Learning & Curriculum

Pedagogical Approach

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Research-Informed Learning Design

Three hallmark pedagogies hold considerable potential for fostering learning autonomy (which we argue is vital for young people to grapple with the diversities of the 21st-century world). They are oracy and dialogue, playful enquiry and habits of mind.


To this end, educators develop ‘pedagogical repertoires’ (Alexander, 2000) that nurture the types of autonomous, creative and articulate attributes we seek to develop in our learners. We:

  • Encourage every child to contribute
  • Empower children to lead their own learning (e.g. through a self-regulating environment).
  • Plan irresistible learning with excellent subject/skills knowledge; made meaningful through cross curricular links.
  • Design purposeful learning tasks that engage positive behaviour.
  • Develop pedagogical and subject-specific expertise in ways that brings learning alive
  • Develop classroom cultures, ethos and norms where everyone is expected to learn more, better and be ambitious for themselves and everyone else in the school community.

 

Habits of Mind

The ability of children to manage their own behaviours and emotions is a key part of self-regulation, a process increasingly recognised as pivotal in developing effective learning. As children learn how to learn, they make secure connections between success, effort and the deployment of appropriate strategies. The complex interplay between motivation, social and emotional factors and a child’s ability to think about knowledge and thinking (metacognition) is widely accepted as central in influencing performance and structuring memory (Whitebread, 2000). Children’s view of self-efficacy is key and is supported through dialogue that shapes thinking that success or failure is something that children have ownership of and can change through their actions (Yeager & Walton, 2011). The 16 factors of learning were termed Habits of Mind by Costa & Kallick (2000).

 

Oracy and Dialogue

In a world that is increasingly interconnected, complex communication skills are widely recognised as invaluable characteristics of productive and intercultural citizens (Autor, Levy & Murnan, 2003). It is therefore essential that a school curriculum enables the potential for learners to develop an ability to articulate their ideas and through active listening engage in ‘inter-thinking’ where they can build on the ideas of their own and others (Alexander, 2017). This kind of talk in which children listen to each other engaging with ideas, share relevant knowledge and justify their ideas and reasoning is known as ‘Productive’ or ‘Exploratory’ forms of dialogue (Howe & Abedin, 2013). Children need opportunities to both learn through talk and learn how to talk.

 

Playful Enquiry

It is recognised that children experiencing some feeling of being in control of their environment and their learning is fundamental to them developing confidence in themselves, and their responsibility to positively manage setbacks and challenges (Goswami, 2015). In play, children set their own tasks, which may or may not be goal oriented. Sometimes the pleasure in a playful activity is gained through engaging with and exploring a process, with no particular end in mind. Children spontaneously set themselves challenges in their play and, given a choice, will often choose a task which is more challenging than one which an adult might have thought appropriate. Providing children with achievable challenges, and supporting them so they can meet them, is a powerful way to encourage positive attitudes to learning, and the children’s independent ability to take on challenging tasks (Whitebread & Coltman, 2016).

 

Learning without Limits: No Ability Labels

We purposefully avoid any ability-based labelling such children being referred to as ‘top’, ‘middle’ and ‘bottom’ (Swann, 2014). The Learning Without Limits research team documented three principles common in teaching and  learning communities that served to develop children’s learning capacity: co-agency, the ethic of everybody and trust. Dependent both on what children and teachers do separately and together, they emphasise the importance of establishing inclusive relationships, expectations and language that does not limit children and pedagogies that support children to take ownership of their own learning (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Children develop motivation through feelings of competence, autonomy and relatedness (Guay et al., 2008).

 

Relationships: Mutual Respect, Care and Kindness

Children’s experiences of learning and school are founded on positive interactions and developed relationships with adults and peers. All learning is relational (Hart & Hodson, 2008) and based on a foundation of mutual respect, care and kindness. Trusting, warm relationships provide a powerful vehicle through which to communicate high challenge, expectations and support so that children are empowered to grow and feel safe to sometimes fail productively in the process (Praetorius et al., 2018).