Tuesday, 22 January 2013

What are learner dispositions?

“The fundamental purpose of education for the 21st Century, it is argued, is not so much the transmission of particular bodies of knowledge, skill and understanding as facilitating the development of the capacity and the confidence to engage in lifelong learning. Central to this enterprise is the development of positive learning dispositions, such as resilience, playfulness and reciprocity.”
- Claxton and Carr, 2002
sited New Zealand Ministry of Education. retrieved http://www.educate.ece.govt.nz/learning/exploringPractice/EducationalLeadership/LeadingProgrammes/Environment/LearningDispositions.aspx
This year I will be working with year one children. Action Stations has been such a powerful and valuable framework for our new entrant classrooms I wanted to investigate possibilities to continue this framework but at a higher level. If I consider what we are trying to achieve to develop lifelong learners - learner dispositions seemed the most obvious direction to explore. 
So what are learner dispositions? What research can I find to explain the role these play in the classroom and how will it fit with Action Stations?
Definitions of learner dispositions is not an easy explanation. These are a few statements that will help to develop an understanding of what a disposition is. For a better understanding though please read full research papers linked below. 
- "Dispositions are frequent and voluntary habits of thinking and doing." (Da Ros-Voseles & Fowler-Haughey, 2007)
- Curiosity is a disposition. It is not a skill or knowledge but a tendency to respond to an experience in a certain way. (Carr, 1997)
- A disposition is the way we would naturally respond to a situation or experience(Carr, 1997)
- A disposition is about confidence, motivation and intention (Carr, 1997)
- Howard Gardner's habits of mind are thought to be dispositions(Carr, 1997)
- children naturally focus on some things and not others and interpret experiences in one way not another If this is the case we need to understand the students goals and their interpretation of their own experiences.(Carr, 1997)
- Dispositions are environmentally sensitive—meaning they are acquired, supported, or weakened by interactive experiences in an environment with significant adults and peers (Bertram & Pascal, 2002)

- Dispositions influence later learning, therefore, as teachers, we need to be developing the dispositions to keep on learning, be persistent  curious, being ready and able to learn, to engage in learning, creative problem solving.(Carr, 1997)
There are 3 main types of dispositions

1. Inborn - what we are naturally born with
2. Social - the way we act, interact and behave with others
3. Intellectual - how we seek, manage and interact with our world. Curiosity, persistence, self management etc. 
These are now starting to sound like our key competencies!
Learner Dispositions
Da Ros-Voseles & Fowler-Haughey, 2007 state four dispositions thought to create effective learners which I will focus on for my next step in our Action Stations framework for year one students.
Independence - self direct, self manage, and organise themselves for learning
Creativity - curiosity, innovative and use their imagination
Self Motivate - to engage fully in their learning, be responsible for their next steps and get stuck in.
Resilience - to bounce back after frustration, stress, challenges and to problem solve creatively 
Da Ros-Voseles & Fowler-Haughey, (2007) provide some brilliant tips for teachers to develop positive dispositions in the classroom
- acknowledge children's efforts
- provide specific feedback
-try not to use extrinsic rewards
- value cooperation instead of competition
- When communicating with families don't compare with other children. Report on what they do, their dispositions and how they contribute to a learning community. 
- plan learning experiences that allow children to develop skills and dispositions to use those skills. 
References and Links for further reading
Carr. Margaret. (1997) Persistence when it's difficult. A disposition to learn in early childhood. Early Childhood folio 3.  Retrieved from: http://www.nzcer.org.nz/pdfs/BES086.pdf
Da Ros-Voseles, Denise & Fowler-Haughey, Sally. 2007. Why Children's Dispositions Should Matter to all Teachers. Beyond the Journal. Young Children on the Web. September 2007
Claxton, Guy. (2008) Cultivating Positive Learner Dispositions. http://www.guyclaxton.com/documents/Routledge%20Companion%20to%20Ed%20chapter.pdf

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