CHILDREN AS young as four or five can understand the processes of learning, according to a study by academics from Durham and Newcastle universities and the Institute of Education in London.
They examined whether primary pupils could be taught to consider how they learn, as well as what they are learning, and found that even the youngest pupils in reception were able to select appropriate learning techniques for different contexts. Previous research suggested this could only occur in secondary pupils.
Learning to learn programmes were observed at 32 schools, in Cheshire, Cornwall and Enfield, north London, as part of the research. The academics found all pupils were able to think about their learning to a degree, but those who took part in such programmes were able to make the process more explicit. Pupils became more sophisticated in their discussion of learning techniques as they grew older.
The study also suggested learning to learn programmes had tangible benefits for teachers. Almost two-thirds of schools reported improved scores in national curriculum tests and assessments as a result of the project.
The Learning to Learn, Phase Three Evaluation report concluded that structured enquiry into learning must consist of several elements, with "a shift towards more interdependent learning roles, where individuals take responsibility, seek help, support others, make mistakes, reflect and revise their plans". Teachers should also explore different approaches to learning and accept the process can be difficult.