Learning To Learning: 7 Critical Shifts

by TeachThought Staff

Guy Claxton is professor of education at Bristol University, and author of Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind How Intelligence Increases When You Think Less (1997). Among other concepts, he is interested in how people learn.

And so are we, so that’s awfully convenient.

Over at teachingexpertise, they recently overviewed Claxton’s work, including four “new Rs”:

  • “Resilience: ‘being ready, willing and able to lock on to learning’. Being able to stick with difficulty and cope with feelings such as fear and frustration.
  • Resourcefulness: ‘being ready, willing and able to learn in different ways’. Having a variety of learning strategies and knowing when to use them.
  • Reflection: ‘being ready, willing and able to become more strategic about learning’. Getting to know our own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Relationships: ‘being ready, willing and able to learn alone and with others’.”

These, while interesting, parallel the 4 Cs (critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity), so perhaps more immediately interesting are the 7 dimensions of effective learning shown below.


Stick & Static –> Changing & Learning

Data Accumulation –> Meaning Making

Passivity –> Critical Curiosity

Being Rule-Bound –> Creativity

Isolation & Dependence –> Learning Relationships

Being Robotic –> Strategic Awareness

Fragility & Dependence –> Resilience

A quick glance reveals the contrast between these dimensions and the structure of most public schools, and how much these suggest self-directed learning. That’s not to say that these are ideal and public schools are not–it’s possible that the current format is ideal and a shift would get us in trouble.

It’s also possible that tomorrow we’ll all wake up on Mars sipping Pina Coladas wiggling our toes in the red Martian sand.

7 Dimensions Of Learning To Learn

More than anything else, the concept of self-directed, entrepreneurial learning and transfer stand out. Learning how to learn is very different than learning content. In the 21st century, access to content and resources is no longer in short supply, but rather access to learning pathways, and authentic reasons to learn, which is where meaning making, critical curiosity, and resilience come in.

Making that shift in your own mind is important for these dimensions to be relevant in your classroom. The shift is from learning content to learning how to learn.

The takeaways for teachers probably start with the role of the student in the learning process: voice, choice, personalization, self-direction, project-based learning, and other low-hanging fruit of current trends in learning.

Bigger picture, the conclusions are probably more related to educational structures, the form of curriculum, and school design.

Learning To Learn: 7 Critical Shifts