A New Paradigm for Learning
Learnlife is building an alliance for change; a movement that seeks to re-shape, re-imagine and re-create a new (and level) playing field for learning that embraces a new paradigm in which health, happy learners, and society at large can thrive. Change is possible when we unite, collaborate and co-create as a community.
Over 300 thought leaders, educators and changemakers in the field of education, or related fields of influence who care deeply about the future of learning, from over 50 countries, have joined The Alliance to help co-create, shape and model the new learning paradigm. As described by one of our learners, "Learnlife helps you learn how to learn". Below we explain the new learning paradigm and how it serves to create inquisitive and thriving learners for life.
What exactly is the new paradigm?
The Learnlife paradigm for learning is, in essence, a practical version of aggregated and current educational research, especially with respect to cognitive neuroscience, psychology and learning – the science of learning. It does not attempt to be a ‘one model’ scenario, instead it provides the research-based foundations that need to be contextualised into the different communities that are seeking to transform existing practice or create a fresh model for learning. The paradigm provides a holistic framework for growing individual capacity as lifelong learners.
Is it a new model for learning, in the same way Montessori and Steiner schools were when they launched?
First of all, Learnlife does not operate schools but rather learning innovation communities, and it is within these communities that the theory of the paradigm -- the science and research behind the learning approach -- is put into practice.
It does not attempt to be a ‘one model’ scenario, instead it provides the research-based foundations that need to be contextualised into the different communities that are seeking to transform existing practice or create a fresh model for learning. The paradigm provides a holistic framework for growing individual capacity as lifelong learners.
The paradigm does not seek to provide an alternative model, rather it is intentionally emergent mainstream. Together the elements provide a framework for:
- thinking through related topics and research;
- enabling any community to contextualise the roadmap;
- addressing the complexities of change; and
- identifying the challenges of embedding and sustaining change
The paradigm consists of 21 elements, divided into 3 clusters:
- Preparing an ecosystem for change
- Implementing change
- Supporting change
At core, the model places the experience of positive and functional relationships as the starting point for everything, drawing from Maslow’s concepts of a hierarchy of needs.
Cluster One: Preparing an ecosystem for change
Cluster 1 focuses on the importance of preparing an ecosystem for change. This would include the need to shape and grow a healthy culture of learning as a prerequisite for change, specifically focusing on nurturing a strong sense of purpose and identity, both of which have a profound impact on success in learning. Positive culture is critical and the model directs consistent and recurrent energy to grow a positive culture, not only in the individual, but through this the collective culture where learning is the clear narrative and expectation within the community.
Cluster Two: Implementing Change
The second cluster covers key aspects of the educational or more academic components of learning:
- How do you weave the different threads of practice together in a manner that can consistently change pedagogic capacity?
- What diverse methodologies might be helpful in establishing a proactive culture and capacity for learning?
- How does an understanding of competencies and skills sit alongside prescribed content?
- What are the possibilities for remote, blended and online learning?
- How might assessment of learning be made meaningful & relevant?
An understanding of the different dimensions of our lives is similarly significant. For students to thrive, they need to have a clear perspective of themselves as a prerequisite to building effective interpersonal relationships. Equally as important, is the reality of a world surrounding a learner that is changing at a rapid pace, labelled by some as the VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This world is one where fresh opportunity abounds for those able to rise to challenges as creative and collaborative problem-solvers, thriving on connectedness, optimism and lateral thinking.
Cluster Three: Supporting Change
The third cluster provides an overview of the significant topics that should be front of mind in order to embed and sustain a new paradigm. This includes looking at the:
- critical placing of individual wellness & well-being in all situations;
- creative ways of resourcing a learning community; and
- how space might be used more effectively to support the learning.
A key challenge in embedding a new paradigm, or in seeking to modify existing approaches, is the ongoing development of staff. People might be well-aligned to a new vision for learning, but if their own training, understanding or experience has been in a more traditional model, then they will need ongoing coaching and support. The model proposes different approaches for developing a cohesive strategy around personal and professional growth.
What does the “school” experience look like?
Any daily experience of learning is built upon the strong foundation of purpose, culture and positive, functional relationships. Learning experiences are designed (or co-created) to cater for whatever the external context might be, including any government mandated curricula and assessment frameworks. But regardless, if the end goal is still to empower self-directed and self-determined learning (heutagogy), then all activities will have the aim of developing an independence and interdependence as learners. The shift is fundamentally from a standardised approach to one that empowers personal learning.
Some key facets of the “school” experience would include:
- creating schedules suited to any context, but still consistent with the wider model framework;
- providing for consistent development of core concepts within individuals or teams;
- respecting individual disciplines when and where relevant; while encouraging trans-disciplinary perspectives.
Measuring learners' progress
A learning paradigm that focuses on developing an individual’s capacity to be an effective lifelong learner, may still operate within the constraints of existing and more traditional assessment requirements. If so, such requirements must be met, but do not need to be the end point for presentation of learning. Research demonstrates that the most effective assessment of learning is when it is formative in design, enhanced by comprehensive feedback and where the learner has growing agency over the representation of their learning. The Learnlife Learning Vitae will provide a digital platform with an adaptive dashboard – a portfolio that captures, collates and presents learning progressions in diverse ways suited to any future contexts (e.g. tertiary institutions or prospective employers). The key is the ability of the learner to create, curate and present their own learning.