Learning Power: new research identifies Mindful Agency as central to resilience

For learning in the complex world of risk,  uncertainty and  challenge, what matters is being able to identify, select, collect, collate, curate and collaboratively re-construct information to suit a particular purpose. This is why there has been a sustained and growing interest in learning dispositions and the personal qualities people, teams and communties need to flourish. As Edgar Morin says:

edgar morinWe need a kind of thinking that reconnects that which is disjointed and compartmentalized, that respects diversity as it recognizes unity, and that tries to discern interdependencies. We need a radical thinking (which gets to the root of problems), a multidimensional thinking, and an organizational or systemic thinking

Ruth Deakin Crick 2015After fifteen years of experience in the research and practical application of learning power using a survey tool called the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI), Professor Crick, one of the originators, led the research team in a thorough review and reanalysis of the data.  Supported by the Learning Emergence Network of international researchers, the results are now published for the first time in the British Journal of Educational Studies:

Ruth Deakin Crick, Shaofu Huang, Adeela Ahmed Shafi & Chris Goldspink (2015): Developing Resilient Agency in Learning: The Internal Structure of Learning Power. British Journal of Educational Studies. DOI: 10.1080/00071005.2015.1006574. Open Access Eprint:  http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00071005.2015.1006574

Interestingly, the support for this re-analysis came from the Systems Engineers in the Engeering Faculty at the University of Bristol  as part of the International Centre for Infrastructure Futures, rather than ELLI’s original home in the Graduate School of Education….where Crick, Broadfoot and Claxton began in 2000.  Perhaps Morin would have something to say about this — we think so!

The new self assessment tool, called the Crick Learning for Resilient Agency Profile (CLARA) identifies Mindful Agency as a key learning power dimension — which predicts the set of active dimensions: Creativity, Curiosity, Sense-Making and Hope & Optimism.   Two distinct Relationship dimensions measure Belonging and Collaboration.  Finally, an Orientation to Learning indicator measures a person’s degree of Openness to change — in contrast to either fragile dependency or rigid persistence.

Internal Structure of LP with simplied view 19 August

The new measurement model represented by CLARA resulted from a detailed  exploration of the patterns, relationships  and interdependencies within the key constructs through structural equation modelling (diagrammatic summary above).  It is a more robust, parsimonious measurement model, with strengthened research attributes and greater practical value. The research  demonstrates how the constructs included in the model link to the wider body of research, and how it serves to integrate a number of ideas that have hitherto been treated as separate. For more details from a user perspective see  Introducing CLARA.

The CLARA model suggests a view of learning that, after Siegel is:

an embodied and relational process through which we regulate the flow of energy and information over time in order to achieve a particular purpose.

Learning dispositions reflect the ways in which we develop resilient agency in learning by regulating this flow of energy and information. They enable us to engage mindfully with challenge, risk and uncertainty and to adapt and change in a way which is positively alinged with our purpose.

Resilient Agency is our capacity to move iteratively between purpose and performance, utilising our learning power and generating and re-structuring knowledge to serve our purpose.

Learning JourneyLearning, from this viewpoint, is a journey which moves between purpose and performance – to put it another way, without having purpose we’re not really going to learn in a context of complexity and information overload. To learn, when the outcome is not known in advance (which is most real world learning) requires that we are able to navigate learning as a journey, utilising our Mindful Agency, restructuring information to achieve the outcome we need.

BlueThe Learning Emergence Network has teamed up with eXplorance Blue, one of the world’s leading survey providers based in Montreal, to create the SOLA platform (Surveys for Open Learning Analytics) which can host CLARA and other assessment tools, and importantly, provide rapid feedback to users for improvement purposes.

Slide2
Visual feedback to the learner from CLARA

The rapid analytic feedback to users who complete the questionnaire is returned in the form of a spider diagrame which forms a framework for a coaching conversation which can move between learning identity and purpose and the formulation of strategies for change.  The new assessment tool is a focus for research and development around the world. Crick and Buckingham Shum are now based in the pioneering Connected Intelligence Centre and the School of Education at the University of Technology Sydney, where CLARA forms part of a research programme into dispositional learning analytics — alongside other learning analytics approaches designed to make visible – to learners and educators – the dynamics of lifelong learning qualities.

by-nc-nd (1)CLARA, and the knowledge and know-how in the research paper, have been made available for research and development under the terms of a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License. This permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

We welcome all contributions to the ongoing research and development of this work which has applications in education, industry and community.  We have translated CLARA into Chinese, Russian and Spanish. For more details and opportunities for collaborative research and development please contact info@learningemergence.com

Universities: core business (and analytics) in 2030?

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 6.31.38 pm Ruth and I have the privilege of working with Randy Bass [blog] and team at Georgetown University. Randy is a leading thinker  around the deep purpose of higher education, and how this entails rethinking student qualities, and analytics.

Jump to 40mins for his closing comments in this keynote envisaging higher ed in 2030. Here’s the gist:

Our calling as a university is the formation of men and women (but many institutions do this of course). However, we do so in the context of a community of enquiry and knowledge creation (fewer institutions do this). Moreover, we do so for the public, common good (fewer still have this explicit mission). These three are interlocked and inseparable.

The railroad companies who thought they were in the business of railroads went bust. The ones who thrived understood they were in the transportation business.

What’s our equivalent?

Let’s call it Formation.
Or Transformation.
Or Integration.

But if we think we’re in the business of Content, Skills or Information Transfer, then by 2030, we’re going to have a LOT of competition.

…or, as we might say, Dead In The Water.

His Formation by Design (FxD) initiative is defining the contours of this new landscape, and their progress report is an inspiring read (disclosure: it includes material from our contributions to a symposium last June). Or check out the video roundtable discussion series he hosted called Reinvent University for the Whole Person. He was also on the team of (what I think is) the largest national ePortfolio initiative in higher education, a reflection of the importance being placed on reflection for transformational learning.

Randy and team: all power to you as we figure out together how we redefine our calling, to help students find theirs. Along the way, lets reinvent the environments and metrics that will constitute the new evidence base in 2030 🙂

EdMedia 2014 keynote on learning analytics

At EdMedia 2014 [#edmediaconf] I enjoyed great AACE and Finnish hospitality 🙂

The critical stance of my keynote there seemed to resonate with delegates, who hear a lot about “Big Data” and analytics, but have reservations about the kinds of learning that such technologies may perpetuate. I sought to deconstruct analytics to clarify the ways in which an approach and how it is used embodies an educational worldview. Knowing this, what kinds of learners are needed for 21st century society, and what role can analytics play in advancing this mission?

Part of this emerging picture is what we’re focusing on here at LearningEmergence.net — redefining metrics that value qualities in the learner that many are talking about, but which are hard to evidence.

Here’s the replay + slides [pdf/pptx].

Abstract: Education is about to experience a data tsunami from online trace data (VLEs; MOOCs; Quantified Self) integrated with conventional educational datasets. This requires new kinds of analytics to make sense of this new resource, which in turn asks us to reflect deeply on what kinds of learning we value. We can choose to know more than ever about learners and teachers, but like any modelling technology or accounting system, analytics do not passively describe sociotechnical reality: they begin to shape it. What realities do we want analytics to perpetuate, or bring into being? Can we talk about analytics in the same breath as the deepest values that a wholistic educational experience should nurture? Could analytics become an ally for those who want to shift assessment regimes towards valuing the qualities that many now regard as critical to thriving in the ‘age of complexity’?

Bio: Simon Buckingham Shum is Professor of Learning Informatics at the Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute, where he is also Associate Director (Technology), overseeing knowledge and technology transfer to the OU. He researches, teaches and consults on Learning Analytics, Collective Intelligence and Argument Visualization. He co-edited Visualizing Argumentation (Springer 2003) followed by Knowledge Cartography (2008, 2nd Edition 2014). He served as Program Co-Chair of the 2nd International Learning Analytics conference, chaired the LAK13 Discourse-Centric Learning Analytics workshop, and the LASI13 Dispositional Learning Analytics workshop. He is a co-founder of the Society for Learning Analytics ResearchCompendium Institute and and Learning Emergence. In August 2014, he joins the University of Technology Sydney as director of the new Connected Intelligence Centre. WWW: simon.buckinghamshum.net

Learning to Learn – International Perspectives

Learning to learn is crucial for success in our complex, unpredictable and data-drenched world.

L2LfrontcoverThis new book from members of the Learning Emergence Network explores learning to learn from theory and practice around the world.  See our people pages for many of the authors. 

Learning to learn is both a process and an outcome of formal education, along with other trans-disciplinary and life-wide competences. It goes deep into pedagogy and practice and is influenced by culture and context. As an outcome, it is a competence we aspire to measure and celebrate.

Learning how to learn is a crucial competence for human flourishing in 21st century conditions of risk and uncertainty.  It is one of eight key competencies identified by the European Union as a key goal within the Lisbon and the 2020 strategies (European Council 2006). The European Union maintains a keen interest in this topic as demonstrated by the European network of policy makers and several working groups on key competencies, including the creation of the European Network on Learning to Learn (Hoskins & Fredriksson, 2008). Internationally, learning to learn is emerging as a focus for school improvement and as a foundation for lifelong and lifewide learning. UNESCO includes approaches to learning as a key domain which should be an entitlement for all children, and one which needs to be assessed.

Language matters.

There is a real need for serious debate about the term ‘learning to learn’ which is frequently used in different ways and in different contexts without clear definition.  Often it is used within a conceptually narrow framework, limited to “measurable” study strategies and learning styles (OECD 2009) for which there is little evidence of success. There is an urgent need for a research validated foundation for learning to learn and what constitutes it.

Practitioners, university lecturers, teachers and schools around the world are interested in their students becoming able to take responsibility for their own learning and achievement – and for this they need to learn how to learn.  Existing funds of knowledge are all ‘out there on the internet’ and what matters is how individuals and teams make sense out of and utilise the mass of information which bombards them every day. Dialogue between research and practice is crucial to underpin this movement, generating a discipline of research-informed practice which frames and informs both commercial and policy interests. In the absence of a ‘pensee unique’  the global community of scholarship in education provides an important voice which should make a healthy, collaborative contribution to the formation of policy and practice.

Assessment of competence in learning to learn is a critically important policy ideal – one which the European Union embraced and embarked upon with Learning to Learn working group. After some serious effort we came to the conclusion that there are so many different approaches to learning to learn from across the EU, that it was impossible in 2007 to arrive at a consensus in its measurement. Before we can ever effectively assess something we need to know exactly what it is we are measuring – as a matter of professional ethics. We also need to know what measurement models are most suitable and what is the purpose of the assessment before we develop our assessment technologies. This book was conceived by people who participated in that EU project and, we hope, in an important way it keeps the dialogue alive.

Complexity and Learning to Learn

Learning to learn is a complex process rather than either a simple or even a complicated one.  Demetriou’s chapter explores an architecture of mind that incorporates four inter-related systems all of which may be relevant to learning to learn. Each contributor proposes a complex mix of processes that coalesce into learning to learn – including affective, cognitive and dispositional factors. All agree that learning to learn is about the promotion of self-directed learning, the cultivation of intrinsic motivation for learning and the development of intentional agency on the part of the learner.  All agree that contextual factors – such as pedagogy, assessment regimes, quality of relationships and socio-cultural factors – together interact and influence the ability of an individual to learn how to learn and to become an agent in their own learning journey. Learning to learn is messy and complex.

The implications of this complexity are enormous. edgar morinAs Edgar Morin argues (and Jung before him), Western thought has been dominated by the principles of disjunction, reduction and abstraction. Engaging with learning to learn as a complex process requires a paradigm of distinction-conjunction, so that we can distinguish without disjoining and associate without identifying or reducing.  In short we need to develop new and more holistic ways of understanding, facilitating and enabling learning to learn in our education communities, so that we can hold in tension the inner personal aspects of agency, purpose and desire and dispositions and the more measurable external and public manifestations of learning and performance and collaboration with others in learning to learn. We need measurement models that can account for quality of trust as a core resource, and story as a vehicle for agency as well as the more traditional and familiar measures of performance and problem solving.

Becoming self-organising agents in our own lives

If learning to learn is about human beings becoming self-organising agents of their own lives, as our contributors suggest, then it is clear that ‘top down’, transmission oriented approaches to learning, teaching and school improvement are no longer enough. The challenge is how to create the conditions in which individual students are able to take responsibility for their own learning over time.  By definition, this cannot be done for them. It has to be by invitation, allowing learning to learn to emerge and fuel agency and purpose.

The establishment of the framework for international comparison of educational achievement provided by the OECD through the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the means for regularly compiling the data is a considerable achievement. It has provided an evidence base for Governments to inform domestic educational policy and against which to allocate priorities. What this data set is less effective at revealing are the reasons behind international and regional difference: we still understand too little about what drives these broad numbers. Furthermore the numbers continue to reveal deep, intractable challenges in education such as embedded disadvantage linked to geography, economics and ethnicity.

There is a pressing need to assemble an internationally comparable set of data which can better inform our understanding of factors such as learning how to learn and how this varies within and between different contexts. The academic and theoretical work that has been undertaken on these issues to date, while rich and deep, has focused on aspects of the problem, often failing to cross disciplinary boundaries. The real world challenge of educational improvement, meanwhile, is relentlessly trans-disciplinary, involving a complex interplay between social, institutional and individual factors. It presents a challenge both to theory and practice. The PISA data by comparison achieves comparability through the use of widely available proxy indicators but lacks the depth and resolution needed to provide an understanding of the mechanisms driving the patterns it surfaces.

Valuing Difference

What is also clear from this volume is the value of different cultures in the debate about learning to learn. Two chapters are written explicitly from an Eastern perspective  – demonstrating how Confucian philosophy can enrich our understanding of learning to learn and challenging some deeply held Western assumptions.  We have contributions from Australia, New Zealand, Finland, UK, Spain, Austria, China, Italy and the USA and uniquely, a set of case studies from learning to learn projects in remote Indigenous communities where the cultural differences are enormous. This  is a ‘brolga’ a community  metaphor for creativity for children in Daly River School, in Northern Territory.
Creativity

However comprehensive, this volume does not address a number of research and practice themes or leaves unanswered questions for further research. Among these, perhaps the most relevant is the road towards the assessment of learning to learn which is a daunting endeavour – although it provides a foundation for this through its contribution in exploring what it is that should be assessed in learning to learn and why. Other open questions concern the deployment of learning to learn in school improvement; in the training of trainers, educators and educational leaders; in personal development and empowerment. The connection of learning to learn with other key competencies, such as active citizenship and entrepreneurship, also requires further study.

This book draws on a rich, global tradition of research and practice. It is written by researchers and  practitioners who care deeply about education and about learning how to learn in particular. Our purpose is to generate debate, to link learning communities and to make a contribution to the ways in which societies worldwide are seeking to re-imagine their education systems. Our hope is that learning to learn will soon find a consistent place in educational policies worldwide.

Learning Dispositions + Authentic Inquiry in a Primary School

What happens when you turn a curriculum topic over to 10-11 year old children,  give them freedom to choose their focus, and increasing autonomy to make their own decisions to design, create and run a showcase event? Indeed, how do staff cope with stepping back like this? If Ofsted inspectors were to walk in, how could the school evidence learning? How can you evidence the development of lifelong learning dispositions, and how does this relate to the school’s strategic concerns about the progress of different pupil groups on traditional attainment measures? What roles do social learning tools like reflective blogging have to play?

This movie provides a brief glimpse into a two year series of pilots at Bushfield School, documented in more detail in this report. It represents the convergence of both University of Bristol and Open University research and development into learning analytics that can evidence processes associated with deeper learning, especially dispositional analytics (learn more: replay talk / workshop).

(See Reports for the entire library of school case studies.)

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 15.43.46Small, T., Shafi, A. and Huang, S. (2014) Learning Power and Authentic Inquiry in the English Primary Curriculum: A Case Study, Report No. 12, ViTaL Development & Research Programme, University of Bristol. [pdf]

This report documents progress in a two-year action-research programme at Bushfield School, Milton Keynes, with two main purposes: firstly, to build on the School’s success in developing children’s capacity to learn; secondly, to track and measure the impact of its interventions for this purpose. The school combined the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory (ELLI) with the Authentic Inquiry learning methodology from University of Bristol. Qualitative and quantitative data are combined to examine the impact of the pilots from the perspective of staff and pupils, comparing learning power against a range of demographic and attainment datasets, in the distinctive context of a primary school already experienced in the Building Learning Power approach.