effort you had to put i n to get through it? Hopefully you™ve answered ‚the right path™ to each of those questions . If not then I™ve got a persuasion job on my hands as well as an instructional one! This imagery is one way to describe the Learning Challenge journey. Takin g on the Learning Challenge and going through the pit is the equivalent of taking the path to the r ight. Figure 3: The Path to Challenge ˝ ⁄˝ ˛˝˝ ˝ ˝ ˘˝ ˇ ˜˚˛˝˙ˆ˝˝ ˝ ˜˝ ˝ ˝ ˝ ˝

PAGE – 9 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 23That is not something that I would advocate in every situation or in every less on. Of course, there are many situations in which an easy answer is needed. But I do think every s tudent should frequently engage in the Learning Challenge so they will, as Guy Claxton wo uld put it, ‚build their learning muscles™ (Claxton, 2002). 2. Dialogue Enhances Learning As my co-authors and I explored in more depth in our book, Challenging Learning Through Dialogue (2017), Professor Robin Alexander (2006) found that: 1. Dialogue is undervalued in many schools when compared with writing, reading and maths. 2. Dialogue does not get in the way of ‚real™ teaching. In fact, by comparing PI SA and other international tests, he shows it is possible to teach more through di alogue and yet still be ‚at or near the top™ of the tables. 3. Dialogue is the foundation of learning because it allows interaction and engagement with knowledge and with the ideas of others. Through dialogue, teachers ca n most effectively intervene in the learning process by giving instant feedb ack, guidance and stimulation to learners. 4. Dialogue in education is a special kind of talk, in that it uses structured q uestioning to guide and prompt students™ conceptual understanding. The Learning Challenge involves the type of reflective, respectful di alogue described. The focus for participants is in challenging each other, asking appropriate ques tions, articulating problems and issues, imagining life™s possibilities, seeing where things lea d, evaluating alternatives, engaging with others and thinking collaboratively. A different way to describe this is to talk of the ‚co-construction™ of under standing. Written about by many theorists, most notably Lev Vygotsky (1978) and Jerome Bruner (19 57), the idea of co-construction can be described using these main features: Ł Learning and development is a social, collaborative activity. We don ™t learn inside a vacuum; we learn by mimicking and engaging with others. Ł Social construction is connected to ‚real life™ in that it focuses on matt ers that are important and relevant to participants. Ł Learning has a social context: participants learn from each other a nd influence each other™s learning. And so it is with the Learning Challenge. Lessons that are based upon or involv e the Learning Challenge can be distinguished by these characteristics of co-const ruction. The Learning Challenge promotes a more rigorous and exploratory path to learning as a way to reach a deeper understanding of concepts. The Learning Challenge relies on high quality dialogue. At its best, dial ogue is one of the best vehicles for learning how to think, how to be reasonable, how to make moral decisions and how to understand another person™s point of view. It is supremely flexible, instructional, collabora tive and rigorous. Done well, dialogue is one of the best ways for participants to learn good habits of thinking. ˘˛ˇ‰˝˙ˆ˝˝ ˝ ˛˝ ˝ ˜˚˛˝˝ ˙ˆ˝˝ ˝

PAGE – 10 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 243. We Are All Fallible The Learning Challenge encourages all participants including the teacher or facilitator, to be open about their own fallibility and to willingly explore flaws in their ow n thinking so that everyone may learn more together. This means that phrases such as ‚I™m not sure™, ‚per haps™, ‚maybe™ and ‚I was wondering™ are to be encouraged throughout the dialogue. To some peo ple, these sorts of phrases reveal ignorance or weak-mindedness. Yet in the context of the L earning Challenge, they are intended to reveal the ideals of open-mindedness and hypothesi s-testing. It is as Bertrand Russell wrote in an essay lamenting the rise of Nazism in 1933 , ‚The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cock-sure whils t the intelligent are full of doubt.™ Or as the celebrated Irish poet W B Yeats wrote in The Second Coming , ‚The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.™ ( Yeats, 1919) So when you engage your students in the Learning Challenge, please encour age – and model Œ the values of open-mindedness and exploration since these are vital for t he success of this approach. Linked to these ideals is the notion that there might not be one, agreed ‚right ™ answer at the end of it all. Although most of the time, some form of agreement is reachable, ther e are occasions, particularly with the more open-ended, philosophical questions when no satisfactory conclusion is achievable in the timeframe you have. But that is not to say the experience wi ll be any the less worthwhile, as is explored in principle four next. However, it would be wor th mentioning that: 4. Process Is As Important As Outcome The process of learning is often more important than getting the right answ er, particularly with Learning Challenge sessions. A learning focus includes an emphasis on q uestioning, challenging, striving to get better and on beating personal bests. This contrasts with a p erformance focus that hinges on grades, attainment, showing what you can do and on beating each othe r. As numerous teachers and their students will testify, far too many school s focus primarily on performance (‚it™s the grades that count™) And yet improved performan ce comes from a learning focus whereas learning does not always come from a performance focus. That is why process is more important than getting the answer right in the Learning Challenge . Of course, if you can get your students to deeply engage in learning and help them to reach a satisfactory answer then that is ideal. But if your students go in to the pit and don™t come out (yet) then don™t worry: it doesn™t mean they haven™t benefitted from the ex perience. So long as you keep encouraging them to go beyond their first answers to seek alternat ive explanations; ask questions such as why, if and what about; see problems as part of the learnin g process rather than things to be avoided; make connections, find the significan ce of parts in relation to the whole and look for ways to transfer ideas to other contexts, then they wil l improve their competence rather than simply prove they have got the right answer. Sometimes participants in the Learning Challenge will enter the pit and stay there! They should not feel disheartened by this. Nor should they feel abandoned as they are likely to be in the pit with others. Instead, they should feel invigorated by finding one of life™s great, unanswered q uestions. If you and your students focus on learning then their performance grades will also increase. However, if you and your students focus on grades alone then rich learning opportunities might be missed along the way. ˜˚˛˝˙ˆ˝˝ • ˝ ˝ ˜˚˛˝˝ ˝ „–˛ˇ˝ ˛˝ ˘ˇ˝˝ ˙ˆ›˝ ”˛˘ˇ˝

PAGE – 11 ============
1. Introduction To The Learning Challenge 255. Hattie™s Mindframes for Learning John Hattie is currently Laureate Professor and Director of the Melbour ne Education Research Institute. He is known throughout the world for his ground-breaking com parison of thousands of studies relating to learning. In his seminal book, Visible Learning (Ha ttie, 2008) he ranked 138 effects taken from 800 meta-analyses that included more than 50,000 s tudies in education. He updated this list to 150 effects in his follow-up book, Visible Learning f or Teachers (Hattie, 2011) and more recently to a list of 195 effects in The Applicabi lity of Visible Learning to Higher Education (Hattie, 2015) in which he compared more than 1200 me ta-analyses relating to influences on learning and achievement. From all of this work, one of the many powerful messages is related to beli efs about learning: what Hattie calls Mindframes. Hattie has proposed 10 Mindframes so far. O f these, the ones that the Learning Challenge contributes towards include: I engage in positive relationships Œ Hattie has shown that teacher-student relationships influence learning almost twice as much as the average effect. These rela tionships, whether student-teacher relationships or the relationships students hav e with peers tend to be improved by going ‚through the pit™ together. Indeed, it is the social effect of uniti ng together to get through the pit that is very often the first benefit noticed by teachers and leaders af ter their students have engaged with the Learning Challenge. I use the language of learning Œ Hattie has found a strong link between a focus on learning (rather than a focus on teaching) and improved educational outcomes. Th e Learning Challenge offers an opportunity for students to talk about very abstract notions of l earning in a more user- friendly and practical way. For example, being fiin the pitfl is shorthand fo r cognitive conflict or cognitive dissonance; coming out of the pit is a way to talk about social cons truction; and reviewing the learning journey is one way to make metacognitive strateg ies a part of daily conversation in the classroom. I engage in dialogue, not monologue Œ The Learning Challenge is founded on challenge through dialogue. Sometimes this dialogue is internal. More often it i s inter-personal, exploratory talk between students and students, and between students and their teac hers. And what they talk about are concepts, strategies and attitudes for learning Œ all of whi ch are building blocks for educational success. I see learning as hard work Œ The Learning Challenge makes learning more engaging and longer lasting by making it harder work. The Learning Challenge takes a s eemingly simple concept and reveals its complexities in such a way as to intrigue and beguile s tudents. By working through these nuances, students ultimately reach a ‚eureka ™ moment that convinces them that effort is worthwhile and that actually the harder learning is, th e more satisfying it can be. 6. Dweck™s Growth Mindset Carol S. Dweck is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Sta nford University. Her best-selling book, Mindset (2006) has sold over a million copies. In 200 9, she received the E L Thorndike Award for Career Achievement in Educational Psychology. P revious winners include B F Skinner, Benjamin Bloom and Jean Piaget, so she is in good company! Her research focuses on the beliefs people have about intelligence and ta lents and how these ‚mindsets™ affect behaviour. She examines the reasons why people get in to different mindsets and the impact these differing beliefs have on motivation, resilience a nd success. I enjoy challenge Œ Hattie asserts that we should teach students to recognis e the benefit of challenge. He has found that too many of us rush to the aid of our students whereas it would be better to encourage our students to persevere and to learn from their errors. This idea is at the very heart of the Learning Challenge. ˝ ˝ ‰˝˙ˆ˝–˝ ˝ ˜˚˛˝ˇ˝ ˙ˆ˝˝ ˝ ˝

121 KB – 41 Pages