Does educational research matter?

Science of Learning

Around the edge, the 11+ Big Picture lists the fields of research and key players in the science of learning. Within psychology, the study of the mind; child and adolescent behaviour; and neuroscience, a whole host of strategies have evolved that positively impact learning. The same is true for education, the field is not static. Our educational practice is established on an evidence-base of research and enquiry.

Our 11+ Big Picture

As we delve in and begin to visualise the science of learning, the way our brain functions and the amazing things it can achieve is important. The brain’s intricate workings allow us to create huge works of art that wrap the coast of Sydney; to move our bodies to be able to flip backwards over a pole and see how high we can go; or to learn a new language. 

Teaching children the wonders of the brain sets them on a journey to pass their 11+ exams, undertake a job that stretches their skills, create new ideas, or use resilience when life takes an unexpected turn. So yes, we think educational research does matter.

Today we have cherry-picked some key players:

Visible Learning: Hattie and Richart et al. 

John Hattie is best known for the largest evidence-based study ever into the factors that improve pupil learning, ‘Visible Learning‘. It involved more than 80 million pupils from around the world. He developed a system to rank the effectiveness of different teaching strategies and conditions to improve pupil success. He compared factors such as self-reported grades, prior ability, quality of feedback, effort, and study skills to find the most effective strategies. This prompted the idea that teachers and pupils should regularly evaluate their teaching and learning. 

Over at Harvard University, Ron Ritchhart made strides in research surrounding making learning visible. He developed Visible Thinking Routines to present ideas and  strategies that support the development of a positive, engaged learning culture in the classroom, with techniques for pupils to speak, write, and draw their learning. Thinking Routines are an active approach, designed to be easy to follow whilst creating a gateway for deep and profound thinking and reflection.

At Meta Prep, we make learning visible through constant self-evaluation and reflection. The purpose is to encourage pupils to take control of their own learning and equip them with the most effective strategies to gain progress.

Intelligent Learning Behaviours: Costa & Kallick 

Art Costa and Bena Kallick categorised 16 intelligent learning behaviours and thinking they saw in people who were highly successful. These “Habits of Mind” can be developed and implemented through repeated practice and self-reflection. The key action is to strengthen a pupil’s learning habits to effectively tackle new problems or challenges. 

“Habits of Mind are the characteristics of what intelligent people do when they are confronted with problems, the resolutions of which are not immediately apparent (…) A Habit of Mind is a pattern of intellectual behaviours that leads to productive actions (…) It is a composite of many skills, attitudes, cues, past experiences and proclivities (…)”

Costa, A. and Kallick, B. (2008) Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind

Habits of Mind are a bridge to help pupils expand their capabilities and capacity. As pupils become familiar with the 16 different habits they can begin to select the appropriate behaviours for the situation or problem presented. Over time, Art Costa, talks about students becoming self-managing, self-directed and self-monitoring. 

We do not teach Habits of Mind with the sole aim to solve 242 x 86 in the 11+ exam. It is about developing a successful, self-reflective learner in life beyond schooling. Creating curriculums, like the one at Meta Prep, that challenge and grow habits of mind will enhance pupil progress.

Fixed vs Growth Mindset, following the research by Carole Dweck

The Power of Yet: Dweck 

“The power of yet.” Carol Dweck coined the term Growth Mindset and Sesame Street even performed a song with the same title. What a phrase! Her research explored ‘Growth versus Fixed Mindset’ and a pupil’s attitude towards “failure”. It is all about reworking a learner’s attitude towards mistakes by seeing the mistake as a positive learning experience. By telling pupils that their understanding of the subject matter is not there YET, has an untold positive impact on their sense of self and future efforts. It highlights that learning is a process that can be constantly worked on to attain better understanding.

Growth mindset focuses on the process of learning rather than the specific, graded outcomes. 

Watch Carol Dweck’s wonderful TEDx talk about Growth Mindset.

Zone of Proximal Development: Vygotsky 

Vygotsky’s research

Most of us spend our life happily in the comfort zone, it is safe and easy. Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development explains what a learner can do without help and what they can achieve with guidance and encouragement. By stepping outside, into the stretch zone we use ‘what we know’ and stretch our thinking. This is the Zone of Proximal Development. When applied to the classroom practice, it is about getting things just right to support the pupil.

The furthest zone is the stuff that we cannot do yet: GCSE Maths questions when you are in Year 6 or the ability to fly a commercial plane when just starting pilot training! Push a pupil into this zone and they will feel overwhelmed and just give up. The ‘sweet spot’ or ‘the Goldilocks Principle’ is about it being ‘just right, not too hot and too cold.’

At Meta Prep, our 11+ experienced teachers are there to teach learning little by little, ask purposeful questions and build thinking capacity.

Thinking Maps: Hyerle 

Thinking Frames help pupils to visualise their learning and make neural connections

Thinking Maps, created by Dr David Hyerle, are visual representations that help learners organise information when thinking about a problem. Each map is based around a thinking process, such as comparing, brainstorming, classifying or sequencing. The maps are designed to be used across subjects and through year groups creating strategies for life-long learning (Hyerle and Yeager, 2007).

At Meta Prep, we use Thinking Frames, which reflect Hyerle’s research, providing pupils with a metacognitive visual tool. When a problem or task is set in a lesson, the pupil considers which thinking process to use primarily and can employ a thinking frame to organise their ideas clearly.

The research that underpins the Science of Learning provides a secure teaching foundation at Meta Prep. They are behind the amazing tools required for success. Every person needs to understand and be conscious of them in their pursuits.