Dean of Learning

Learning how to learn and the concept of GRIT

Teaching students how to learn is as important as teaching them content, because acquiring both the right learning strategies and background knowledge is important – if not essential – for promoting lifelong learning.

  Dunlosky 2013

 

We all know that one of the main reasons students attend school is to learn and grow. It is hoped that this learning and growth occurs across a number of different facets of their school life, not just academically. It is important that students today are developing skills such as adaptability, resilience, critical thinking and perseverance that will allow them to be better prepared for the ever changing world that they will be entering when they finish their formal schooling. In order for this to occur, it is the responsibility of schools and parents to teach and foster the development of a growth mindset within our young people. It is then the responsibility of those young people to embrace, apply and further develop that mindset.

The past two decades have seen huge advances in brain science. Remarkable research has overturned the picture of the brain as being hardwired at birth and shown that it is remarkably pliable, capable of change and growth throughout our lifetime. We now know that the brain has an amazing ability to create new connections and make these connections stronger over time. This occurs when we learn something new or when we go over something we have previously learned. It is important that students are explicitly taught about the ability of the brain to change so they can better understand how exactly we are able to continue to learn new things.

However, teaching students about the brain is not enough, they must also be taught how to learn most effectively. While exposing students to new content is important, students must also be taught how their memory works, the best strategies to use to move information from short term to working and then finally to long term memory and what are potential barriers to that occurring.

In 2018, Loreto Normanhurst implemented a “Learning to Learn” program which focuses on understanding your brain, how your memory works and the most effective strategies to move information into long term memory and then retrieving it at a later date. The philosophy of this program is to allow students to connect central ideas related to growth mindset and the importance of utilising the most effective learning strategies to facilitate your learning and growth. In 2018, this program was completed with Year 8 students but has been expanded across most year groups in 2019 (with Year 7 implementation in 2020). For Years 8, 9 and 10, program sessions occur throughout the year during Conversation periods on a Wednesday or during Integrated Learning, and for Years 11 and 12 they occur during common year group periods.

One challenge when implementing specific retrieval practices into a study routine is that gaps in your learning can be discovered which can in turn lead to an increase in stress and anxiety levels. Therefore, it is also critical that students are taught strategies to overcome this as well as other challenges and setbacks that will inevitably occur in their learning. The development of improved resilience and perseverance is a key theme in Angela Duckworth’s work around the concept of GRIT. Her work comes from years of studying the psychology of success and revolves around the commitment to finish what you start, to rise from setbacks, to want to improve and succeed and to undertake sustained and sometimes unpleasant practice in order to do so. She lists the top five characteristics of GRIT as:

  • Courage
  • Conscientiousness
  • Perseverance
  • Resilience
  • Passion

An outline of the Learning to Learn program is below:

Key ideas

Content

Brain learning and structures.

Structure of the brain, outline of neuron function, neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity

Information processing model

Short term and long-term memory

Stages of Learning

Encoding

Retrieval

Consolidation

Practices to encode information

Rote

Chunking

Mnemonics

Practices to consolidate information

Spaced practice

Retrieval practice

Flash cards

Self-testing/practice questions

Beat the Clock

Topic Bingo

Resilience and perseverance

Implementing feedback

Bouncing back from challenging results or experiences

Concept of GRIT

 

Please have a conversation with your daughter about the program at home and I encourage you to help reinforce these learning strategies with her, making them a foundation of her study program.

 

Ms Michelle Albert

Dean of Learning