“Real Learning”

1 Year Ago:

I have been pondering about what ‘Real Learning’ means to me as a teacher for the last few days. What resonated with me the most, due to the fact that I’ve been an out-of-the-class teacher for these days, is how much it matters what real learning means to me, Leah, as a human being, not just as an educator.

This four day residential has provided me with time to really analyse and question what real learning looks/sounds/feels like and this was probably influenced greatly by two books I’ve read recently (David and Goliath and Mindset).

What does it look like?

I’ve read that you can’t ‘see’ learning and I understand the theory behind that. You can see the hints that learning is taking place and this is what I’ve seen this week:

// children completely and utterly engrossed in something: in ‘flow’. Whether that was putting up a tent and trying to figure out what wasn’t working; or trying to make their den more sturdy to protect the bunnies (it was a bunny hotel…); or figuring out how best to throw the blade of grass to make a noise – the list honestly goes on and on.

// the excitement when they achieve something and they just HAVE to share it with someone and/or teach them how to do it ‘flick your wrist and aim for the person you’re throwing at…’ (Frisbee-ing…)

What does it sound like?

// sometimes, complete silence as they beaver away.

// or the opposite – eager chatter wanting to share, or discussions trying to change, improve or discover.

// shrieks of delight or the more masculine yesssss as they achieve a step.

What does it feel like?

// I can’t speak on behalf of the children and when I asked them, the inevitable ‘epic’ was their response. After further discussion, one girl, who had taken the whole hour and a half walk just to get a ‘parp’ out of a blade of grass was thrilled and said ‘I’ve spent SO long doing this and it paid off, I’m going to show Mrs so and so! Can we practise more on the way home?’ To me, this suggests that she felt chuffed to have worked hard and felt eager to learn more to make it better.

// For me, it feels like nothing else. Hearing and seeing these displays of enthusiasm for small things that I’ve taught them or they’ve taught themselves/each other is incredible to witness. Knowing that not only can they blow grass whistles (great), but they have demonstrated the curiosity which is needed in life to want to acquire a new skill – I wasn’t forcing them to do it, I just started playing!

These are ‘real’ skills that they’ve learned, but the ‘real learning’ was the processes that they’ve gone through to acquire these skills (even if they’ve not quite got there yet): perseverance, resilience, curiosity, enthusiasm etc – all the key words used in school, but never as truly demonstrated than outside of it; oh, the irony!

Our team discussed over lunch preparation the different attitudes to learning new things that the children have displayed out here compared to in the classroom:

// they weren’t scared to ask their friend how they make their frisbee ‘do that’. Yet, would they do the same in maths?

// they enjoyed sharing the experience with their teachers – I’ve never felt so popular!! I’ve asked them to show me how to do things too (I’m definitely not a born cartwheeler, but I kept trying!) Yet, how many times do we get some child at the end of the lesson say ‘I didn’t get it’ – so why didn’t you aask?!

They were actively seeking out learning experiences, without us providing them with learning objectives nor success criteria.

So now I (we?) have half term to ponder some more. How am I going to change this? How are we, as a class and a year group, going to get this real, genuine learning happening? Learning that is devoured and independently sought out as much as it has been these last few days. Is it really just a matter of changing their and our mindsets or is there more that we can do within our planning/structure at school?

Excuse the tired ramblings; my mind is abuzz with thoughts wriggling about all over the place!


Jo DebensJo Debens@jodebens1 year ago

Really nice post Leah. Thanks for sharing. I like the analogy of not being afraid to ask for help with something cool like frisbee yet being wary of asking in a ‘proper’ lesson. It’s a shame those barriers exist and fears of looking silly. Guess we have to figure out how to make it cool to ask in school.
Claire BracherClaire Bracher@missb1 year ago

@leahmoo this is great – really thoughtful… I am still having a think @jodebens about mine… like that its made me do that… back shortly…
Stephen LockyerStephen Lockyer@mrlockyer1 year ago

I’ve been on three trips in the past two weeks with my class, and it’s really highlighted to me how artificial learning in a classroom is at times. Great story Moo.
[Retired Colleague][Retired Colleague][Retired Colleague]1 year ago

Re read this over a coffee rather than a a pint of whiskey. Like this story a lot. I guess the question is, how can we make young people as enthusiastic about maths as they are in throwing a disk? And how can we get parents to provide the teaching whilst we provide the outdoor fun?

I’m a massive believer in the power of outdoor learning, it’s what saved me. It’s time to put my (as in the governments) money where my mouth is.

The final question is, how do we embed outdoor learning as an everyday entitlement?

‘Going to the mountains is going home’ John Muir

MeLeah Sharp@leahmoo1 year ago

@jodebens – completely! It was the only downer of the trip, but at least it’s a constructive discovery that we can try to fix!
MeLeah Sharp@leahmoo1 year ago

@mrlockyer – oh the life of SLT 😉 you’re so lucky getting to form those outside of classroom relationships across the school! I almost think residentials should be at the beginning of the year rather than/as well as at the end!
MeLeah Sharp@leahmoo1 year ago

@daviderogers – exactly!! How can that curiosity and drive come from children about things they arent necessarily interested in learning about? Or have we just got the whole system wrong?! Should we be forcing children to learn division or should we be providing them with experiences where they want and need to learn it e.g. Creating dens with sticks – they might then inquire about best way to work out how to share them between two (or something…)
Stephen LockyerStephen Lockyer@mrlockyer1 year ago

Nothing to do with being SLT – they were all with my class!
MeLeah Sharp@leahmoo1 year ago

That’s just my jealousy for our SLT seeping out @mrlockyer – they’re lucky!!
Jenna LucasJenna Lucas@jenna1 year ago

I really like this post, @leahmoo. From what you’ve described, it’s as though the children have learnt so much, without even realising they are learning! I always find that residential trips are brilliant for team building and bringing children together, as well as offering many children experiences they might not otherwise have (I took a Y5 class on a residential trip to Studland- 45 minutes from school- and one boy described it being ‘way better than England!’). Spending 24/7 with the children also provides a real insight into their characters. I agree with @daviderogers in that we really need to find more opportunities for learning to take place outside of the classroom. Yet, we also need to look at overcoming those barriers you mentioned that take place within.
A brilliant post. Thank you!
[Retired Colleague][Retired Colleague][Retired Colleague]1 year ago

Great story. We have set ourselves the challenge of moving children away from I don’t like maths, I don’t like reading etc… to I like maths I like reading because the challenge is there, the challenge of learning. Our benchmark is 65% and we’ve set our sights on 80% by learning to learn sessions weekly, 33 themed assemblies and taking learning outdoors to enable children to make connections in their learning. We also do a daily mile where the children walk/run at least a mile every day within a 20 minute slot around the school grounds.
[Retired Colleague][Retired Colleague][Retired Colleague]1 year ago

As an aside if we capture the learning outdoors and help them make connections between what they learn outdoors and how they learn it ( more importantly) they can apply these skills anywhere, anytime. We call it turning our school inside out ( through outdoor learning.)
Abigail MannAbigail Mann@abster1 year ago

Like this @leahmoo I love residentials. You get to learn so much more about the students and build great relationships too. I’m a big fan of taking them outdoors to learn too. It was a long standing joke in my old school – if the weather was good, I’d be out with the PE staff teaching English on the field to my classes. Sometimes, I’d be out there in the cold too reading Stone Cold (about homelessness) and trying to get them to understand empathy.
I think mindset is relevant. When they walk into a classroom they know they are there to learn. Whereas when they are outside, it suddenly seems more fun. Perhaps they don’t realise it’s learning when they’re outside?
Nice story 🙂
Lesley BurnettLesley Burnett@lesley1 year ago

I am passionate about outdoor learning too plus the way pupils seem to learn more/differently.
I will be on the Welsh coast early July blowing grass trumpets -hopefully in sunshine but more likely in the wind and rain!
I love it as there seems to be so much time to talk with the children. I’ll ask them why they like outdoor learning so much and see if I can get their perspective.
Managed some outdoor learning firing off 58 plastic water bottle rockets as supply in Y3 this week. Incredible learning including a human bar graph which led to the comment. “I love maths when I can be inside it”
Great post.

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