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Stages of Learning in Personal Learning

AusVELS take account of the developmental stages of learning young people experience at school. While student learning is a continuum and different students develop at different rates, they broadly progress through three stages of learning. 

The following statements describe ways in which these characteristics relate to learning experiences and standards in each of the three stages of learning in the Personal Learning domain.

Personal Learning incorporates skills and behaviours that allow students to take control of their own learning at school. As students progress through school they develop as individual learners – understanding who they are as learners, seeking and responding appropriately to feedback from peers and teachers, setting goals and managing resources, and enacting learning values in and beyond school.

Prep to Year 4 – Laying the foundations

At this stage of learning students are given opportunities to explore and practise skills and behaviours that support learning:

  • learning to cope with an educational environment; becoming resilient in the face of day-to-day challenges
  • developing self-efficacy skills that give them the attitude and confidence to persist in the learning process
  • developing the motivation and attitudes to continue seeking support.

Teachers need to structure tasks into manageable parts, ensure instructions are clearly understood and provide appropriate resources. Teachers can identify talent and develop a sense of competence in all learners by providing opportunities for students to use their strengths and experience, and showing that differences between individuals are valued.

Students begin to identify and discuss patterns, for example, sequences, rules and exceptions to rules, cause and effect. They start to discriminate between the qualities of information. Teachers need to provide assistance with learning, for example, by directing students’ attention, structuring their experiences, supporting their efforts, and regulating the complexity and difficulty of levels of information. Students need time to learn complex subject matter, and to know how and when to apply knowledge. They need opportunities to elaborate and organise information, and to transform it into meaningful knowledge that can be used for different purposes and contexts.

Students take advantage of their strengths and abilities to develop an aspect of a lesson, or actively participate in group work, such as student-led projects, that provide opportunities to experiment and discuss solutions.

Students develop skills and behaviours for learning effectively with peers, including interpersonal and reflective skills that encourage them to collaborate with their peers in the learning process. They learn to direct appropriate questions to their peers, listen, observe and practise with peers, and give and receive feedback. Through participation in groups, students recognise the benefits of collaborative learning.

Students begin to monitor their own learning and become aware that learning is a continuous process and that, for learning to have depth, the processes are appropriate to the task. Some tasks will require expedience, while other require a variety of strategies and questions. In the latter case, teachers should encourage students to experiment and explore, rather than race to complete.

Students become aware of how they feel about learning; they learn how to express and explain their feelings about learning, manage their feelings in pursuit of goals, and develop attitudes and skills that encourage them to enjoy learning. Learning should be approached as a partnership between home, teacher and student, providing consistent messages about the value of learning, and modelling positive strategies for learning.

Students begin to develop an awareness of their learning strengths and weaknesses, the styles and strategies that they find most helpful, and those that require improvement. They plan and complete manageable tasks. They explore how different styles may be applied in different learning situations, determine when these are appropriate, and apply them.

Students develop habits that ensure they will ask questions, reflect, organise, and set goals. Being reflective improves the quality of learning, since learning with understanding is more likely to promote transfer than memory.

Years 5 to 8 – Building breadth and depth

While motivation remains essentially intrinsic at the beginning of this stage of learning, developing the habits of positive self-talk and seeking support will help students to persist with challenging tasks. At the onset of adolescence, emotions become increasingly difficult to manage; learning to recognise and manage emotions helps students maintain resilient attitudes to learning. As motivation becomes more extrinsic, students begin to consider their learning. They begin to ask questions about why tasks are relevant to their future life goals.

The development of the prefrontal cortex – critical for the development of planning, memory, organisation, anticipation of consequences, and the controlling of impulse and mood modulation – is most active during this stage of development. Organisation is a key skill in this stage of learning. As students specialise, they need an in-depth grasp of the organising structures or thinking patterns of a discipline, as well as factual knowledge. They need strategies that help them to understand a problem or task; for example, by making connections between it and previous tasks or problems they have solved successfully. Knowledge delivered in a variety of contexts is more likely to be applied more broadly. Students develop a more thoughtful, flexible approach to knowledge by extracting themes or concepts – not only facts – from it.

Students recognise differences among peers and make judgments about diverse learning styles. They develop an attitude of questioning, and are able to provide and receive peer insights and assistance. They compare their personal styles with those of others. In a collaborative learning environment, comparisons will be a catalyst for improvement and change, while in a competitive learning environment, comparisons will stultify some students.

Students enter a period of uncertainty and experimentation with identity, and need opportunities and support to explore different views and emerging ideas, and be supportive of their peers. They recognise peer emotions, and develop skills for managing groups in the pursuit of meaningful learning.

During this stage of learning, the brain is destroying its weakest connections and preserving those that experience determines to be the most useful – students are hard-wiring their preferred learning styles and will begin to express preferences for particular learning styles and contexts.

Years 9 to 10 – Developing pathways

Students remain capable of rapid improvements in learning styles and competencies. Myelination – very important for development at this stage – continues in the brain. Myelin is the fatty material around the axins, or connectors, of the brain cells which turns impulses into thoughts. It enables students to comprehend with greater speed, make comparisons and connections more quickly and efficiently, and become more proficient in fine motor skills such as those required for drawing and playing musical instruments.

Students increasingly focus on peers, giving and receiving support. They form partnerships and collaborate with groups in order to focus on, comprehend and complete tasks. As they begin to make choices about work and future schooling, they are faced with new responsibilities and challenges that cause stress. They require increasingly sophisticated coping skills in order to remain resilient learners in pursuit of goals.

Students take more responsibility for their learning and their learning environment. They create a learning space at home, and develop independent strategies and habits, including study plans and routines. Students use conceptual frameworks for learning. They apply logic, ethics and creativity. Conceptualisation is more likely to occur early in the learning process. These concepts may then be applied and tested, evaluated, and discarded or applied more broadly.

Students become aware of, and capable of reflecting on, the differences between mathematic, scientific, literary, historical and artistic learning methods. They become flexible learners, applying a number of approaches to understanding information.

By the end of this stage, students will have generic skills such as collecting relevant information, researching, questioning, using creativity and analysis, rehearsing, elaborating, organising, judging and applying. They will have developed the capacity to plan and apply these generic skills to enhance learning across a variety of domains. Teachers can enhance learning by providing opportunities for student participation in projects that occur over extended periods and are learner directed. Students will be able to construct a planned learning framework that allows a task to be successfully completed.

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