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Brabyns Preparatory School
How we Learn

I’m training for a marathon at the moment. As my alarm sounded on Sunday morning at 6:30am in preparation for my 12-mile training run I was forced to consider the difference between commitment and motivation. This was definitely a commitment run - I was certainly not feeling motivated! This got me thinking about the children at Brabyns and how they approach learning. 

As part of our new School Development Plan, we are focusing on developing positive learning characteristics in our children. We all want our children to ‘work hard’ and ‘do their best,’ and now we are concentrating on enabling them to take real ownership of their learning.  This is not an easy thing to teach as it requires commitment on the part of the learner and, as we all know, commitment means being disciplined and focused on the goal, even when we are not feeling motivated.

We try to give our children opportunities to experience the intrinsic rewards that hard work and dedication bring – the satisfaction of overcoming a real challenge, of succeeding after a succession of failures. As adults we can find it difficult to step back and allow children to fail and struggle, but if we don’t we are not allowing them to experience the genuine rewards that resilience and determination bring.

In my classroom, and indeed throughout the school, we are actively learning about ‘how we learn’. The children are beginning to talk more confidently about the value of failing and trying again, learning from their mistakes, and perhaps more importantly understanding that struggle and ‘cognitive conflict’ is necessary. They are starting to consider their classmates as part of their learning ‘armoury,’ valuing discussion and collaboration as a critical part of learning. No-one can do their learning for them, but we are all part of the network that supports it. 

I’m not sure I would have managed my final two miles on Sunday, had it not been for my fellow running mates, who encouraged me and reminded me of my ultimate goal as I limped to the end. When the motivation is lacking, we need to focus on the overall goal, use our colleagues to help us, and remember that the final reward will feel greater as a result.  

If you are also interested in how children learn, you might be interested in James Nottingham’s work on the ‘Learning Challenge.’  You can find an introduction here:

Mrs Munro, Year 5 Teacher & Assessment Lead

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