‘ A river needs banks to flow. Think of Learning Principles as providing the banks, within which professional prerogative, academic freedom, and teacher creativity can flow.’ Jay McTighe.
It was at a session with McTighe that I was first introduced to the idea of learning principles, an articulated set of shared beliefs about learning, that underpin decisions and practice within a school.
At the time I wondered if we needed such principles. As a PYP school, we already had a framework and a common language. Our school already had a vision and a mission statement. But it turned out to be a vital process with a powerful impact on teaching and learning. Over time we’ve explored what each principle looks like in practice and we constantly examine the alignment of beliefs with practice. We came to realise that these principles applied just as much to teachers’ learning as to students’. These days we use the learning principles as a springboard for our growth reviews, a non judgemental, coaching based opportunity for teachers to work with a partner from the Teaching and Learning team on developing their practice in line with chosen goals based on our learning principles.
I recently spent an afternoon with a committed and enthusiastic group of teachers at Preshil Primary School working on the first stage of developing their learning principles.
Considering conditions for powerful learning. Participants shared examples of deep and powerful learning they had experienced or observed with their students and then considered the defining characteristics of such learning. What are the conditions for powerful learning?
Examining learning theories. They examined a range of learning theories and placed themselves on a continuum for each. To what extent does each of the theories align with what you believe about learning?
Writing belief statements about learning. Individuals wrote their own belief statements then shared, refined and prioritised them in groups. What do you believe about how children learn best?
Evaluating belief statements. The whole group examined, sorted and evaluated the statements. Which beliefs align most closely with yours? Which would you like to see included in your school’s learning principles?
- Refining and finalising the learning principles.
- Unpacking what they might look like in practice.
- Examining alignment of beliefs with practice.
I look forward to hearing how things unfold!
Self challenge: A post a day for a week. #3