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

Carnegie Summit on Improvement in Education

I’ve just returned from this conference at which I gave a paper reporting on our proof of concept study in applying hierarchical process modelling to school improvement: Evaluating Wider Outcomes of Schooling, the ECHO project. The paper reporting the project has just been accepted for publication in Educational Management, Administration and Leadership.

Improvement Science – Systems Architecting

The theme of the conference was Improvement Science. In the world of Engineering and infrastructure, this would be called ‘systems architecting’. It was about a holistic, rigorous approach to improving organisations as complex systems, engaging all stakeholders in defining purpose, analysing the system, defining a measurement model, rapidly prototyping improvement strategies, whilst harnessing collective intelligence and ‘learning our way forwards’.

There were thought provoking keynotes, on Improvement Science, Lessons from Improvement in Healthcare and Resilience. There were over 1000 people present mostly from education, and a mixture of researchers and leading practitioners. It was inspiring to see and feel a new community of enquiry grow as we shared our bright spots and learned from our failures. Learning Together was a key theme and we were convinced that together we can achieve more than any one of us can alone.

Summit Highlights

Throughout the Summit, attendees reported key messages and actionable takeaways via Twitter. The event’s energy  and key ideas have been captured through a Storify.  The closing highlight video can be viewed on the participant portal and additional phoos from the event are on  the Carnegie  Facebook page.

Session Materials

If you are looking for materials from any of the Summit breakout sessions, they are available online at the participant portal. Log in using the credentials below to view and download PDFs of session presentations and handouts. In addition, videos from the keynotes have been uploaded for your viewing .

URL: carnegiefoundationsummit.org/portal
Password: Summit2015

Learning to Improve

The Summit saw the launch of Learning to Improve  which is  a key  resource if you want to engage more deeply in improvement science. Additional copies can be purchased through Harvard Education Press or any major book distributor. If you would like to use the book as a text for a class, please contact Carnegie directly ncole@carnegiefoundation.org.

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.

Professor Anthony Bryk : Master Class and Public Lecture in Bristol 21st May 2014

Prof Tony Bryk (President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching).  He will be providing a one day masterclass, followed by a public lecture on the Design-Educational Engineering and Development (DEED) approach to school improvement. This work has inspired several projects in the UK including a study into student engagement in Oasis Academy John Williams 

Tony Bryk masterclass

Book me a place!...

Professor Tony Bryk

Tony Bryk was a leading figure in the Consortium on Tony BrykChicago School Research (CSSR).  Over twenty years they developed a theoretical and empirical framework which is holistic, participatory and based on understanding that “schools are complex organisations consisting of multiple interacting sub-systems. Each subsystem involves a mix of human and social factors that shape the activities that occur and the meaning that individuals attribute to these events. These social interactions are bounded by various rules, roles and prevailing practices that, in combination with technical resources, constitute schools as formal organisations. In a simple sense, almost everything interacts with everything else”.  (2010: 45). Bryk et al went on to identify essential school supports – agents, processes and structures – which were characteristic of improving schools, as measured by student engagement in learning and achievement.  Each of these supports, stimulated by leadership, focus on dynamic processes of change and learning and need to be implemented tenaciously and attended to as a whole. They provide an explanation of how the organisation and relational dynamics of a school, including parents and community, interact with work inside its classrooms to advance student learning.  Professor Tony Bryk Summary

Professor Bryk’s work in Design Educational Engineering and Development as a framework for sustainable improvement in schools has inspired the Hampshire Teaching Schools Alliance in their project ‘Deep Learning Across Transitions’.

As well as the Master Class Professor Bryk will be doing two public lectures one in Bristol on Wednesday 21st May 2014 17:00 – 1900: University of Bristol Bryk public lecture and one at the University of Winchester on Thursday 22nd May 2014 1700-1900, at the Stripe Auditorium: University of Winchester Bryk public lecture

To book for Bristolhttp://bristol.ac.uk/education/events/2014/1031.html

More information can be viewed here

To book for Winchester contact Rhona Rogers at Pioneer.alliance@harrison.hants.sch.uk 

Tony Bryk final

Complexity, modelling and infrastructure futures: embedding learning in future business models

Professor Brian Collins is leading a multi-institutional research project the ‘International Centre for Infrastructure Futures’. A team from the University of Bristol is leading on the ‘learning framework’ for the business models which will enable us to learn from the projects and from each other. Here, Professor Brian Collins introduces the project and the challenges we face.

The deficiencies of our traditional, fragmented, sectoral approach to infrastructure creation and management are becoming more apparent as poorly appreciated interdependencies make infrastructures vulnerable to service disruptions and cascade failures. These lead to capacity limitations, inefficiencies, poor reliability, low adaptability and missed opportunities, which are further exacerbated by poor data and information about interdependencies in and between sectors at the organisational, commercial and policy levels. The resulting disjointed approaches to governance and policy create perverse incentives and conflicting actions, which then stifle collaborative innovation. ICIF is a new way of bringing together the stakeholders involved in renewing the UK’s infrastructure to exploit multidisciplinary, systemic thinking about infrastructure interdependencies when developing the novel business models needed to address future challenges. The Centre will develop a principled and generic learning process for creating innovative, performance based business models to exploit infrastructure interdependencies. For Professor Collins recent keynote at INCOSE follow this link.