How Learners Learn and Implications for Teaching
When the brain learns
The brain learns when it is trying to make sense. When it is building on what it already knows, when it recognises the significance of what it is doing: when it is working in complex, multiple perspectives. 
Implications –
Multi-sensory activities promote learning
The learning environment must be stimulating
Learning takes place when learners have to think
Learning takes place without instruction and is accelerated by direct teaching and the creation of situations that promote learning
Play provides excellent conditions in which the brain learns
Closed questioning inhibits learning, open questions promote learning
New knowledge must be related to what is already known
Significance is important – the purpose of lessons must be established by the teacher
Calibration
Learners learn through a process of first being exposed to new knowledge and then attempting to make sense of that new knowledge in terms of their existing knowledge. This is calibration.
Implications - 
The link between new and old knowledge must be established by the teacher
We need to refer to existing knowledge before introducing new knowledge – at the beginning of a lesson
Back reference when assisting pupils to make sense of new knowledge
Scaffolding
For calibration to take place the teacher must scaffold for the learner – provide appropriate frames of reference or structures. These are selected on the basis of goodness of fit with the pupils existing knowledge and cognitive structures.
Implications - 
To scaffold we lead learners through activities or responses by providing steps or clues based on the learners existing knowledge
This involves back-referencing 
These opportunities to correct misconceptions occur very frequently in questioning situations
ZDP – important for direct teacher assisted learning
Learning takes place in the zone of proximal development – the gap that exists between the pupils’ performance without assistance and performance with assistance. The components of assisted performance are internalised becoming the learners’ performance. 
Implications -
Judging where to pitch work is very important
Not far enough ahead – little/slow progress
Too far ahead, no connection with the new knowledge - little progress
Independent work should be close to existing knowledge
Teacher led work should be further from existing knowledge
Tasks must be challenging but achievable with effort
The understanding and development of spoken language in assisted learning is of extreme importance
High challenge – low stress
Learning takes place in a challenging but non-threatening, supportive environment. The optimal mental state is relaxed alertness – high challenge and low stress.
Implications –
Work needs to be challenging 
Learners should not be afraid of making mistakes
The social environment must be ‘friendly’ – no put-downs
Pupils must feel safe – physically and mentally
Social rules must be established and consistently maintained at the school and classroom level
Relevance
Learners need to feel that what is being taught is relevant to their own purposes. This relates to metacognition, the process of being aware of and in control of ones own knowledge and thinking. Learners control their own learning and in order to reflect on the meaning of what they are learning they must be committed to it.
Implications - 
We must establish with pupils why something is being taught and it’s benefits
Time needs to be allowed for reflection
An Assessment for Learning process/approach in lessons improves metacognition and aids learning – establish relevance, criteria and what success looks like; use higher order questions; give specific feedback; enable self and peer assessment
Intelligence
Learners have the capacity to develop at least 8 types of intelligence. Whilst learners may show differing aptitudes in each type they are mutually supportive of each other.
The intelligences 8 are:
Linguistic - language
Logical  -mathematical –number and logic
Spatial – pictures and images
Musical – tone, timbre and rhythm
Kinaesthetic – whole body and hands
Interpersonal – social understanding
Intrapersonal – self-knowledge [emotional intelligence]
Natural – nature 
Implications – 
Pupils have a range of abilities and these can be improved 
The curriculum needs to be broad
Abilities can be fostered outside their ‘subject’
A multi sensory approach should be fostered
All aspects of our curriculum must be afforded high status
Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence, the need to become emotionally literate is vital. Learning takes place through the senses as well as the mind. It happens by reflecting and analysing real experience, making connections between new and old experiences, making choices and making decisions that involve feelings and emotions as well as intellect and reason.
Implications – 
EQ should be taught in a structured manner throughout the school
It can become embedded through discussion time
We should provide a curriculum where pupils making decisions and choices is common
Give time for reflection during lessons
Learning styles
Different learners have differing preferences of learning style. Some are mainly visual learners, others auditory and still others kinaesthetic. Teachers need to be aware of the preferences and cater for all within their teaching.
Implications – 
We need to establish pupils learning preferences
Appeal to all learning styles in our teaching
Employ a balance of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activity in our teaching
We must seek to improve learners ability to learn in their weaker styles
Expectations
Teachers’ expectations have a powerful positive or negative effect on learning. Low expectations result in underachievement. With high expectations the opposite happens – it builds confidence and self-esteem, a ‘can do’ attitude, and there is the greater likelihood of success.
Implications - 
How we view learners and how they think we view them can have a profound effect on their learning
We must have and portray high expectations of all pupils
Pupils must be expected to succeed
Self-esteem
Learning involves taking risks. Learners need to have adequate self-esteem and confidence to feel comfortable about taking such risks. Learners whose self-esteem is eroded by negative feedback and adverse comments learn not to try. Self esteem is promoted when challenging tasks requiring effort are completed successfully.
Implications –
Good self-esteem is essential if pupils are going to fulfil their potential
We need to actively promote self-esteem through EQ work and the social environment we establish in classrooms
We must not allow negative feed-back and adverse comments to undermine self-esteem
Tasks must be challenging but achievable with effort 
Motivation
Motivated learners learn more. Learning activities must hold interest for the learner. Learning needs to be enjoyable and seen as worthwhile.
Implications -
Activities we give must motivate learners
Learning should be an enjoyable activity
At the very least pupils should be motivated by the benefits they gain from the learning activity
Where possible we should actively involve pupils in planning work activities
We must promote a Positive - learning orientation 
*belief that effort  leads to success
*belief in ones ability to improve & learn
*preference for challanging tasks 
*satisfaction from personal success & difficult tasks 
*problem solving & self-instructions when engaged in task 
and discourage a Negative - performance orientation 
*belief that ability leads to success
*concern to be judged as able, especially to perform
*satisfaction from doing better than others, emphasis on competition, public evaluation 
*helplessness, evaluate self negatively when task is difficult 
Memory
Memorisation for its own sake is a very difficult proposition made easier if learners have a purpose for committing it to memory.  This can be achieved by a frequent need for use or by introducing activities in the form of games etc.  Memory is also aided if the aspect to be memorised is frequently revisited in short spells rather than long spells of learning with long time spans between 
Implications - memory
Memory of facts is very important
Things to be memorised must be encountered often
They must be introduced in novel/different ways using the full range of VAK
They need to be of obvious use
A range of specific memory techniques must be taught
Habits
Both good and bad habits are learnt and difficult to change. Learners need to be taught good habits and these constantly reinforced. Established bad habits are difficult to change.
Implications -
Good habits must be constantly reinforced and not taken for granted
We must watch out for bad habits in learners and never acceptthem
We need to establish accepted goodits – working routines, presentation policy, etc.

How Learners Learn and Implications for School

Language Predisposition

  • Each child is born with the strong predisposition to learn language in a particular natural way
  • To release this language potential virtually all that a child needs is plenty of opportunity to hear people talking and be encouraged to join in
  • This language predisposition will be neurologically pruned by the age of 4 or 5 and has almost disappeared by age 7
  • Language is the main means by which we communicate and learn

Implications –

  • Talk [language] and conversation are of enormous importance from a very young age - our curriculum and structures must enable and promote this in all classrooms.
  • Technical language can, indeed must, be encountered from an early age and consistently used.
  • Our early years’ curriculum must be founded on providing opportunities for language development through play and social interaction with adults and peers.
  • We must reach beyond the school to the community to encourage and engage family talk. It is particularly important to get the message about talk to families with pre-school children.
  • We must start additional language teaching as early as possible.

 

 

Social Skill Predisposition

  • Humans are predisposed to friendliness within their kin group
  • Young children have an innate desire to play in social, collaborative, problem-solving ways.
  • Predispositions towards empathetic activity is at its strongest below the age of 6
  • Failing to provide young children with supportive and nurturing environments where they can develop their predispositions towards social and collaborative skills may result in young children’s brains creating pathways for aggression. This can become the action of first response.

Implications –

  • Our early years’ curriculum must be founded on providing opportunities for social collaborative development through play and social interaction with adults and peers.
  • We must reach beyond the school to the community to encourage families with pre-school children to see the importance of collaborative play.
  • We must provide opportunity for extended family to engage in collaborative play.

 

 
Brain Plasticity

  • The more we use our brains in the naturally evolved ways, the more it becomes useable
  • The most effective learning strategies are those that build on and extend the natural predispositions
  • Predispositions are latent potentials – if the environment is not appropriate they do not develop

 Implications –

  • If we are naturally predisposed to social collaborative learning through language we should provide this opportunity through our curriculum with facilitated group work being a major teaching structure.
  • Collaboration and talk between adult and pupil, pupil and pupil must be a major feature of lessons.

 

 

When the brain learns

  • The brain learns when it is trying to make sense. When it is building on what it already knows, when it recognises the significance of what it is doing: when it is working in complex, multiple perspectives.

 Implications –

  • Multi-sensory activities promote learning
  • The learning environment must be stimulating
  • Learning takes place when learners have to think
  • Learning takes place without instruction and is accelerated by direct teaching and the creation of situations that promote learning
  • Play provides excellent conditions in which the brain learns
  • Closed questioning inhibits learning, open questions promote learning
  • New knowledge must be related to what is already known
  • Significance is important – the purpose of lessons must be established by the teacher

 

 

Cognitive Apprenticeship

  • Learning is a collaborative problem-solving activity that occurs through progressive construction of individual knowledge
  • This takes place in a social context with the learner being apprenticed by a knowledgeable adult. There are stages to this process –

The learner is motivated to do a task
Another person models a task that the learner finds significance in
The other person scaffolds for the tasks the learner finds difficult
There is progressive removal of scaffolding
There is dialogue - talk about the process
The process has been successfully completed when the learner has developed meta-cognition

  • Prior to schooling cognitive predispositions were shaped in the multi-generational interactions and tasks of the family now it is seen the sole domain of the school by many.

 Implications -

  • Learning is socially constructed and talk is a process for learning.
  • This learning process is appropriate for individuals learning specific aspects and generally ‘growing up’.
  • Younger children have greater dependency on the knowledgeable adults
  • Children need to be given increasing social and personal responsibility and helped to accept and succeed with it.
  • We would enhance learning by engaging the generations in learning in and out of school

 


 
Growing up?

  • Age related physiological changes in the brains of adolescents make them more prone to react with ‘gut instinct’ but as they mature into early adulthood they are able to temper this with rational/reasoned thought.
  • Hormonal changes in adolescence result in rapidly maturing children with new physical strength and energy to spare but with a predisposition to apply these usefully.
  • Communities need to direct this energy to ways to benefit the life of the community. Essentially they need to be apprenticed with the years leading up to and including puberty being a period of progressive weaning – moving from dependence to responsibility.

 Implications –

  • As pupils get older they need to be given social responsibility and gradually take control of their own learning.
  • The structure of the curriculum and organisation of learning must reflect a weaning approach. A way to achieve this is through a facilitated group approach.
  • ICT can aid ‘weaning’ by offering multi-sensory, reflective and collaborative learning environments. Giving an opportunity to learn by doing – synthesising understanding based on trying out.

 

 

Calibration

  • Learners learn through a process of first being exposed to new knowledge and then attempting to make sense of that new knowledge in terms of their existing knowledge. This is calibration.

Implications -

  • The link between new and old knowledge must be established by the teacher
  • We need to refer to existing knowledge before introducing new knowledge – at the beginning of a lesson
  • Back reference when assisting pupils to make sense of new knowledge

 

 

Scaffolding

  • For calibration to take place the teacher must scaffold for the learner – provide appropriate frames of reference or structures. These are selected on the basis of goodness of fit with the pupils existing knowledge and cognitive structures. 

Implications -

  • To scaffold we lead learners through activities or responses by providing steps or clues based on the learners existing knowledge
  • This involves back-referencing
  • These opportunities to correct misconceptions occur very frequently in questioning situations

 

 

ZPD – important for direct teacher assisted learning

  • Learning takes place in the zone of proximal development – the gap that exists between the pupils’ performance without assistance and performance with assistance. The components of assisted performance are internalised becoming the learners’ performance.

 Implications -

  • Judging where to pitch work is very important
  • Not far enough ahead – little/slow progress
  • Too far ahead, no connection with the new knowledge - little progress
  • Independent work should be close to existing knowledge
  • Teacher led work should be further from existing knowledge
  • Tasks must be challenging but achievable with effort
  • The understanding and development of spoken language in assisted learning is of extreme importance

 

 

High challenge – low stress

  • Learning takes place in a challenging but non-threatening, supportive environment. The optimal mental state is relaxed alertness – high challenge and low stress.

 Implications –

  • Work needs to be challenging
  • Learners should not be afraid of making mistakes
  • The social environment must be ‘friendly’ – no put-downs
  • Pupils must feel safe – physically and mentally
  • Social rules must be established and consistently maintained at the school and classroom level

 

 

Relevance

  • Learners need to feel that what is being taught is relevant to their own purposes. This relates to metacognition, the process of being aware of and in control of ones own knowledge and thinking. Learners control their own learning and in order to reflect on the meaning of what they are learning they must be committed to it.

 Implications -

  • We must establish with pupils why something is being taught and it’s benefits
  • Time needs to be allowed for reflection
  • An Assessment for Learning process/approach in lessons improves metacognition and aids learning – establish relevance, criteria and what success looks like; use higher order questions; give specific feedback; enable self and peer assessment

 

 

Intelligence

  • Learners have the capacity to develop at least 8 types of intelligence. Whilst learners may show differing aptitudes in each type they are mutually supportive of each other.

The intelligences are:

  • Linguistic - language
  • Logical  -mathematical –number and logic
  • Spatial – pictures and images
  • Musical – tone, timbre and rhythm
  • Kinaesthetic – whole body and hands
  • Interpersonal – social understanding
  • Intrapersonal – self-knowledge [emotional intelligence]
  • Natural – nature

 Implications –

  • Pupils have a range of abilities and these can be improved
  • The curriculum needs to be broad
  • Abilities can be fostered outside their ‘subject’
  • A multi sensory approach should be fostered
  • All aspects of our curriculum must be afforded high status

 

 

Emotional Intelligence

  • Emotional Intelligence, the need to become emotionally literate is vital. Learning takes place through the senses as well as the mind. It happens by reflecting and analysing real experience, making connections between new and old experiences, making choices and making decisions that involve feelings and emotions as well as intellect and reason.

 Implications –

  • EI should be taught in a structured manner throughout the school as well promoted in our overall approach
  • It can become embedded through discussion time
  • We should provide a curriculum where pupils making decisions and choices is common
  • Give time for reflection during lessons

 

 

Learning styles

  • Different learners have differing preferences of learning style. Some are mainly visual learners, others auditory and still others kinaesthetic. Teachers need to be aware of the preferences and cater for all within their teaching.

 Implications –

  • We need to establish pupils learning preferences
  • Appeal to all learning styles in our teaching
  • Employ a balance of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activity in our teaching
  • We must seek to improve learners ability to learn in their weaker styles

 

 

Expectations

  • Teachers’ expectations have a powerful positive or negative effect on learning. Low expectations result in underachievement. With high expectations the opposite happens – it builds confidence and self-esteem, a ‘can do’ attitude, and there is the greater likelihood of success.

 Implications -

  • How we view learners and how they think we view them can have a profound effect on their learning
  • We must have and portray high expectations of all pupils
  • Pupils must be expected to succeed

 

 

Self-esteem

  • Learning involves taking risks. Learners need to have adequate self-esteem and confidence to feel comfortable about taking such risks. Learners whose self-esteem is eroded by negative feedback and adverse comments learn not to try. Self esteem is promoted when challenging tasks requiring effort are completed successfully.

Implications –

  • Good self-esteem is essential if pupils are going to fulfil their potential
  • We need to actively promote self-esteem through EQ work and the social environment we establish in classrooms
  • We must not allow negative feed-back and adverse comments to undermine self-esteem
  • Tasks must be challenging but achievable with effort

 

 

Motivation

  • There is a strong link between emotions and intrinsic motivation.
  • Motivated learners learn more. Learning activities must hold interest for the learner. Learning needs to be enjoyable and seen as worthwhile.

 Implications -

  • Learning environments must be rich and fulfilling
  • Learning should be an enjoyable activity
  • Activities we give must motivate learners
  • At the very least pupils should be motivated by the benefits they gain from the learning activity
  • Where possible we should actively involve pupils in planning work activities
  • We must promote a Positive - learning orientation
    • belief that effort leads to success
    • belief in ones ability to improve & learn
    • preference for challenging tasks
    • satisfaction from personal success & difficult tasks
    • problem solving & self-instructions when engaged in task

 

  • and discourage a Negative - performance orientation
    • belief that ability leads to success
    • concern to be judged as able, especially to perform
    • satisfaction from doing better than others, emphasis on competition, public evaluation
    • helplessness, evaluate self negatively when task is difficult

 

 

Memory

  • Memorisation for its own sake is a very difficult proposition made easier if learners have a purpose for committing it to memory.  This can be achieved by a frequent need for use or by introducing activities in the form of games etc.  Memory is also aided if the aspect to be memorised is frequently revisited in short spells rather than long spells of learning with long time spans between

 Implications - memory

  • Memory of facts is very important
  • Things to be memorised must be encountered often
  • They must be introduced in novel/different ways using the full range of VAK
  • They need to be of obvious use
  • A range of specific memory techniques must be taught

 

 

 Habits

  • Both good and bad habits are learnt and difficult to change. Learners need to be taught good habits and these constantly reinforced. Established bad habits are difficult to change.

 Implications -

  • Good habits must be constantly reinforced and not taken for granted
  • We must watch out for the bad habits and never accept them
  • We need to establish accepted good habits – working routines, presentation, etc.

 

 

The role of the school/teacher

  • To provide the environment in which children can best learn
  • To ensure this environment is safe and stimulating
  • To assist children to engage with new learning
  • To act as the ‘knowledgeable other’
  • To engage with the community to enhance learning