Building Learning Power:
It is becoming increasingly clearer that now and in the foreseeable future, being able to learn by oneself will become the evolutionary trait that will differentiate those who succeed, flourish and thrive from those who are left behind and perish. With new knowledge being added at an exponential pace, more and more people would have to be able to learn more on their own, learn to connect the dots and make the best use of the increasingly scarce resource called the teacher.
There are several analogies that can help us better appreciate this model of an autonomous self-directed learner.
The first is the comparison with physical fitness and building your ‘learning muscles’ and keep using them in the maxim that “ use it or lose it”.
Another is that of cooking with a microwave oven. Unlike traditional cooking, where an external source of heat is the cause of cooking, in the microwave oven it is the natural frequency of vibration of the water molecules that is used to heat the food and the microwave frequency resonates and stimulates this.
A good teacher awakens the desire of learning within the learner. The famous poet and Professor, Robert Frost said “ I am not a teacher. I am an awakened”.
The third analogy is to boot a computer. The process of transforming an inert piece of electronics to one ready to execute a piece of software program is booting. And this is the role of a good teacher.
Finally machine learning is about ‘ algorithms that learn’, and the role of the teacher is to facilitate their students to be able to learn. In fact, a few years ago Microsoft has created a special group on machine teaching, and machine teaching is said to be the sexiest job of the near future.
But one of the best ways to appreciate the significance and importance of ‘ learning power’ is to view the following video carefully : https://youtu.be/JxWybvns1jg.
Especially note the person who gets into the wheelchair at will. Guy Claxton coins the name ‘taughtitis’ for the learning disability of not being able to learn on one’s own.
He emphasises “ building learning power” in analogy to building physical or muscular power.
See this link to a Wikipedia article on the subject : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_power
I have below some extracts from the article for immediate reference:
Learning power refers to the collection of psychological traits and skills that enable a person to engage effectively with a variety of learning challenges. The concept emerged during the 1980s and 90s, for example in the writings of the cognitive scientist Guy Claxton, as a way of describing the form of intelligence possessed by someone who, to quote Jean Piaget’s phrase, “…knows what to do when they don’t know what to do.” The forms of learning envisaged are typically broader than those encountered in formal educational settings, for example those that are of most use in learning sports or musical instruments, or in mastering complex social situations.
The Elements of Learning Power:
Though Learning Power is conceived as a form of intelligence, it differs from some more familiar notions of intelligence in a number of important ways.
* First, it is seen as eminently practical, and not revealed particularly through solving abstract problems against the clock.
* Second, it is not primarily intellectual, but involves characteristics more usually associated with personality, such as emotional resilience in the face of difficulty or frustration.
* Third, Learning Power is conceived of as a composite of interwoven capacities, rather than as a distinct ‘monolithic’ mental entity.
* Fourth, the elements of Learning power are usually described as dispositions (David Perkins), Habits of mind (Art Costa) or ‘capacities’ (Guy Claxton) rather than skills.
* Skills are abilities that may need prompting – they do not necessarily come to mind when they are needed – whereas Learning power refers to a persistent orientation towards learning. Those with high levels of Learning Power can be said to be generally open to learning opportunities, and typically find engaging with challenges where they are uncertain of success pleasurable rather than aversive.
* Finally, all the elements of learning power are seen as capable of development. Whereas conventional measures of IQ are taken to reflect intellectual endowments that are relatively constant over time and context, Learning Power emphasises the role of experience in expanding, or sometimes contracting, the dispositions towards learning. This emphasis reflects the concern of those who use the concept with education: specifically with education seen as a preparation for lifelong learning.
The task of measuring learning power is still work in progress. The importance of the concept has been established and several dimensions have been identified.
By its nature it will be a multi-dimensional measure, and it may not be easy to reduce it to a scalar.
In future it may emerge as a key parameter for all learning systems including Machine learning models. It could also be an important parameter to distinguish human and Machine learning.
In the year 2000 a team of UK researchers at the University of Bristol, identified a set of learning dispositions or dimensions of learning power—which emerged through successive empirical studies. The task was first to identify those personal qualities that enable someone to learn more effectively, then find a means of measuring and assessing them so that the assessment data could be owned and used by the individual to convert diagnoses into strategies for change. The term Learning Power was used to describe these personal qualities—which embody values, attitudes, and dispositions—since this was the first time a research team had developed a data-driven measurement model for the concept of Learning Power.
Over 150,000 data points later, these dimensions of learning power have been demonstrated to be valid and reliable and, at the same time, extremely useful in practice as a vehicle for different conversations about learning that matter—a means of progressively handing over responsibility for learning to learners themselves.
This research programme identified 8 inter-related personal qualities that are necessary for people to engage effectively with “risk, uncertainty, challenge, and the unknown”—in other words with new learning opportunities.
These eight personal qualities are sometimes referred to as ‘learning dispositions’ and they involve feelings, cognition, behavior, and desire—they are holistic, integrative, and part of the way in which we create narrative coherence and make sense of the world and of our own minds.
The 8 Dimensions of Learning Power
1: Mindful Agency : Mindful Agency is taking responsibility for your own learning. It’s about how you manage your feelings, your time, your energy, your actions, and the things you need to achieve your goals. It’s knowing your purpose — then knowing how to go about achieving it; stepping out on the path towards your goals.
2: Hope and Optimism: Hope and Optimism is being confident that you can change and learn and get better over time. It is helped by having a positive learning story to reflect upon, that gives you a feeling of having “come a long way” and of being able to “go places” with your learning.
3: Sense Making: Sense making is making connections between ideas, memories, facts—everything you know—linking them and seeing patterns and meaning. It’s about how learning matters to you, connecting with your own story and things that really matter.
4: Creativity: Creativity is using your imagination and intuition, being playful and “dreaming” new ideas, having hunches, letting answers come to you, rather than just “racking your brains” or looking things up. It’s about going “off the beaten track” and exploring ideas.
5: Curiosity: Curiosity is your desire to get beneath the surface, find things out and ask questions, especially “Why?” If you are a curious learner, you won’t simply accept what you are told without wanting to know for yourself whether and why it’s true.
6: Collaboration: Collaboration is how you learn through your relationships with others. It is about knowing who to turn to for advice and how to offer it, too. It’s about solving problems by talking them through, generating new ideas through listening carefully, making suggestions and responding positively to feedback.
7: Belonging: Belonging reflects how much you feel you belong as part of a “learning community”—at work or at home, or in your wider social network. It’s about the confidence you gain from knowing there are people you learn well together with and to whom you can turn when you need guidance, support and encouragement.
8: Openness to Learning: Openness to learning is being open to new ideas and to challenge and having the “inner strength” to move towards learning and change, rather than either giving up and withdrawing or “toughing it out” and getting mad with the world. Becoming more open to learning is like a pathway to all the other dimensions of learning power, just as the other dimensions also help you become more open to learning.
The key message in this piece is that rather than focusing on exams and marks in exams and taking coaching or using Byju or Extramarks, which create a temporary illusion of knowledge, it is better to build learning power, so that in an unknown and uncertain world, one is ready and capable of learning whatever is contextually important. And this is not a onetime activity, but perhaps an activity that is a regular and persistent pattern like taking the morning walk or going regularly to the gym.