Cheri Ashby, Deputy Chief Executive, at Activate Learning, focuses on our Learning Philosophy in Action.
As educators, we have all had the inspirational experience of observing students fully immersed in amazing learning, planned and delivered by highly skilled teachers. Within Activate Learning, I have had the privilege of seeing our Learning Philosophy put into action by our talented and dedicated teaching professionals – and in so doing, transforming the opportunities of so many of our students for the better.
So, what is the recipe for success? There are three key elements.
It begins when students are open to and develop a growth mindset. This involves them embracing the view that through sustained effort and practice, learning from feedback and failure, they can develop the necessary knowledge, skills and attributes for their preferred career pathway. We know learning is not a smooth, neat linear journey from A to B, but often has successes and failures along the way just as a road has bumps and potholes!
Feeling motivated is the next important piece of the learning puzzle.
When students can see the relevance of what they are studying and how it can be applied in the real world, their motivation increases dramatically. The more they can work with employers on authentic approaches to learning, such as employer-led real-life projects or learning in simulated work environments such as care skills suites on health and social care programmes, the more motivated and engaged they will feel. This in turn will motivate them to put in hours of practice because they enjoy their learning and experience success and positivity as a result. In the words of Malcolm Gladwell, ‘it takes 10,000 hours of intensive practice to achieve mastery of complex skills and materials’. The research into neuroscience also shows us how important it is to practise new skills and apply new information if we are to remember it later.
The final, and I would argue the most important ingredient in the learning process, is positive emotions. Being in the right emotional place is essential to learning. We have all had the experience of feeling anxious and fearful, or lacking in confidence, and we know what a negative impact this has on our capacity to learn and develop. Conversely, feeling confident, at ease and feeling a sense of belonging equips us to engage in learning new things. This leads to the release of positive hormones such as dopamine and serotonin and an upward spiral of success for the individual. Simply put, the more confident you feel, the more motivated you are to put in the effort to achieve your career goal.
At Activate Learning, we use different approaches to support students in managing their emotions.
These include building and nurturing positive teacher and peer relationships; having greater control over when, where and how they learn; using virtual reality technology software to reduce exam anxiety and wellbeing and mindfulness. This of course is an important employability skill too; work can be emotional and stressful, and equipping students with strategies to manage their emotions is an important skill for any individual to learn.
Our teachers in Activate Learning delight in using these and other different approaches, resources and technology to embed the Learning Philosophy in a very practical sense. In so doing, they empower our students to develop the relevant work ready knowledge, skills and attributes necessary for a successful future career pathway.