Many teachers swear by Building Learning Power (BLP), and the approach is still gaining ground after 10 years. Teachers have tried out BLP in thousands of primary and secondary schools, not just in the UK but in other countries including the USA, Singapore and New Zealand. There are many, many success stories.
Whilst a minority of people remain sceptical – possibly none so more than Harry Webb (Building Learning Power is Wrong) and Dennis Hayes (Learning’s too good for ’em) – there are increasingly more and more advocates of the process.
It is becoming harder and harder to dismiss an approach to education as a passing fad when it has been gaining ground in schools for 10 years (Helen Ward, Flex your pupils’ learning muscles)
As most people are now fully aware, BLP is a practical guide to help schools promote learning to learn. Published in 2002 by Guy Claxton, it has been growing in popularity ever since. My blog on Building Learning Power from the Grassroots Level up discussed my positive views on the approach along with how it could be rolled out in a school.
The core idea behind BLP of course is that intelligence is not fixed but can be expanded. This idea, which has been developed by Professor Carol Dweck, is discussed in my previous blog on Becoming a ‘Growth Mindset’ school.
The aim is to ultimately make pupils more responsible for organising and evaluating their own learning by giving them opportunities to exercise independence and self-discipline. Pupils are expected to develop the four ‘R’s of RESOURCEFULNESS, RESILIENCE, REFLECTIVENESS and RECIPROCITY. Moreover, teachers, senior leaders and headteachers are all expected to get into the habit of promoting them.
The BLP approach was reignited at my current school on the 3rd of December last year as cross-curricular ‘Teaching and Learning Teams‘ met to discuss the language of BLP. One of the main things to come out of these meetings was the inaccessibility of the BLP language to our students. A whole staff twilight INSET followed a week later (on the 10th of December) where staff had interactive sessions on: ‘Growth Mindset and Talking About Learning’, ‘Noticing Learning Habits’, ‘The Learning Journey’ and ‘Stretching the Learning Muscle’. Overall feedback was very positive. The biggest things to come out of these sessions were that (1) most staff wanted more guidance on designing activities that stretched the ‘learning muscle’ and (2) many staff wanted more help in defining the BLP words – making them easier to understand and therefore use with students. In response to the later point I developed an idea kindly shared online by Ben Cooper which consists of displaying the 17 individual BLP skills as Marvel BLP characters. This has engaged many staff and students alike.
To continue to promote BLP ‘Faculty Teaching and Learning Teams‘ are going to meet next week (on the 27th of January) in order to deepen departmental understanding of BLP by sharing ideas and good practice (thanks to assistant headteacher G. Calwell for this):
In terms of going forward, the next whole-school twilight INSET (on the 3rd of February) will respond to staff feedback relating to the inaccessibility of the BLP language and ideas on how to develop the ‘learning muscle’. Several staff will be involved in the delivery of this. Furthermore, a full day ‘Extravaganza’ INSET on the 2nd of April will involve all staff actively participating in a marketplace activity where general teaching and learning ideas, and outstanding practice, will be shared with colleagues (by colleagues). Many staff will be showcasing BLP / Growth Mindset strategies at this fantastic event – such as ‘attributing performance to effort and learning habits’ (as opposed to ability), ‘demonstrating activities that stretch the learning muscle’, ‘developing effective collaboration habits’ and ‘developing listening habits’. This will give all staff yet another opportunity to immerse themselves in BLP.