Learning How to Learn

September 28, 2020

Learning how to learn is vital to success in life and the understanding and actively supporting the development of the characteristics of effective learning is a key focus at Our Monkey Club.  A recent review of the last 10 years of early years research conducted by the Early Years Coalition evidenced that this was a primary factor in predicting outcomes for children. 

There is very little point in providing access to learning opportunities and experiences for children is they do not learn how to learn.  Learning skills include investigation, exploration, critical evaluation, reflection and problem solving.  These are key skills children will continue to use throughout their lives and are more likely to have a positive impact on their life chances than knowledge based learning.

A key change in the Early Years Foundation Stage framework in 2017 was to formalise the requirement to document the Characteristics of Effective Learning  – the why’s and how’s of learning. This has been a constant focus throughout all revised versions of the curriculum.

While most practitioners have been fascinated with the way children learn for many years, this made it a legal responsibility.

While a child can learn many facts and figures in their time in education, the greatest set of skills a child can learn is ‘how to learn’.   In 5, 10 or even 20 years, a child will still know how to learn if they have;

  • learnt to explore and engage with the world,
  • learnt how to be motivated to learn,
  • learnt how to be creative and think critically .

It is these skills that will enable them to be successful in every learning experience they have as these skills will enable them to learn at a deep level.

Saljo outlined 5 types of learning in 1979.  He suggested that individuals learn by:

  1. Learning as a quantitative increase in knowledge. Learning is acquiring information or “knowing a lot”.
  2. Learning as memorising. Learning is storing information that can be reproduced.
  3. Learning as acquiring facts, skills and methods that can be retained and used as necessary.

These are the three traditional views of information transference i.e. learning.  These three types of learning are typically about adult led, adult directed, exam tested education.

The final 2 types were:

  1. Learning as making sense or abstracting meaning. Learning involves relating parts of the subject matter to each other and to the real world.
  2. Learning as interpreting and understanding reality in a different way. Learning involves comprehending the world by re-interpreting knowledge.

These are considered ‘deep level’ learning and enable children to develop concepts, constructs and beliefs about the world around them and how it works. 

It is this learning that will stay with the child throughout their lives and underpin all other learning.

This is the learning we focus on at Our Monkey Club and it is the learning the government ask us to focus on in the Early Years Foundation Stage.  We offer challenge and engage in sustained shared thinking to facilitate the child to engage in problem solving, trial and error and evaluating progress.  We support children to be creative with what they know and engage learning in context so children can immediately apply and test new understandings.

Our children become competent and independent learners and go on to be successful in the personal persuits and academically as they have the skills they need to engage.

It is not difficult to see the importance of this type of focus.  It is the learning each child asks us to focus on everyday with their questions, play and exploration. This is what feeds the motivation to learn and be a lifelong learner… our aim for every child!

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