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In last week’s blog we explored the importance of designing this summer’s learning experiences to stimulate and nurture the curiosity of students to build a drive to learn that can sustain them well beyond the coming year. Research and experience point to powerful long-term benefits of students remaining curious and persisting in their quest to make sense of the world they encounter.

There is yet another dimension of building future learning success to which we need to give attention. While curiosity gives students a drive to learn, they also need skills and strategies to engage efficiently and effectively in the learning process, including when they are not in a formal setting and instructional support is not present. The combination of sustained curiosity and skills to learn in response to varied challenges is crucial to lifelong learning success.

As we engage students in learning this summer, we would do well to keep in mind the importance of building skills for learning beyond being receptive to instruction and responding to specific learning expectations. Fortunately, building these skills does not require significantly more time and resources. There are several steps we can take while supporting the learning students need for a successful start in the fall. Here are five actions we can take immediately:

  • Support students to set goals for their learning and participate in identifying steps they will take and activities in which they will engage to reach their goals. Obviously, the goals need to be aligned with identified standards and progress benchmarks, but as much as practical the goals need to reflect the commitment of students rather than goals we assign to them.
  • Monitor the level of challenge with which students are presented to ensure that success is possible with appropriate focus and effort and not so easy as to not generate new learning. Known as the Zone of Proximal Development, the best learning outcomes tend to be generated within this range.
  • Coach students to reflect as they struggle, make progress, encounter setbacks, and grow. The practice of reflection is among the most powerful learning strategies available. As students become increasingly skilled at reflection, they become increasingly independent learners.
  • Focus feedback and recognition on the effectiveness of learning strategies and aligned learning effort. Help students to understand that the use of effective strategies and smart effort positions them to learn concepts and skills that are increasingly difficult. Meanwhile, they will be building confidence in their learning and tolerance for unsuccessful initial attempts to learn.
  • Whenever possible, frame learning in the context of the value and purpose it represents. Purpose is a powerful driver of learning. The more we can connect learning and the value it can offer, the more students will come to value learning and the more likely they are to choose to continue to learn, even when we are not present.

While we want students to learn content and build skills needed for the fall, we also need to give attention to building the capacity and drive to continue learning beyond what is needed immediately. By building learning skills and nurturing curiosity in our students we can give them the tools necessary to be skilled, independent learners who can succeed in a world that is increasingly complex and dependent on a citizenry of learners.


Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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