Why Building Learning Power works in our school

BLP: Not just a passing fad because it works. There’s so much more to learning than what schools are tested and measured on…

Learning at school is more about SATs
Learning with clay at Bradway Primary school 
Learning to be away from home by camping on the school field
Learning to be away from home by camping on the school field

I started writing this blog in response to blogs and comments on Twitter suggesting that Building Learning Power or BLP in schools does not work. In researching for this blog I was interested to read a 2009 blog, lambasting BLP, as a meaningless fad with no substance. The author had only admitted to reading one source, the original book by Guy Claxton, and did not claim to have even tried it out himself. Similarly, subsequent detractors such as ‘Webs of Substance’, appear to have little or no direct evidence to support their claims that it does not work and instead come up with wildly inaccurate suggestions such as the idea that ‘Building Learning Power is set-up in opposition to teaching children knowledge’.

Nothing could be further from the truth in our school. Knowledge is celebrated, skills are honed and a vast array of extracurricular activities are provided to enable children to discover their skills and abilities. It would be very difficult to succeed as a school if knowledge was not seen as important, but of course there is much more to learning and being a successful human being, than being good at Literacy, Maths and Science etc. So to quote from our website:

‘We believe that ‘everyone is good at something‘. With the ever increasing focus on English and Maths in schools it is particularly important to ensure that pupils can experience and celebrate success in other areas of their lives, especially if they find more academic subjects difficult. We aim to develop resilient, reflective and resourceful pupils who are able to cope with the challenges of life and who are able to collaborate and co-operate with other people. We provide an exceptionally broad range of clubs and activities which children can attend. Through these activities, alongside a creative and exciting curriculum, every pupil can find develop confidence and find something that they are good at.  and children are encouraged to do their best in all that they do’.

What strikes me as significant is the fact that BLP is still prevalent in many primary schools, suggesting that it has not been a passing fad at all. In our school we have been using the ideas for several years and have now developed them further as a whole school strategy for developing good learning habits. BLP is not ‘another thing to do’ or a lesson in its own right. Instead it is integral to the way we speak to children about their learning and also supports our Learning for Life sessions, which also include Philosophy session (P4C) and Circle Time.

Why we use BLP in our school

BLP provides a overall context to learning in our school and supports our ethos of ‘Learning Through Enjoyment’ and ‘Everyone’s good at something’. It helps to underpin the idea that we are all learners, whatever our age, and that we all have barriers to learning which we can overcome. Becoming a successful learner requires a degree of reflection about the actual process of learning and BLP helps to achieve greater self awareness and emotional intelligence in our children. The children love the characters, which are puppets we have dressed up, and identify good learning habits with them. BLP creates a language of learning that children, parents and staff, understand and use. Thus when Robbie Resilience had some trouble managing his distractions in one of our BLP assemblies, the children were keen to help him to find a solution to his problem. Staff were dressed up as various characters, including ‘Betty Sue’ who finds learning very difficult! Children found this very funny and were fully engaged in the assembly. Those pupils who are easily distracted are now more self aware of how being distracted disrupts their learning and are more able to resolve it by taking responsibility for their learning, for example by moving away from the distraction. ‘Robbie’ is a popular figure around the school and children have developed the habits he represents around the theme of resilience such as ‘noticing’ and ‘managing distractions’. He sits on a chair in the hall together with Rosie Reflectiveness, Rhianna Reciprocity and Ricky Resourcefuness. Teachers design a lesson each half term to exemplify the importance of a the current focus learning power. So last week it was all about careful planning, linked to Rosie Reflectiveness.  Check out our school website for more information www.bradwayprimary.co.uk

Robbie Resilience to the rescue!
Robbie Resilience to the rescue!

What the children say about BLP in our school.

Below is the text from a June 2014 ‘Learning Walk’ undertaken by Governors and SLT members.

KS1 children were not familiar with the term BLP but were able to talk about managing distractions, absorption and noticing. In one Y2 class they were able to identify the child in the class who was best at noticing deliberate mistakes on the flipchart. Children recognised that we learn from making mistakes and understood the importance of building independent learning skills.

In KS2, children are familiar with the term BLP and all the children I asked said that the explicit learning about BLP did impact positively on their learning skills. A child in Y4 asked to put on ear defenders because they were becoming distracted. Children in Y5 and Y6 spoke very articulately about various aspects. For example in Y6, they offered strategies for managing distractions: ignoring, ‘pulling the shutters down,’ thereby discouraging others from distracting, asking to move to a different place. They said they sometimes assess their own levels of absorption. In Y5 there was a discussion about the importance of noticing mistakes to enable you to then ‘get things right.’ They said that BLP ‘gets you more into your learning’, that ‘if you do something good, you feel good about yourself.’ Another child said they found it ‘harder to become absorbed in maths,’ because they were not so good at maths, whereas in literacy, ‘you can be creative and let your ideas pop out.’ They said: ‘Every time I learn something in literacy, I can use it in my own writing at home.’ This child is about to write chapter 11 of their ‘book’ at home. Another child said they liked the chance to choose the level of difficulty in maths, enjoying tackling harder problems.

All in all, there was evidence of a high level of engagement throughout school, a clear awareness of  learning skills and a predominant view from the children that BLP helps them become better learners.

Learning about winning and losing
Learning about winning and losing

Examples of schools using BLP

Goldfields Infant and Nursery school. http://www.goldfield.herts.sch.uk/blp/blp_index.html

http://goffslearningmatters.com/2014/10/04/building-even-more-learning-power-2/

http://www.bradwayprimary.co.uk

Quotes from teachers’ marking and verbal feedback using the BLP model

  •  “I like the way you wrote those summaries to help you remember”
  • “Well done for concentrating through all those distractions”
  • “Well done you noticed!”
  • “Let’s try to figure out what it is that is making this hard for you to learn, and what might help you get the hang of it”
  • “I know you used to love being the one who knew all the answers… But I’m really excited about how you are pushing
    yourself more now…choosing things you are not so good at, and really sticking at them…”

What is BLP based on?

  • An extensive body of research into learning and the brain
  • Recent research into the key dimensions of learning power
  • Practical trials in schools across the country
  • The pioneering work of Professor Guy Claxton, who is programme consultant, and chief inspiration, for TLO’s Building Learning Power programme

The above summary was taken from the website: http://www.tloltd.co.uk/buildinglearningpower.php

Further reading

2012 SSAT conference; Liverpool http://www.ssatuk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Guy-Claxton.pdf

Claxton, Guy, Building Learning Power, TLO, 2002

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