An ABC for learning

Three key qualities for successful learners are attitude, belief and curiosity. In the past there was little cognizance given to such ‘unseen’ factors but it is hard to look at learning today without considering these three determinants.

In the past very little regard was given to the attitude and state of mind of learners. They came to school, they either learnt or they didn’t. If they did they were clever, if they didn’t they weren’t. Today we have greater lines of communication, if a child has witnessed scenes of domestic violence in the night we know, if they are being exposed to extreme lifestyles, neglected or abused a multi agency approach should help keep school in the loop. We are far more informed today than ever before and this can help us support children in meeting their needs and fostering the right attitude. We are able to respond to extenuating circumstances and ensure the attitude is right before learning begins.

‘Let’s play house. You be social services knocking on the door and I’ll hide behind the sofa!’

The episode above illustrates how different children’s life experiences can be before they begin school. Those who have positive, supportive environments around them are encouraged to talk, inquire, participate and learn. When they begin school they have a belief, in themselves and their ability. They are confident and engage well in their learning. They seem to settle easier into school life. Those who have had little interaction or stimulation at home can have difficultly as they begin school. They can find routines and procedures difficult and can find it harder to develop a ‘learning attitude’.

Sir John Jones, and Damian Hughes in his book ‘Liquid Thinking’ both refer to studies carried out with children that recognise the profound impact positive comments can have on their future learning. Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Outliers‘ reiterates the importance of parental support. Belief and self esteem are hugely important to learners and a supportive family background that has a respect for learning can give them the confidence they need to grow. It also lets them know that education and learning are important and worthwhile.

Both attitude and belief are key qualities of successful learners but curiosity is crucial. It gives you the desire to want to know, to learn, to understand and to master. Successful learners are inquisitive and curious by nature. In his book ‘The World is FlatThomas Friedman claims that passion and curiosity are greater than intelligence, he presents the formula CQ+PQ>IQ to illustrate his belief that someone passionate, with a curiosity to discover is a more desirable learner than one with a high IQ. What curiosity certainly does is foster self motivated, independent learners. In today’s world, where knowledge is easily accessed, and learning often a passive experience, the curious learner will be driven to explore and to investigate, to make learning an active process.   Attitude, belief and curiosity – an ABC for learners in the 21st century.


About smichael920

Headteacher of a large primary school in North West England. Helping me to blur the distinction between work and home, I am also father of five, covering most phases of education thus giving me the lowdown from within and without. Education is about enjoying today and preparing for tomorrow. This can't be done using the tools of the past. View all posts by smichael920

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