What Are The Conditions in Which Learning Thrives?

For quite some time I have been pondering a few driving questions in my work. As I visit schools around the world and observe teachers in their classrooms working with students I have been keen to see them do what they love to do: connect with and empower students.

My driving questions are clear but by no means are they simple or easily answered (as good driving questions ought to be). They have guided my research and my observations of teachers for the past number of years. I am incredibly thankful for all of you reading who have invited me into your schools and learning communities to allow this powerful work to grow and flourish into what it is.

My driving questions are:

  1. What are the conditions in which learning thrives?

  2. What causes students to become disengaged?

  3. When students are disengaged, how are teachers responsive to the needs of learners in the room?

What I have witnessed and discovered is nothing new nor is it groundbreaking. For many of you it will be reaffirming and help strengthen your belief in what you are doing with your students. For some of you an “ah ha” might occur, that moment where you see yourself in a different light, perspective, or language. And for some of you, I hanker, your path will now shift slightly as you aim to adopt some of this work into your practice. This is, at least, the hope I have for my work, that it inspires and informs others.

In my opinion learning thrives is when students are engaged and find meaning in their experience at school and in their learning. They feel fulfilled. They feel happy. They feel, at times challenged and stretched. They feel ownership and pride. They feel belonging. They feel. I have witnessed that when this all occurs, when learning thrives, achievement increases.

What has surfaced in my work is this:

  1. Agency: ownership over authentic decision making.

  2. Curiosity: a burning question or innate desire to do or to know

  3. Play: using the body, mind, and imagination for fun!

  4. Guidance: supporting others by creating the conditions for them to explore, discover, and be agents over their learning.

  5. Self-regulation: to understand oneself and have control over our behaviours, emotions, and thoughts.

  6. Exploration: at times the route is uncertain as may be the destination and as such we will explore and search out together.

  7. Empathy: our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of others.

  8. Time: to have things unfold naturally and to not be tied to preconceived notions or plans or schedules or demands that don’t take into account the learner.

  9. Compassion: the ability to act on our empathy to help.

  10. Voice: equity, everyone has what they need to be successful.

The ever talented Rebecca Bathurst-Hunt, friend and colleague, has brought this work to life through this amazing sketchnote:

Nurturing the Whole Child.jpg

As we return to our classrooms for another year I encourage you to consider these observations. How do you intentionally create the conditions for these to flourish in your practice? How are you a responsive educator, one who observes their students in learning and adapts and shifts from there? What tips or advice do you have for others that could shed light on how this sketchnote is a lens into your own classroom?

Stay tuned for follow-up posts exploring these ideas more deeply as well as my second driving question: what causes students to become disengaged?