Understanding Learning and Learners. University of Bath MA Unit

How can I help my students understand and develop the skills of independent learning?


Sally Cartwright, September 2007.





The work outlined here combines an exploration of influences on my own learning and an investigation into how I can support school students to become more independent in their learning. The Faculty of Critical Thinking, Philosophy and Belief and Psychology of the 11- 18 co- educational school comprehensive school near Bristol within which I work, shares my concerns and interest.


The Context for this essay



As a Sixth Form Year Team Leader and a teacher of students at Key Stages 3, 4,and 5, I have observed both academically and pastorally the seemingly growing dependence by students on teachers for information and practical solutions and at the same time a lack of initiative and responsibility for learning.


My exploration began with questioning whether my observations were supported by any external evidence from other bodies. This was quickly followed by a need to clarify and define the idea of independent learning and also to identify theories of learning that would enable the skills of independent learning to be delivered. Finally there was the issue of whether the theories of learning would be accepted by the Faculty within which I worked.


Unwittingly the outcome has been, that more pupils that I do not teach, have benefited from this work than those I do, as members of the Faculty have accepted some of the ideas and developed them at a faster pace than I have been able to do, in my own teaching. In my introduction I have likened my enquiry to a journey, as it as taken unexpected twists and turns and made me stop, think and reflect and also taken me into unexpected quarters but at each turn I have learnt


The Journey of Learning



I have always had a passion for journeys. I love the excitement got from new faces, new sounds, new smells, continually arousing and challenging the senses. On a journey there is always another question to be asked because out of every answer comes further curiosity. The people you meet along the way can delight and frighten you – they can fill you with warmth or fear, but in some way they engage you. I love travelling because it takes me out of myself but also makes me reflect inwardly and helps me to see things a fresh. The memory of being on an open hillside in Kashmir looking down on the bright green rice fields with my husband will stay with me, because we weren't alone. Quietly and seemingly from nowhere, a man approached us. He took from his back pocket a single folded printed sheet of paper, torn from a book, that was going cream with age. He quietly sat next to us and asked us to read. It was an extract from Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. The three of us sat together on the hillside, on the grass, in the sun, with the paddy fields below, the foothills of the mountains ahead of us and we read, out loud from the page in to the silence that humans together can make. When there was no more to be read we looked at the man, who opened his hand and took back the paper and walked off down and around the hill out of sight.   That's why I like journeys.



The Kashmiri man on the hillside represents my vision of learning. Someone so enthralled by a story, that he would engage with strangers to hear more. His desire to absorb the words out weighs fear of the unknown. He treasures what he has and values it. It cannot be confined to the conventional, to what is regulated, it is not confined to a time or a place and it cannot be measured. How can that man's desire to hear a story be measured – Did he compare and contrast? Did he evaluate? Did he apply? I don't know. What I do know is that he has something that many of my A level students after 14 years of schooling have lost and that is a raw, natural and self-driven curiosity to hear and enjoy more.  Do I see as a school or as a nation our aim to have students leaving at the age of 17 and 18 bursting forth with a thirst and curiosity to know more?  No! I see a system that accounts for success on how many points each student notches up having sat through 18 /19/ 20/21/22 exams in less than 2 years. Two years ago I asked myself why do many of my students do not have the quality of independence in their learning, why do we seem to have students who only want to open their mouths and be spoon fed information. But wait, I don't know whether they want to open their mouths, but perhaps some have learnt that this is the way of least resistance.



The Evidence of my Travelling Companions


In Appendix 1 I have outlined how I see the nature of my own learning and teaching. I also likened the influences in my learning to companions met on journey.


In the autumn of 2000 in an inspection in the authority which involved Ofsted, the FE Funding Council and Training Standards Council, the following point under the section 'Issues for Attention' was made:



"Schools and Colleges should take the opportunity offered by Curriculum 2000 to review their teaching and learning strategies, ensuring that there is challenge for the most able students and that all students are encouraged to develop the skills of independent learning."


The inspection team also said this: " In general few students read around the subject as well as they might and few show willingness to question or challenge what is being said. This often restricts the development of their analytical skills."


"In some lessons teachers do not place sufficient emphasis on independent learning and the need for students to think for themselves."


One of my early travelling companions was the editor Moyle J (2003) who in her introduction wrote:


 "In the UK we work hard with young children to encourage independence yet then successively take it away from them as they progress through primary and finally into secondary schools, then try to give it back to them again at University level."    (Moyle, 2003) Williams 2003 pxii.



In February 2006 the Nuffield Foundation published a part of the Nuffield Review of 14-19 Education and Training a report on what Higher Education staff sought from students who had gone through the 14-19 education and training programmes. The attributes that were lacking in students were commitment to studying a subject, engaging critically with ideas, being prepared to take intellectual risks and using a range of skills to develop argument. The front-page headline of the Daily Telegraph on February 9th 2006 read: " Spoon fed pupils can't cope at college". See Appendix 2. Liz Lightfoot the Education Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph said:


"School pupils are being spoon fed to pass exams instead of being encouraged to develop knowledge and understanding."


She continues later in the article to say:


 "The constant testing of what they have learned prevented them (students) from developing a deeper understanding of the subjects."


The recent document 2020 Vision, influenced by the soft skills valued by employers, argued that a school should develop:


"Taking responsibility for, and being able to manage one's own learning and developing the habits of effective learning"


Guy Claxton  (1999) also makes the case that students must develop personal skills that will be needed, at much higher levels if they are to cope with a more a complex world characterised by uncertainty.


However the 2020 Vision document also makes the point:


"However the National Curriculum gives soft skills relatively little weight and they are measured, recorded and reported inadequately by national tests and most public examinations."


Perhaps here, is one of the clues as to why our Sixth Form students seem to lack those skills of independent learning.



A Reflection on my Evidence


An area wide inspection of my own local education authority in 2000, a book concerned with Primary School teaching in 2003, a report by an organisation funded independently of government in 2006 and a government commissioned review published in 2006 have all echoed my own views as a classroom teacher and Head of Year in the Sixth Form.  I was not alone making this journey.


Certainly my colleagues in the Social Studies Faculty recognised the tensions that exist between the teacher's desire to develop more independent skills and the constant accountable pressures on teachers to get results and by implication the reluctance to take risks in classroom teaching.  I am reminded of Paul Tillich's (1952) comment in his opening chapter of 'The Courage To Be':  'The courage to be is the ethical act in which man affirms his own being in spite of those elements of his existence which conflict with his essential self – affirmation.' I think as a teacher I often struggle to have 'the courage to be' and my teaching is the poorer for it. My own essential being as a teacher tells me that students do have the capacity to have an intellectual curiosity and to make independent enquiry but this at times seems to conflict with the need to complete a syllabus and meet exam requirements. The reconciliation of the two, and the courage I need is to change my practice from what I am familiar with, even if it is not particularly effective, to something that is different but could be more effective long term.




The Precise Nature of my Destination – a definition of independent learning


What actually did I mean by independent learning and who could help me on sharpening up my definition?


The Curriculum and Instruction branch for the Canadian province of Saskatchewan used Cyril Kesten's (1987) definition:


"Independent Learning is that learning in which the learner, in conjunction with relevant others, can make the decisions necessary to meet the learner's own learning needs."


David Boud (1988) the editor of  'Developing Student Autonomy in Learning' was concerned about autonomous learning in Higher Education and said this:


"main characteristic of autonomy as an approach to learning is that students take some significant responsibility for their learning over and above responding to instruction."


Williams (2003) author of 'Promoting Independent Learning in the Primary Classroom' suggests two definitions of independent learning: isolationist and interactionist. The isolationist approach is where children work in isolation without recourse to others. The interactionist approach is where children organise themselves and seek help when necessary.

 The following definitions came from an interview with a local primary school head teacher:

"Someone who is an independent learner knows how to use all the different skills, in different situations to help them access learning, because sometimes it is working collaboratively sometimes it is independent, sometimes it is knowing you are a visual learner - knowing what to do when you don't know what to do - to sum up it up it would be that someone who has a really clear understanding of how they can access their own learning, but it might be different in different circumstances...you can't always say: 'I always learn like this, because actually we always learn in a different way, sometimes we stand back and watch, sometimes we get in there and do  and sometimes we work with someone else." 

David Boud (1988) affirmed what I already share with Moyle (2003) and lead us away from the spoon feed culture described by Liz Lightfoot in the Daily Telegraph  (2006 page 1).

Cyril Kesten's (1987) definition recognised that developing independent learning required working in conjunction with others and this pointed the way to realising the complex nature of independent learning. The local head teacher began to unpack this complexity by highlighting the diversity of skills that were required to be an independent learner.

At this stage in my journey I realised that what I meant by independence was a student having the learning skills and the confidence and ability to select the appropriate learning strategies for any particular learning situation or task. This gave me the focus for my study however others were and are still informing the development of my study. Marie Huxtable, the Senior Educational Psychologist for B&NES (2006) suggested   inter - dependent learning was a more suitable term to use - it recognised the importance of the engagement with others in learning.

 What I have subsequently recognised out of conversations with Sixth Formers such as James and Joshua (see Appendix 1) and the MA Tuesday evening conversations is that without a student emotionally engaging with the purpose of their learning then the skills, ability and confidence one hopes for will be diluted. Without a teacher firing the imagination or providing the opportunity and questioning of a young person's mind then there will be no seen purpose for independent learning.

Theories of Learning

The next stage of my own learning was to uncover what theories of learning were being used to promote independent learning as defined. Influenced by visits to three local primary schools I began to investigate a variety of approaches, which became just some of the places I have stopped off at on route.

The visits highlighted a wide range of approaches, which were available and contributing to developing different characteristics of independent learning. Building Learning Power (Claxton 2002) identified general human qualities that could be applied to all areas of learning.  Philosophy for Children emphasised that aspect of learning that encourages questions to be asked. Thinking Actively in a Social Context (Wallace1983) provided a series of steps to guide a learner through an approach to solving a problem which many subject areas could draw on. The value of the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory for me was that it highlighted the importance of giving students the language of learning, so that they could articulate how they learnt. Finally within Assessment for Learning was the Traffic Light System that seemed to be an effective and non-threatening way for students and teachers to quickly identify progress or difficulties with progress.




My Own Response to Theories of Learning


In teaching there is sometimes the danger of being drawn into fashionable trends or approaches without a healthy critical review. On first meeting each theory, there was a brightness which has now tarnished on use because one quickly realises no one educational theory can stand alone in classroom.


The implementation of each learning approach interacts with many other teaching issues, such as environment, resources, behaviour and assessment for learning, school learning ethos, the diverse range of learning needs of the students and the energy and morale of the teacher.  I did see many of the ideas that are in the theories of learning listed in the 2020 Vision. '


"Encouraging pupils to explore their own ideas through talk, to ask and answer questions, to listen to their teachers and peers, to build on the ideas of others and to reflect on what they have learnt."



"Collaborative relationships which encourage and enable all pupils to participate and which develop pupils' skills of working independently and in groups, enabling teachers and pupils to move learning forward together."


"Using more open-ended tasks with pupil, either individually or in groups, based on specific projects of enquiry."



Building Learning Power


Analysis of the Impact on Learning of Building Learning Power

Guy Claxton uses the term Building Learning Power (Claxton 2002) to describe 4 key strategies known as the 4Rs for building up the skills that make up a good learner as explained in Appendix 3 In terms of my own learning journey this area of interest at first appeared very attractive containing, many ideas and seemed worth a stay, but the difficulty of effective coherent application for all students has proved unmanageable in the current secondary school educational climate in which I am in. Associated with the Guy Claxton's 4Rs was the ELLI project.  This project was developed by a research team at the University of Bristol's Graduate School of Education and identified 7 techniques to promote greater learning power in the classroom. To support teachers delivering these areas effectively students are asked to complete an on – line questionnaire, the purpose of which is to assess the learning power of pupils. Cambridge Education Ltd now manage the licences to run the on - line questionnaire however in November 2005, the cost of sending staff on the 2 days training to deal with the results of the questionnaire was prohibitive for the Faculty at over a 1,000.00.


The Institute of Education at the University of London in their bulletin: Research Matters which produced an article called 'Learning Styles: help or hindrance?'   (Moseley, Hall, et al 2005) made me more mindful of using questionnaires to do with identifying particular learner attributes. David Moseley, Elaine Hall et al based it on two reports. The report made the point that teachers have to be very careful about labelling pupils and simplifying the complex process of learning.



However what I did derive from the Junior School ELLI project was the value of the language for learning and the value of giving students a language by which they could articulate what and how they were learning.


As with all interesting journeys there are sometimes unexpected side roads which one turns into and they lead to something of interest and value but are not part of the original route planner. Out of the realisation that the language of learning was important I worked with the Head of English and most departments through the school to develop the language of learning that could be used by each department to support students describing what they had studied at A S Level and A 2 Level on their UCAS (University and Colleges Application Service) personal statement. After ten or more years of trying to communicate to students about how they could describe their studies I believe we as a Sixth Form Year Team moved along way in showing students how to articulate what they had and were learning. What I would now like to do, which is beyond the scope of this brief is to work with departments to give students this language throughout their course, so that from an early stage students would have the language of learning.



Thinking Actively in a Social Context



Application and Analysis of TASC



The learning theory that has had the greatest affect on the learners in the faculty within which I work is Belle Wallace's Thinking Actively in a Social Context. The Faculty considered how the theories given above could be implemented into the existing schemes of work and decided to adopt the ideas of Belle Wallace's TASC Framework (Appendices 4 & 5). The aim was not to displace existing subject matter or skills of but rather to enhance what was already being taught.  Belle Wallace's TASC Framework was to be used with more problem solving, project type, enquiry work. The intention was to give pupils a better understanding of the process of learning and therefore support the subject teaching by making the learning skills more explicit and structured.  There was a large amount of overlap between these approaches and the ELLI framework and the Key Stage 3 National Strategy Leading in Learning: Developing Thinking Skills Strategy


Subsequent developments are that in each of the Faculty's teaching rooms there is a wall display showing the TASC Framework and that has been used in particular at Key stage 3 and 5 by the Faculty. In Year 12 it became the vehicle through which students of Psychology planned and developed a presentation on Classical Conditioning showing an understanding of the case of Little Albert. The Key Stage 5 Coordinators Group has included the qualities of the 4Rs and the TASC framework in it's list of skills that all 16 –19 students should develop as they progress through the curriculum see Appendix 7 in the Sixth Form.  A further unexpected outcome is that there is now a voluntary group of staff that have met three times with representatives from the Departments of Business Studies, Philosophy and Belief, Psychology, English and History to consider how the TASC framework can be implemented.  A pilot project will be run in September 2007 for one term with the incoming Year 7 resulting in a jointly delivered piece of work called 'Differences'.


Marie Huxtable the Senior Educational Psychologist for B and NES has attended these meetings and lead and contributed to discussions on TASC and also attended a Psychology lesson to discuss the use of TASC with A Level students. A level students are now piloting the TASC approach with the intention of being part of the Year 7 pilot scheme in September 2007.

The A level Psychology students will model and explain to Year 7 how TASC can be applied to learning. 


Analysing TASC

Within the Faculty it has been found that TASC can be used on a small and a big scale, that several stages of the framework can be used in one lesson and that not all the stages have to be used within one piece of work. I found the Gather and Organise section difficult when teaching a topic about which students knew very little such as the Palestinian - Israeli conflict as students had no prior knowledge from which one could gather and organise information. To overcome this problem Belle Wallace suggested that the teacher should provide an input of information before beginning the TASC framework.  Students at both Sixth Form level and at Key Stage 3 found the sections on Generation and the Evaluation difficult to accept. Younger students at Key Stage 3 were too impatient to get on with a piece of work and were unwilling to spend time finding a range of ideas and then selecting the best ones as required for the Generation and Decision stage. They simply wanted to 'get on' with the work. Some Sixth Form   students argued that Evaluation should come after the Communication section disliking the need for them to review their own work and make changes prior to the final submission. Hopefully as there is a greater move towards Assessment for Learning these two approaches will work hand in hand. There seemed to be some pieces of work that lent themselves more readily to the full TASC approach than others. The Year 9 project on Religion and Media fitted well into the framework because students had a prior knowledge of religious and moral ideas found in films and as teachers we were able to model their task in this particular case by using the film 'Bruce Almighty' and showing how a film can explore issues such as freewill.


I asked a Year 8 class what they thought of the TASC framework and below are some of their comments:  'Looked at every aspect of the subject' 'You had a structure to follow' 'Plans out the problem well' 'If you need help you can just keep looking back at the TASC wheel' 'It can be a more fun way of learning' 'We get to work in groups ''Made learning clearer' 'Good way to interact with pupil and teacher' 'Different types of learning – good education source 'On the other hand there were those who did not like the structure and made the following comments: 'It's not your own plan' 'Hard to understand' 'The headings are weird' 'Needs to be used for every problem not just sometimes' 'Too many steps to follow' 'Some unnecessary stages' 'The tasks are bit out of the ordinary' 'Can be confusing' 'Its hard if you get behind on the schedule''


It is the student voice on these matters that is exciting because here students are reflecting on their own learning and they are also giving an insight and knowledge that will inform the teacher who is then able to change their own practice or work with students who need to develop their own practice further. Here learning is a two way process between student and teacher, learning from each other. I hope this has moved some way to what Claxton (1997) was encouraging in 'Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind': 'it is vital that learners are given some responsibility, encouragement and assistance to reflect the value of their own efforts,'




Assessment for Learning



Analysing the impact of Assessment for Learning


An explanation of the practical strategy that came out of Assessment for Learning can be found in Appendix 6 and an analysis of it can be found below.


The Traffic Light System has had more of an impact on the Faculty's teaching than Claxton's 4 Rs (2002) in terms of regular explicit usage.  I suspect the reasons are that it is simple, visual, and flexible and is understood by both students and staff. What I have learnt this year is that however many meta – cognitive ideas one researches, they have to be able to work practically. They have to be manageable within the time constraints of preparing lessons and resources. They need to be able to capture the imagination of the students.  They need to be able to work despite all the other practical factors that come into play in a classroom and affect the learning but over which one has little control, such as arguments between students, windows that are nailed shut and won't open on a hot day.




Where am I on my Learning Journey Towards Developing Student Independent Learning?


Certainly I am not where I thought I would be. The journey has taken a route I had not expected. It has not taken the measured development that I had expected but then on reflection I am not a measured person. I am an ideas person and the effect on learners has been more through other teachers across the Faculty taking up the mantle and working through the ideas in detail and passing their experiences back to me and I am now in a position where I am learning from those staff that have the skills of being able to implement a theory in practice. The learning process for me the teacher has become cyclical much like the TASC framework. It is as if when I reached the Communication part of the TASC framework a further cycle was begun but now out of my hands.  I hope that as I start my new cycle I will be able to draw much more on the student voice with which I began. I also know that to give students the confidence to be independent in their learning requires much more than just the 4Rs, Assessment for Learning, the TASC framework but that these can be contributory factors. The man on Kashmiri hillside, the reflective and calm delivery given by James and Joshua at our Key Stage 5 meeting and the saying below by Confucious spur me on for another day.


'If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you


teach a man how to fish you feed him for a lifetime.'


Appendix 1


Student Voice


James from Year 13 and Joshua from Year 12 are two Sixth Formers who reviewed the model (Appendix 7) of learning that I and a group of Key Stage 5 Coordinators had put together over two earnestly discussed meetings.  The purpose of the model was to provide a summary of what qualities and skills students needed to be successful which would enable them to be more independent in their learning. The model had at its centre the phrase 'The Successful Learner' and was surrounded by the words Organisation, Problem Solving, Presentation, Assessment, Planning, and Strategies. Both Joshua and James were given the model and invited to a meeting first with myself and then with all Key Stage 5 coordinators to give their views on the model (Appendix 7)


Their response was that while the model was 'very nice', it lacked what lay at the heart of what a student needed to know and that was the answer to the question: Why am I here – not necessarily a philosophical question requiring an Augustinian answer but rather: Why A' Levels? What's my goal in joining the Sixth Form?  Where is it going to get me? Joshua and James both felt that without answers to these question students would not have the motivation to study. It seemed to me they were saying that unless their inner emotional being was reached, learning was a mechanical exercise; it would be instrumental and not intrinsic. These students had in fact touched on something deeper, that there is a need to bring together reason and desire in learning.


So where had such reflective observations by participants at the learning face taken me on my learning journey, which at times contained anguish, anger and frustration and lack of self-esteem, but at the same time, like Pandora's box - hope. It led me back to the obvious, what all teachers know if left alone and given space to ponder and reflect and that is, as Belle Wallace has said, as my school's Head of English recently said to me, as my Sixth Formers suggested and the actor Robin Williams did in the 1989 film directed by Peter Weir, 'Dead Poets Society',  to trigger the student's imagination. From that source, the river of learning will flow and the journey continues.



The Wider Context


So now I have another question: What can I be using to trigger my students' imagination?  Do I have as Paul Tillich said 'the courage to be (Tillich  P,1952.)?  My inner sense tells me to teach with imagination?  How do I harness those learning theories which when I first met them seemed to answer all my teacher's questions, but then on reflection became one piece of the learning jigsaw that added another dimension to the canvas? How do I provide the social context in which I and may be a class of students or a year group of students or even a whole sixth form of students have our imagination triggered, to want to learn? How do I prevent the concern Jostein Gardner writes about in Sophie's' World (Gardner J,1996). 'My concern is that you do not grow up to be one of those people who take the world for granted,'


Jack, I am really excited by the question I am asking and the possibility of embarking   on the next stage of my journey so thank you. But, before I do so, I want to consider how my travelling companions, their stories and guidebooks over the last part of the journey have contributed to my current stage of the journey.



Appendix 3



Building Learning Power


Guy Claxton use the term Building Learning Power to describe 4 key strategies known as the 4Rs for building up the skills that make up a good learner. Resilience is concerned with a pupil managing distractions and being prepared to accept that learning can be difficult, although  it does not mean it cannot be done. Resilience is about having the right frame of mind to get to the bottom of things and being prepared to play around with ideas through pictures and diagrams and developing the ability to reason. Reflectiveness is to do with self-knowledge, meta -  learning, having the language of learning and being flexible enough to change direction. Finally reciprocity is to do with how learners relate to each other, when to work alone and when to work with each other.


How has this affected the way others and I teach in various departments in the school? Those staff teaching in the Faculty, now have these four 'R' words in bold letters in each classroom. On the recommendation of one Junior School visited we have attached pictures to each of the ideas. The benefit of this is that these ideas and words have now entered the language of learning that teachers use when working with individual students.  The 'Four Rs' have also now been introduced to the Key Stage 5 Coordinators Group at the school within which I work. ( see Appendix 7)


However the difficulty has been that because there have been far larger matters that have absorbed the time of staff such as Specialist School Status, Assessment for Learning and Self Evaluation Forms and so on, there is no whole school approach to these ideas as you may have in Junior School, with the result that it's application is ad hoc. Also the vocabulary is not readily accessible to all students in the secondary school.



Appendix 4


The TASC Framework

The learning theory that has had the greatest affect on the learners in the faculty with in which I work is Belle Wallace's Thinking Actively in a Social Context. This is because it is clearly structured and can have direct practical application. TASC stands for Thinking Actively in a Social Context and details can be found on the National Association for Able Children in Education's   website.


A text book that was helpful in understanding how the process could be applied to a particular subject was 'Using History to Develop thinking Skills at Key Stage 2.  (Wallace,B (ed)  (2003). as well as an inset day run by the Local Education Authority led by Belle Wallace.


The key ideas behind TASC are that thinking is not static and that children need to understand that they can make positive progress and develop. Pupils and students need to be part of the decision making progress and they need to be involved in what they learn and how they learn and to have some ownership of what they do and understand the purpose of learning. The contextual aspect of TASC is that pupils need to see a sense of what they do and to see how it fits into the bigger picture of learning in the same way that people start to understand the world by seeing links or bridges between different parts of the puzzle.   Belle Wallace argued that when using the TASC framework the teacher is the Senior Learner.  It was important to talk through the learning strategy for the pupils and she advised that at each stage of the TASC Framework there needed to be a form of assessment. However the whole of the TASC wheel did not have to be used all the time so long as some point all the processes and have been covered. To introduce this approach to learning Belle Wallace suggested a TASC Framework day.  It could become the focus of a Year 7 Induction day where the pupils are set a task that has to be completed using the 8 steps through the day. The TASC framework is divided into 8 sections and often presented in the form of a wheel. Each section is one thinking stage in a problem solving approach. The 8 stages are:


Thinking skills


1.Gather/ Organise 

What do I know about this?


What is the task?


How many ideas can I think of?

4. Decide

Which is the best?


Let's do it!


How well do I do?


Let's tell someone

8.Learn from Experience

What have I learned?


Appendix 5




The TASC Wheel
Appendix 6


A Practical Strategy: Traffic lights


Professor Paul Black when asked what key elements particularly enhanced teaching and learning in an interview for the General Teaching Council 2006, highlighted three steps: the first was to improve pupil interaction through dialogue, the second was to  improve written comments on pupils books and the third was to improve the independence and responsibility of learners.


The visits to local junior schools introduced me to the Traffic Light System a mechanism used to deliver an aspect of Assessment for Learning. Now the Traffic Light System is used in the  marking of books across all three key stages   I was delighted at a Year 11parents  evening  recently when one of my pupils from a GCSE class  spontaneously explained the system to her parents:


Red for Stop!                Task not understood See your teacher for help.

Orange for Look out!    Details missing, Inaccuracy, You need to finish

Green for On target!     Your work shows clear understanding.


Posters displaying this system are in each Faculty teaching room. It is also now used as part of a classroom strategy in question and answer sessions and also used by pupils as one of the strategies to indicate what they do and do not understand in   all 3 key stages including the three A' Level courses of Psychology, Philosophy and Belief and Critical Thinking. This is one of the many factors that can contribute to independent learning – students reflecting on their own progress.


Appendix 7







Boud D, (ed) (1988)  'Developing Student Autonomy in Learning' – 2nd Edition;Oklahoma: Nichols Publishing Company


http://www.bris.ac.uk/education/enterprise/elli/implementing retrieved on 22/11/05

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http://www.ellionline.co.uk/introduction.php retrieved on  22/11/05

http://www.camb-ed.com/elli.htm retrieved on 22/11/05



ClaxtonG, ( 2002 ) Building Learning Power helping young people become better

learners; Bristol TLO Ltd.


ClaxtonG, (1997) Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: Why intelligence increases when you think less.  London

Fourth Estate


Claxton G, (1999) Wise Up Learning to Live the Learning Life; Stafford. England: Network Educational Press Ltd;


DFES 2020Vision; Nottingham Ref: 04255-2006DOM-EN ISB: 978-1-84478-862-0


Gardner.(1996) Sophie's World ; London, Orion books.


http:/www.gtce.org.uk/newsfeatures/features/  retrieved  02/11/06


Kesten  C,  (Independent Learning, Saskatchewan Education, (1987) was  cited in The Canadian Curriculum and Instruction branch of Saskatchewan Education  retrieved  06/03/05 from url


http://www.sasked.gov.sk.ca/docs/policy/cels/el7.html retrieved 09/09/07


Leading in learning: developing thinking skills at Key Stage 3 Handbook for teachers Key stage 3 National Strategy. Crown copyright 2005. DfES 0035-2005G


Lightfoot L, 'Spoon-fed pupils can't cope at college'. Daily Telegraph pp1  Feb 9th 2006  


Moseley D, Hall E and Ecclestone K,( 2005) 'Learning styles: help or hindrance',  Institute of Education,  University of London, Research Matters. No 26 p 1-8


Moyle J,  (2003) Introduction to . Promoting Independent Learning in the Primary  Classroom; Buckingham: Open University Press



http://www.nace.co.uk/home.htm?welcome.htm~mainFrame  retrieved  09/09/07


http: www.nuffield14-19review.org.uk 'Focus groups' retrieved 01/06/06


www.ofsted.gov.uk/reports/servicesreports/301.htm   Bath and North East Somerset 16- 19 Area Wide Inspection in Autumn 2000. 'Issues for Attention' and 'Quality of Teaching and Learning' retrieved 01/06/06


 http://sapere.org.uk/what-is-sapere/  retrieved 09/09/07


Tillich P, (1952) The Courage To Be;  London: Collins: Clear -  Type Press


Wallace B, NACE ( 1983) National Association for Able Children in Education www.nace.co.uk  TASC/ Understanding more about TASC /Mind map 7 retrieved 23/05/06


Wallace B, (ed)  (2003) Using History to Develop thinking Skills at Key Stage 2;  London: David Fulton Publishers


Williams J, (2003) Promoting Independent Learning in the Primary  Classroom; Buckingham: Open University Press.