What is Learning?
A Working Definition...
“Learning is the process of extending and consolidating our neural connections as we acquire knowledge, develop skills and deepen our understandings”.
This working definition expands on the neuroscientific description to make it more meaningful to both teachers and learners in the International Curriculum.
Our curriculum is designed to best improve learning in age & developmentally appropriate ways. Plasticity (how the brain changes and adapts) takes place constantly with different types of plasticity occurring during certain years, especially within the intensive years of growth and development of childhood and adolescence. This impacts on how learning happens at different ages.
Learning and the brain in the Early Years (Nursery and Reception)
- Within the Early Years the brain undergoes a period of intense transformation stimulated by relationships and interactions; when these experiences are child initiated they are more likely to build and strengthen connections within and across the brain.
- Identifying children’s curiosities and capabilities enables teachers to engage in reciprocal serve and return interactions with the child through teacher-scaffolded activities and the Enabled IEYC Environment; this ensures that activities and experiences provided are meaningful and appropriate.
- Repeated experiences allow children to explore, express and extend their learning in more than one way, building and strengthening connections within and across parts of the brain.
- Through teacher-scaffolded learning-focused interactions, young children can be encouraged to consider and reflect upon their experiences, identifying connections between these experiences and what they already know.
- The Learning-Link dialogue between home and school ensures that children’s learning builds on their experiences in a constructive and informed way; the Learning-Link aspires to be active, positive and productive.
Learning and the brain moving through Years 1-6
- Primary Years are the bridge between the theory of mind (self to other) and the teenage brain so provides multiple opportunities for learners to develop understanding of their own and others’ perspectives.
- The Entry Point of new units of even individual lessons are designed to activate memories of previous learning which and then build associations with new learning which is another way to strengthen connections in the brain.
- Reflection as part of the 'Research, Record, Reflect' cycle (including metacognition and connection making) supports the brain in physically building connections which is how learning happens.
- Appropriate challenge is offered but differentiated and managed to avoid triggering emotional responses such as stress or boredom from over or under challenge which inhibits learning.
- Choice allows students to select relevant content and context, choice is a motivator for learning.
Teachers need to know learning is taking place which based on the neuroscientific definition would be challenging. Being on task is not necessarily the same as learning; how do we know learning is happening? We describe the transformative nature of learning across the Curriculum as having some of the following characteristics:
- Learning causes change which could be in attitude, behaviour, skills development, expanding knowledge, increasing understanding
- Learning is an individual process – the same teaching can lead to different learning as how each individual engages in the learning process and shows what they have learned, is unique
- Learning is infinite in nature – learning is ongoing, it is beyond tasks/activities.
- Learning is an achievement of the time as well as laying the foundation for new learning.
Evidence of learning in the Early Years
- Children initiating their own experiences in response to their natural curiosity.
- Children demonstrating their thinking by seeking answers as they explore, express and extend their ideas.
- Children demonstrating a strong sense of self and an emerging sense of other.
- Children leading their own activity as they practise and consolidate their skills.
- Children engaging in experiences and demonstrating learning in more than one way.
- Children modifying their actions and communicating their developing meta-cognitive strategies.
Evidence of learning in years 1-6
- Learners demonstrating a readiness and desire for new learning evidenced by curiosity and asking questions.
- Learners articulating awareness of being in the process of learning.
- Learners engaging with multiple perspectives, with respect and empathy.
- Learners reflecting on and using knowledge and skills gained to deepen or broaden understanding.
- Learners making connections between previous and new learning.
- Learners engaging in assessment and goal setting, taking increasing responsibility for their own learning.
Source: Fieldwork Education (The providers of the International Primary Curriculum)