A   R E C I P E    F O R    S U C C E S S
'Learning Skills' is an evidence-informed, whole-school
approach to school improvement.

Uniquely, the 'Learning Skills' approach combines a number of effective practices so that the positive effects stack up and interact, resulting
in a huge overall impact on student outcomes.

The approach has been evaluated over 5 years by researchers from the University of Cambridge, who found that the approach led to significantly improved attainment, especially among students from disadvantaged backgrounds ​(e.g. see
Mannion & Mercer, Curriculum Journal, 2016).

Each school is different, and we approach each school ​differently. In

seeking to help young people become more effective learners, schools may
​wish to ​consider combining some or all of the following ingredients for success:

  1. Timetabled lessons
    Not every school is in a position to do this straight away, and there are many small steps schools can take to get started. But we believe learning skills are best developed in discrete lessons, by trained teachers. Taught courses most often feature in primary schools, or at times of transition (e.g. year 7 and 12).
  2. Oral communication
    Oral communication skills are hugely beneficial – not just for succeeding in life, but also as a driver for effective learning. High quality speaking and listening skills can be developed quite easily, for example through the use of ground rules for group talk. This practice can transform the quality of group talk, even in the space of a single lesson.
  3. Collaboration
    The most effective interventions are 'owned' by the people responsible for delivering them. We work with schools to identify evidence-informed practices, and we provide training in how to implement them effectively. But Learning Skills is not an off-the-shelf intervention. If it was, it wouldn't work.
  4. Self-regulation
    To develop independent learners, we need to develop the skills of self-regulation (e.g. setting targets, identifying strategies, communicating ideas, monitoring progress and adapting behaviours accordingly). Perhaps the best way to do this is through project-based learning opportunities, rooted in real-world contexts.
  5. Metacognition
    It is well understood that metacognition is the key to effective learning. For schools, this means providing students with regular opportunities to reflect on 'how' they learn as well as 'what' they learn, so they can identify strategies for overcoming obstacles and thus become more effective learners.
  6. Shared language of learning
    A shared language of learning does three things: 1) It provides students with a more joined-up diet of learning. 2) It enables classroom discussions to focus on the 'how', as well as the 'what' of learning. And 3) it helps develop a growth mindset in students and staff alike. That's what you call a win-win-win.
  7. Plan for transfer, plan for success
    Transfer does not always happen automatically. However, that doesn't mean it can't happen at all. As with any aspect of an intervention, we need to plan for successful transfer. The emerging fields of 'implementation science' and 'knowledge mobilisation' show us that this can be done quite simply.
  8. Small-scale action research inquiry
    If we want to get better at what we do - which is surely what 'Continuing Professional Development' is all about - we need to ask the question: How does professional learning happen? Small-scale action research inquiries help each person get to the bottom of that question, and improve their practice along the way.

L O V E    F O R    L E A R N I N G   S K I L L S :

  1. Liz (parent of Y7)
    "Since taking Learning to Learn lessons, Max's understanding of where he fits with the world, what he can do to increase his chances in life and how he can do this - he has completely amazed me."
  2. Caroline (Head of PE)
    "At Key Stage 3, there is contribution from all students. They don't seem as scared of getting things wrong. They're much more forthcoming, they give it a go and are more prepared to be critical of each other. I definitely think Learning Skills has been a big influence in that."
  3. Michael (year 8 student)
    "I found it really fun and I like it that I was pushed to work with other people that I've never worked with so I can see what it's like working with someone that I'd never usually work with."
  4. Sarita (year 7 student)
    "It makes you make more friends and you learn that you might not always work with people that you want to work with, but you have to get along with them or at least be civil if you want to get along. Because otherwise you won't be able to do what you need to do."
  5. Yasmin (year 9 student)
    "When I first heard we wouldn’t have Learning to Learn lessons this year, I was really upset. And then I thought back over everything we did in years 7 and 8, and I realised: it’s a part of me now. I can take it forward into whatever I go on to do."
  6. Ofsted
    "Students can talk about how, as well as what, they are learning. Lessons in 'Learning to Learn' are helping them to do this. They enjoy explaining, for example, which 'learning muscles' they are using. These might include 'creativity' or 'teamwork'. They are expected to apply their skills across subjects..."
  7. Paul (Learning Skills teacher)
    "[Teaching Learning Skills] reinvigorated my classroom practice. It made me listen far more carefully to what students say... it also helped me understand how important speaking and listening is in the learning process. I definitely took that back into my work as a Science teacher."
© 2016 | Rethinking Education 
​   Evidence-informed teacher training and impact evaluation.