Rationale for our Approach
We continuously reflect on the best way to support children in their learning and development, academically, socially and emotionally.
Our staff are passionate about our approach and continually review their practice to ensure it leads to the best outcomes for children. Being informed by current research is integral to our approach.
For those of you who would like to know more about the research that underpins our approach, we have put together some information and links to enable you to explore this further.
Our Lifelong Learning Skills are derived from the work of Professor Guy Claxton. Taking his work as our inspiration, we aim to help pupils develop positive learning dispositions through the four Rs: Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reflection and Reciprocity. All children, even the very youngest, are supported to develop these characteristics of an effective learner. Development of these learning dispositions is embedded in our practice at Ridgeway. Powerful, lifelong learners have the following skills:
· Open to feedback
At our school:
· There is a culture of learning to learn
· Adults and children talk about ‘learning’, not ‘work’
· Child-led learning allows children ownership of their learning
· Contexts for Learning give children the scope to be enquiring, independent and flexible
· Children are actively involved in the process of learning
· Conversations with children refer back to the learning dispositions
· Children understand how they are developing as learners
· Immediate verbal feedback refers to learning skills, as well as academic skills
Professor Carol Dweck discovered that children’s mindset – how they perceive their abilities – plays a key role in their motivation and achievement. Professor Dweck proposes that there are two mindsets in our approach to activities: Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset.
· A person with a Growth Mindset believes that their intelligence can be developed.
· A person with a Fixed Mindset believes that their intelligence is fixed.
Her research found that children who believe their intelligence could be developed outperform those who believe their intelligence is fixed. She suggests helping children learn how to “grow” their brains and getting them to focus on the process that leads to learning (e.g. hard work or trying new strategies), as this helps foster a growth mindset. Dweck also stresses the need for children to understand that it is a combination of effort, trying new strategies and seeking input from others when they are stuck, which helps them learn and improve.
The Learning Challenge, or Learning Pit, created by James Nottingham, promotes challenge, dialogue and a growth mindset. It is one way to make challenge more appealing to learners. It gives a frame of reference to talk about learning and also helps with planning, reviewing and metacognition. Learners are said to be “in the pit” when they are in a state of “cognitive conflict” (i.e. when learners have two or more ideas that make sense to them but which, on reflection, are in conflict with each other).
· It begins with a concept, which can come from the media, conversation, observations or the curriculum. So long as students have at least some understanding of the concept then the Learning Challenge can work.
· The key to the Learning Challenge is to get students “into the pit” by creating cognitive conflict in their minds. This deliberate creation of a dilemma is what makes the Learning Challenge such a good model for challenge and inquiry. It is also the frequent experience of cognitive conflict that helps to build a Growth Mindset (Dweck, 2006) in the minds of Learning Challenge participants.
· After a while of being “in the pit”, some students begin to construct meaning for themselves. They do this by identifying relationships, explaining causes and integrating ideas into a new structure. As they do this, they experience a sense of “eureka” in which they have a new sense of clarity. This in turn puts them in an ideal position to help those students who are still confused.
· Once “out of the pit”, students should be encouraged to reflect on the stages of thinking they’ve just been through – from a single, simplistic idea (stage 1) to the identification of lots of, sometimes conflicting, ideas (stage 2), right through to a new understanding of more complex and inter-related ideas (stage 3). They should then consider ways to relate and apply their new understanding to different contexts.
Recently, we began producing a termly publication called ‘Ridgeway Digest’ in which we explain specific aspect of our approach in more detail. This was in response to parent requests for further information and guidance on our approach.