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Brainchild

Studying thinking skills has inspired many teachers to revive their methods with exciting results. It has prompted Garry Burnett to devise a key stage 3 course (above). He talks to Roz Reyburn

Garry Burnett has worked in Yorkshire schools for 20 years as a head of English, an LEA adviser and, more recently, as a project leader for "Learning to Learn: Research and Development".

Having been head of English for a number of years at Malet Lambert language college in Hull, he is now an advanced skills teacher there and actively involved in the National Campaign for Learning.

He runs training sessions at local, national and international level and contributes regularly to Hull University's PGCE and general training programmes, and he has also been involved in the development and delivery of its new Learning Pathways MA.

Learning to Learn began in 1994 when Burnett joined up with a small group of teachers to form a school research group dedicated to finding out more about theories of intelligence that would help them to achieve the school's goal of 100 per cent success for all.

Burnett and his colleagues wanted to make a differenc e across the school and the wider community - and to do something "extraordinary".

Burnett's enthusiasm and commitment are striking. "This is a vision of raising aspirations," he says. "- of making magic, of making lifelong learning something that really lives."

Along the way, Burnett has delved into a whole spectrum of research, including some of the latest findings in neuro-science stemming from the United States. He was also much taken by the influential work of Howard Gardner on theories of multiple intelligence. Gardner's book, Frames of Mind, challenged many received notions of pedagogy by arguing that there are several distinct modes of intelligence which had not hitherto been sufficiently recognised in the world of education.

Later, Burnett also discovered the work being done at the Pacific Institute in Seattle by Lou Tice in the field of psychology and neuro-linguistic programming. The Learning to Learn project also drew from other fields such as Gestalt psychology, which focuses on the human brain's need for symmetry, as well as Colin Rose's work on 'accelerated learning'.

As the project progressed, it became increasingly clear that all this new knowledge and understanding about the nature of human cognition could be used to make learning much more "brain friendly" for all. At this point, the task was to use this know-how to develop a collection of user-friendly classroom materials and some guidelines for creating the optimum environment for children's learning.

To this end, the team produced the Learning to Learn course for key Stage 3 pupils and were excited by the results. Burnett described the moment of completion as "one of those moments when the world is no longer what it was before".

Two years ago, when the Campaign for Learning project began, Burnett's work began to attract attention and the school was invited to become part of a national pilot scheme; 24 schools were invited to submit a project.

Burnett's project was to rewrite his Learning to Learn course and to introduce clear objectives and a more rigourous structure. Thus he set about translating an array of learning theories into an accessible, dynamic curriculum that would help to empower pupils by exploring multiple intelligence, motivation, emotional awareness, selfhood - and ultimately develop a programme that would be a catalyst to learning right across the curricular spectrum.

The result is an exciting new resource that might well inspire pupils, teachers and parents.

Contacts

Learning to Learn: Making Learning Work for All Students by Garry Burnett. Book and audio CD pound;24; video pound;14; CD-Rom pound;35; set pound;70 Stand PV176

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