Building Capacity for the Building Blocks of Learning

The research on the science of learning has helped us to understand that students must be active learners. They need to want to learn and be willing to apply effort. Students also need to develop the skills and mindsets to be effective learners. The research by Turnaround for Children has produced the Building Blocks for Learning, a set of  16 skills and mindsets that students need to become effective learners. These Building Blocks for Learning are also the very same set of skills and mindsets needed for lifelong learning skills.

The implications for creating schools that help students become effective learnings are many.

  • Design for high engagement. What are the different ways to engage students in learning? Teachers can bring their own passion for a topic into the classroom. Hands on activities and real-world experiences can help. Opportunity to pursue high-interest topics, culturally relevant topics or to work together in a team can all influence level of engagment.
  • Design for motivation. Extrinsic motivation can be helpful and for some students may develop into intrinsic motivation. However, if extrinsic motivation isn’t working well for a student and is creating a negative envrionment, more of the same isn’t going to help. Furthermore, research has shown that intrinsic motivation produces better gains in the long-term. Thus, designing school to motivate students needs to take into consideration ways to instrinsically inspire students.  When students have some choice and voice over their environment it will usually lead to greater motivation. Transparency and a clear sense of the rules, assuming they are considered fair, can also help.
  • Create opportunities to practice the Building Blocks for Learning. Classroom rituals, routines and activities are designed to give students opportunity to practice and reflect upon the mindsets and skills. Students will need coaching from teachers as they develop the skills over time.
  • Support teachers in developing knowledge about the Building Blocks for Learning. Teachers may not be familiar with all the research on the Building Blocks for Learning especially in older grades. They may also need support in learning how to effectively coach students.
  • Moderated understanding of developmental progress in developing the Building Blocks for Learning. Districts and schools will want to incorporate developmental frameworks that teachers can use to build a shared understanding of what progress in developing the 16 skills and mindsets looks like from kindergarten through graduation.