“To thrive in the twenty first century, it is not enough to leave school with a clutch of exam certificates. Learning capacity is as much a matter of character as it is of skill. The aims should be to make pupils curious, independent, reflective, resilient, brave and collaborative.” Professor Guy Claxton (2008)
An entire curriculum built on “things that people should know in life” will fall short of educational aspirations, given that people tend to forget things they have learned over time if they don’t utilise them on a regular basis. Learners today need to learn and adopt skills for lifelong learning, and I feel this should be as explicit to pupils as the knowledge they are learning. I am struck by the number of people I’ve met over the years who think differently. Perhaps even Gove’s out-dated approach to National Curriculum reforms in the rest of the UK demonstrates an unfortunate attitude that academia seems to mean old-fashioned fact-based rote learning.
Lifelong learning skills include literacy, numeracy, independent learning skills, thinking and reasoning skills, presentation skills, research skills and collaborative learning skills. But they also include developing curiosity, responsibility, self-motivation and self-efficacy (a belief in your ability to succeed in specific situations: for instance the child who thinks they can rise to a challenge, as opposed to the one who thinks they can’t). Ericsson’s concept of “deliberate practice” is also crucial here: how you develop a skill has more to do with how you practise it rather than just practising it a large number of times. To master a skill, it must be broken down into the skills that are required to become expert. You then focus on improving those skill chunks.
Now I’m not saying that skills are more important that knowledge. World War Two, Macbeth, biological functions, portraiture, or trigonometry, all have intrinsic value. But learning about these things, without explicitly developing transferable skills, is akin to learning in a vacuum.
This starts with having explicit learning objectives in lessons, but it is hardly the main vehicle for it. As John Hattie has famously found out, the biggest influence upon pupils is the teacher themselves. So teachers themselves need to be curious, independent, reflective, resilient, brave and collaborative. I plan on running action research programmes for staff at my school to work together, find out more about this area and others, and report back to the rest of us after the summer. It is my hope that by encouraging a level of bravery, teachers will feel empowered to take things to the next level.