Lessons for thought

14th May 2004 at 01:00
Primary children should learn thinking skills from next year, ministers say, as they try to drive Year 6 test scores upwards.

They are sending out a new government thinking skills pack but are encouraging schools to develop their own programmes to teach children how to learn.

The shift away from centrally-directed initiatives on how to teach comes after the failure of existing strategies to improve the test scores of 11-year-olds.

For the past four years, 75 per cent of pupils have achieved the expected level in English. A target of 85 per cent reaching that level this year has already been pushed back to 2006.

Professor Guy Claxton, who has been advising the Primary National Strategy team on professional development, is confident the approach will mean a rise in results.

He said: "We are now moving to a model where we want to teach in a way that raises standards but also helps children become better at managing their own learning.

"It's not separate from learning your ABC, it's about learning your ABC in a way that makes you a stronger learner rather than a weaker learner."

Kevan Collins, director of the primary strategy, said the pack Learning and teaching in the primary years will cover three themes: planning for learning, creating the conditions for learning and understanding how learning develops.

Speaking at a conference on gifted children, he said: "We really want to focus on a system of learning and teaching across the curriculum, of learning how to learn.

"The materials will cover, for example, enquiry skills, fostering creativity, collaborative group work - what do they look like, how do they link to content?"

The introductory pack, which is being sent out this month, suggests staff discuss social skills, self-awareness, motivation, managing feelings, empathy, creativity, information-processing, reasoning, evaluation, enquiry and problem-solving. The full pack will be sent out in September.

Professor Claxton, from Bristol university, said: "There is a shift in expectations. The old method of what constituted good practice is very teacher-directed. It was about creating interesting lessons, but it neglected young people's development as learners.

"It did not pay attention to whether we wanted children to be more inquisitive, thoughtful or persevering. You got good results by being more compliant, passive and simply retaining information.

"The effect of this will be that results go up because better learners learn better. All the evidence is, the more help children have in thinking of themselves as learners the better results are."

Primary forum, 22

Friday magazine, 18

Teacher magazine, 12

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