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Insights | The Characteristics of Effective Learning

27 Mar 2019

At Huili Nursery Shanghai our mission is to provide young learners with the building blocks to help them succeed in their future lives.  Our play-based curriculum allows the children to begin their learning journey in a fun, supportive and nurturing environment.  Children are challenged in their areas of strength and given extra support in areas which may need a little development.  When planning learning opportunities throughout the setting, we use the characteristics of effective learning to guide not only our teaching, but also the classroom layout and the interactions we have with the children on a daily basis.


 (http://www.edwardshallprimary.co.uk/about/characteristics-of-effective-learning/) At such a formative stage in their learning journeys, it is so important that children are engaged. Switching a child off from learning at such an early age could have a hugely detrimental effect on their attitude towards education in later life.  We want our children to be engaged, we want them to be curious, and we want them to ask questions.  These attributes can spark interest, they can help us to find answers and they can help our children to develop a can-do attitude.  During the day, our children are very rarely told how to do the activities that are set up for them.  Instead they are presented with a provocation or leaning opportunity and given the chance to explore it their own way.  Open ended activities like this enable each child to develop at their own pace with independence and ask for help if they need it.


 We want our children to be motivated towards learning and willing to join in. All too often, achievement is associated with outcome; if you run the fastest, you will win the race.  The gold medal becomes the ultimate goal and is the thing that is praised by others, “Congratulations!  You won!” By doing this, we pay no attention to how that person got to where they are; the hours of hard work, the setbacks, the immense amount of willpower it must have taken them to get back up and try again when things haven’t gone their way.  When we praise the process rather than the outcome, however, we take these things into account.  Our children will often bring home cardboard boxes, and as adults we can see them as exactly that, a cardboard box covered in pencil marks, glue, sequins and glitter.  The creator of said sparkly cardboard box has other ideas.  It is their spaceship.  There is enough room on their spaceship to keep food and water for 300 days and enough air to keep them alive in the event of a crash.  There are walkie talkies, added after a conversation about how the astronauts could talk to each other if they were in different rooms of the ship.  If we look at the outcome in this instance, we pay no attention to the child’s creativity, to their knowledge and understanding of the world around them, or to how well they can articulate their ideas to others.  By not acknowledging the process, we could harm the child’s self-esteem and prevent them from doing the same thing again.  If we praise the process they went through however, they will be more likely to try again and again, becoming better and better and who knows, we could be talking to someone who in 30 years could be a space engineer!


 We want to give our children the skills that they need to think critically. Of course, none of us can deny that knowledge is important, but it is how we use that knowledge that is most significant.  As adults we know that if we forget to turn off the tap when we are running a bath, the bathroom will flood.  How do we know this?  Maybe through experience, or maybe just owing to the fact that we know the bath can only hold so much water; when it is full there is nowhere else for the water to go but the floor.  We make links between our experiences and the facts we have learnt, meaning that we have an awareness of cause and effect.  As well as being critical thinkers, we want our children to be creative, to be problem solvers and to find new, more efficient ways of doing things.  Many of our children love to play in the construction area, and from an outsider’s perspective it can look like they are doing the same thing, over and over again.   Through building with materials of different sizes, shapes and textures children become aware of the properties of certain objects and will often begin to choose specific things for a specific purpose.  In the photograph below, a number of smaller bricks are arranged at the base of a longer brick and moved onto the textured carpet in order to stop a structure from falling down.  Why?  “Because these can hold this here.  And the floor makes the bricks not move.”  Time spent playing with and becoming familiar with resources allows our children to notice patterns, test ideas and eventually helps them to find the best strategies to achieve a goal they have set out for themselves. 


It may sound like we ask a lot of our children but imagine the possibilities of who they may become in their future lives if they have already developed and used these skills by the age of 6!