Day 5: The Learning Process

It’s been another amazing day at Stonefields, full of lots of learning.

Today was spent in various parts of the school, gaining a deeper understanding of the practices and philosophy.  I feel that there is still so much context to give about Stonefields and how they are structured, but will do so in another blog post.

The main piece of learning today has been about the learning process.  My hint about the learning process and learning qualities being linked appears to have been a good one.

As you can see from the graphic, the learning process is built around three stages.  These stages relate to SOLO:

  • many ideas/multistructural = Build Knowledge
  • relate/relational = Making Meaning
  • extend/extended abstract = Apply understanding

It so appears that much of the independent learning which children do, is to build knowledge and so their activities are linked around the verbs on the Build Knowledge rock.  By searching through the Stonefields website, it is possible to see slides and thinking maps that the children can use to support their understanding of the task.  As these verbs are the same for all learners, the fluency in doing but also in knowing to do these parts of learning really becomes strong very quickly.

A really fascinating part of today’s learning has been that while learners work independently to build knowledge, the time spent with teachers is to make meaning ergo develop understanding.  A mini explosion of connections occurred in my brain at this point, linking with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development.  The teacher input is at the point where children need input to further their understanding.  This really highlights the teacher’s role as being able to move learners forward with every input, whilst ensuring there is time for them to learn independently when they are able to. All learners have tasks called follow ups which is where they must show their learning by making meaning and applying understanding independently.

An example of this in practice might be the following sequence for a learner.

Build Knowledge (BK): Learner recalls of doubles and halves.
Make Meaning (MM): Teacher models a strategy: how to use doubling to add near doubles
Apply Understanding (AU): Learner solves problems using the strategy and creates their own problems for others.

It is at the point of making meaning where the teacher’s input is invaluable.  For other areas, the child’s knowledge of the learning process and learner qualities are the scaffolds they need.  When the children show their performance against the learning by marking with the teacher, they and the teacher knows their next steps – which are fed into the next lesson’s design.

There is a certain caveat on this process and that is for some concepts, the teacher’s input is also invaluable when building knowledge.  For example, in developing early number sense or for developing concepts which are difficult for children to understand due to their abstract nature.  This might be where whole class instruction is necessary, or perhaps it could be specific learning for those lacking early language or number for example.  As you can see on the graphic, the ladders and slides show that learning is not linear and it is sometimes necessary to move between the different stages.  An example of this in my own practice was working with a boy who came up to Y5 as exceeding, but lacked knowledge of how to use a number line (and therefore lacked a mental number line).  What is clear, is that teachers use the learning process with very clear intentions of the outcome – and learners understand what learning is like.

Speaking about today’s learning with Katherine, she spoke about how a lot of collaboration and time went in to developing the agreed learning process – and that how it is always something which is being considered.   Making links with our conversation with Sarah last week, it is also worth mentioning that anything as important as this is externally validated by experts, although it certainly originates from the staff.

blc

The language of learning that the learning process provides, along with the learner qualities, form some of the first rock in the Stonefields vision principles.  Today I have really made connections between how the learning process is used to enable the way they work at Stonefields.  Children can spend time valuably building knowledge, or applying understanding, knowing what they need to do because of their starting points.  Obviously there is teacher guidance with this, and one only has to scan the Hub pages (https://sites.google.com/a/stonefields.school.nz/parent-hub/) to see the Building Knowledge activities that children are guided to do.  These are very often free websites which children can instantly access because they all have devices available (although when children do not use devices well, or when concrete materials are more beneficial – children do learn without electronics!).

Both Sam and I have certainly felt that we are at the make meaning stage of our learning, following our building knowledge of the Stonefields ways.  I am certainly looking forward to applying my understanding and adapting my practice once back in the UK.  Last night, I was reading the chapter in Visible Learning for Teachers where Hattie discusses differentiation.

hattie

(Hattie, J. (2012). Visible learning for teachers: Maximizing impact on learning. London: Routledge.)
Since second year of university, I have often wondered about the nature of differentiation and how it should move all learners on equally rather than widening the gap.  At Stonefields, it is used to narrow the gap in that those who need the teacher most to make progress, receive the most teacher input.  Others who are working at or above standard, still receive teacher input – but they are the children who rely less on it – for whatever reason: self-regulation, prior knowledge etc.  Guided groups are the way in which teachers deliver +1 input, and provide high quality feedback (strategy and self-regulation).  The smaller group size helps build and develop relationships, which in turn helps develop self-esteem.  The size of groups the teachers address can vary from 1 to 101, but the size depends very much on the purpose of the address be that task instruction or differentiated teaching.

All in all, it’s been a superb day of learning. I certainly feel that along with learning dispositions, the learning process is also something we must consider as part of enabling learners to know what to do when they don’t know what to do.