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Learning Power

Learning Power (Learning@Challoners) is a whole school approach to learning that puts the emphasis on the learning process rather than merely the acquisition of knowledge. Our mission is to develop students who, as well as achieving excellence in everything they do, develop into caring, considerate people who have a good understanding of the world around them and who can take on the challenges of life with confidence.

Central to all this is our mission to help students become confident, resourceful learners who understand how to tackle new challenges and solve new problems. Building Learning Power combines the very best of traditional intellectual rigour with the latest research about how people learn best. Our initial vision was to develop a whole school, cultural change in the way we approach learning.

Supporting other schools

Dr Challoner’s and the Astra Alliance have supported and continue to support many schools in their development of learning. Our impact at Chesham Grammar School has led to significant changes to their approach to learning and they have adopted our Learning Review model.We have also played a partnership role in developing the approach to learning adopted at the new Greenwich Free School. Visits to Dr Challoner’s have showcased our work (Oakham School, Sherborne School, St Cuthberts College Auckland, University College School, Henrietta Barnett School, Cheadle Hulme School, Queen Marys Grammar School Walsall, Roundwood Park School, Beaconsfield School). We have delivered INSET and keynote addresses at other schools (John Hampden Grammar School, Reading School, Tring School). We were partnered to John Colet School and St Bernard’s Catholic School as part of our Leading Edge status and helped to develop learning at these schools. We have hosted four National Grammar School Conferences on Learning and delivered workshops to the International Boys School Coalition.

Different strands to the development were planned and implemented:

·      Staff Development: a change to the culture of classroom observation, where observation is seen and used as a developmental tool. Staff understanding of the science of learning and its impact on pedagogy. Development of a Language of Learning. A small team of volunteers developed the process of ‘Learning Review’. The reviews are conducted regularly and results dissipated in the most appropriate format. The feedback from staff provides valuable evidence that the process of learning and conducting a learning review is one of the most effective professional development opportunities to change pedagogy in individual classrooms.

·      Governor involvement: governors were trained on the science of learning and volunteers have joined our Learning Review process as participants and learners. Their understanding of the day to day business of the school has greatly enhanced their decision making and empathy with school wide developments.

·      Student understanding: students have been involved in Learning Reviews (Years 10 to 13). We have developed student induction programmes for Year’s 7 and 12. The habits of learning have been integrated across the curriculum and provide the students with an understanding of the process to go alongside their understanding of the content. Visual displays across the school and re-designing of the school planners, focussing on the language of learning help to embed the understanding of what makes an effective learner. At points across the year, the PSHE programme and tutors use time to reflect on learning and its process to discuss key areas where students have developed their learning habits. Year 12 students are given a UCAS personal statement lecture to understand how to write their personal statements with the habits of learning in mind.

·      Curriculum development: individual curriculum areas have developed their schemes of work to reflect the opportunities to develop the habits of learning alongside the content delivery (Geography, History, Languages, Physical Education). The PSHE programme, as well as meeting national demands, has been tailored to deliver content based around the learning habits. The planners have been redesigned and reflection opportunities provided for students (see evidence file for sample Year 8 PSHE module, Induction material and Planner pages). Some individual subjects have reviewed learning in their own curriculum and integrated this into their subject evaluation and planning cycle (Physical Education). Others have developed a sophisticated review of resources and how these help develop learning habits (Maths). Subjects were given autonomy to develop their approach to Learning @ Challoner’s to suit their own needs. This has been collated to provide an effective map of the curriculum where individual subjects provide valuable practice of learning habits. The Learning Review process enables teaching staff to review the learning in other subjects, leading to a broader appreciation of the breadth of the curriculum in supporting the development of learning habits.

·      Parental involvement: an understanding of the learning process and supporting the learning of their son. Parents @ Challoner’s evenings all have a Learning @ Challoner’s element that enhances the understanding of our parents. Planning of these events ensures that the delivery of the science and its application is staged and becomes more relevant to the demands of each year group. The schools’ Parental Engagement Strategy identified this communication as a key element of further success. The Parental Research Group regularly discusses and contributes to the development of Learning @ Challoner’s.

Outcomes and impact:

The learners can now recognise and discuss what it means to be a good learner as well as a successful student. They appreciate the role of the school in developing their knowledge, but also in preparing them for life with the character and habits they will use at University and the workplace.

Conversations with students about learning and particularly a student’s ability to describe their learning demonstrate the impact on them.  National examination data continues to be impressive with marginal improvements since 2005. Learning reviews demonstrate the variety of habits used by the students and qualitative data demonstrates their understanding of the learning process.

Staff feedback from participation in the Learning Reviews is consistently positive. Comments ranging from ‘reinvigorating’ to ‘thought provoking’ are testament to the strength of the process in affording staff time to reflect on their own learning, their practice and the impact on the students’ learning. Learning Reviews are completely voluntary and over 90% of staff have independently signed up to this opportunity.

Subject teams have overwhelmingly appreciated development time away from school to reflect on schemes of work and integrate the learning habits into their curriculum.

Has there been any additional impact on governors, parents, outside partners and agencies?

Governor involvement in the Learning Review process has brought the governing body closer to the core business of the school, learning, with greater understanding of the needs of the students and staff. As experienced business professionals, the governors support the need to develop learning habits in our young people and support our vision through their own experience of the workplace.

This reaction is echoed by the parents. Parental learning has been a pleasant development, with many parents requesting to read the research we present and feedback is extremely positive about the messages we send. Parenting courses and parental engagement are integral to further improvement in the school. 

Ashridge Business School, a top ranked business leadership developer, has been a partner in leadership development for over five years. Their involvement has been to comment on our Learning Review methodology and discuss our ideas from a business perspective. This professional dialogue has helped us to refine our ideas and introduced to research professionals working in the same field. Their positive support for our approach has provided both validation and confidence in the leadership of Learning @ Challoner’s.