Seven dimensions of learning
The idea of Learning Power has been a feature of education for more than 20 years and there are many ways of deconstructing it. Learning Power began its journey in research undertaken at the University of Bristol led by Professor Patricia Broadfoot with Professor Guy Claxton.
This research into learning sought to capture the essence and meaning of Learning Power and identified 7 critical dimensions of Learning Power. These dimensions can be viewed more like attitudes or dispositions than capabilities or skills.
The 7 dimensions are:
- Changing and Learning – our disposition to grow as a learner
- Critical Curiosity – our disposition to ask questions to ‘get to the bottom of it’
- Meaning Making – our disposition to make connections between past information / experience and new knowledge
- Creativity – our disposition to think ‘outside the box’
- Resilience – our disposition to be robust when the going gets tough
- Strategic Awareness – our disposition to be aware of and in control of our learning
- Learning Relationships – our disposition to learn with and from others
1. Changing and Learning
Characterised by a sense of oneself as someone who uses what they learn to change the way they go about their daily life over time; understanding that learning is itself learned. The opposite is being ‘stuck in a rut’, static, with no apparent recognition of new knowledge; tending to believe that Learning Power is fixed and that any difficulties that confront them only serve to reveal their limitations.
2. Critical Curiosity
Characterised by wanting to get to the cause or truth of the matter, digging below the surface and being less accepting of received wisdom until it is evidenced; the opposite is being passively accepting, believing received wisdom is ‘the truth’.
3. Meaning Making
Involves making connections between past information and/or experience and new knowledge; the opposite is merely to accumulate data or information without regard to its application.
Characterised by risk-taking, playfulness, thinking outside the box, regularly
using imagination and intuition; being receptive to hunches and inklings that
bubble randomly into their minds; the opposite is being bound by the rules.
5. Learning Relationships
Enjoying learning not only with and from others but also alone, balancing interactive and solitary learning, and maintaining their independent judgement; the opposite is being either ‘isolated’ or ‘over-dependent’.
6. Strategic Awareness
Being aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and actions as a learner and being able to use that awareness to plan and manage the process of learning as well as create personal direction; the opposite is being ‘robotic’ and entrenched. This dimension may sometimes be referred to as metacognition.
Having an orientation towards perseverance in the development of one’s own Learning Power. Relish challenge, as well as being robust when the going gets tough; the opposite is fragility and dependence.
Dimensions, dispositions and behaviours.
From Learning Power to Building Learning Power
Learning Power’s premise is that learning can be learned; it is a learnable craft. However, the seven dimensions that have become the pillars of ELLI’s assessment practice needed to be translated into the language of schools.
Firstly, the seven dimensions were divided into four major Learning Power dispositions, often known as ‘the 4Rs’:
• Resilience – broadly covering the emotional aspects of learning
• Resourcefulness – broadly covering the cognitive aspects of learning
• Reciprocity – broadly covering the social aspects of learning
• Reflection – broadly covering the meta-cognitive aspects of learning
Linking Learning Power to the broad aspects of learning theory (cognitive, emotional, social) helped teachers to get to grips with the issues.
Secondly, the 4R dispositions were deconstructed to reveal 17 Learning Power behaviours, sometimes known as ‘learning muscles’. These named behaviours —such as Listening, Reasoning, or Planning — pulled together many of the items in the rich lists of principal characteristics of the seven dimensions. Because these behaviours are specific in nature they can be individually trained, nurtured and exercised. This deconstruction serves to broaden and strengthen the language of learning, with particular reference to school settings. Using and extending the language in this way adds breadth and depth to how teachers and learners talk about, understand and improve learning.