Tags: Classroom Teacher | Teaching and Learning | Teaching Assistant | Teaching Tips

What is inside a learner’s head?

The mental model for learning that the learner has in their own head will determine their success. Children quickly develop a thinking pattern of how to do something. Most pupils do not really have any conscious awareness of the mental model they use. In a very short time, a teacher can discover what mental model a learner is using and whether or not they will succeed when learning.

Action Steps

Learners need to be able to ask teachers questions so they can begin to build an effective mental model that works for them. Helpful coaching questions are:

  • What is the first step?
  • How do you do that?
  • What do you do when you get stuck?
  • What do you do next?

Arousal is the Key

Some pupils switch off from learning within the first few minutes of a lesson because their interest and curiosity have not been aroused. From the start, children need to get meaningfully connected with the material been learnt. Learners always need to know why they are learning something. If children can’t see the purpose and personal application to their life, they will lose interest.

Action Steps

Engage learners by:

  • Giving them the big picture and explaining to them the goal of the course
  • Getting learners into small teams to create a mind map of the benefits of learning a subject
  • Getting learners to create a wish list of what they want to gain from the learning.

Able-Based Activities for Learners

A universal problem that many teachers experience is that children do not retain the information they learn, but it is not solely a question of retention. Learners need to become creators of information, not consumers. Learners need to apply, transfer and connect new learning so they can successfully navigate the challenges today. Learners will be able to create value when they are given able-based activities so that their learning can be personalised. An able-based activity is the experience a learner gains from a learning activity that enables them to perform at the appropriate level.

Action Steps

When designing any curriculum we must move away from the old model of asking what information is required. Instead, we should ask ‘what is the experience the learner needs to ensure they can apply what is learnt?’

 This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, December 2004.

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