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The 8 Dimensions of Learning Power

Ruth Crick

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The following is an excerpt from It’s a Gift: Disposed to Learn by Ruth Crick. To download the full white paper and others in the Corwin Australia Educator Series, click here.

Given the measurement and assessment challenges faced by schooling systems around the world, it’s critical that we can find and utilise formative assessment strategies. The best formative assessment strategies encourage students to develop their own sense of identity and purpose and navigate their way through complexity in their learning journeys and problem-solving tasks. 

This was the challenge taken up in 2000 by a team of UK researchers at the University of Bristol, who identified a set of learning dispositions or dimensions of learning power – which emerged through successive empirical studies (Deakin Crick et al., 2004). The task was first to identify those personal qualities that enable someone to learn more effectively, then find a means of measuring and assessing them so that the assessment data could be owned and used by the individual to convert diagnoses into strategies for change. The term Learning Power was used to describe these personal qualities—which embody values, attitudes, and dispositions—since this was the first time a research team had developed a data-driven measurement model for the concept of Learning Power. 

Over 150,000 data points later, these dimensions of learning power have been demonstrated to be valid and reliable and, at the same time, extremely useful in practice as a vehicle for different conversations about learning that matter—a means of progressively handing over responsibility for learning to learners themselves.

This research programme identified 8 inter-related personal qualities that are necessary for people to engage effectively with “risk, uncertainty, challenge, and the unknown” — in other words with new learning opportunities (Deakin Crick et al., 2015, Deakin Crick et al., 2013, Deakin Crick and Yu, 2008).

It may be a truism, but remember, if you know everything already, you can’t learn, so humility and hubris form a new moral polarity in learning communities. These eight personal qualities are sometimes referred to as ‘learning dispositions’ (Buckingham Shum and Deakin Crick, 2012) and they involve feelings, cognition, behavior, and desire—they are holistic, integrative, and part of the way in which we create narrative coherence and make sense of the world and of our own minds. 

The 8 Dimensions of Learning Power 

Mindful Agency – Mindful Agency is taking responsibility for your own learning. It’s about how you manage your feelings, your time, your energy, your actions, and the things you need to achieve your goals. It’s knowing your purpose — then knowing how to go about achieving it; stepping out on the path towards your goals. 

Hope and Optimism – Hope and Optimism is being confident that you can change and learn and get better over time. It is helped by having a positive learning story to reflect upon, that gives you a feeling of having “come a long way” and of being able to “go places” with your learning. 

SenseMaking – Sense making is making connections between ideas, memories, facts—everything you know—linking them and seeing patterns and meaning. It’s about how learning matters to you, connecting with your own story and things that really matter. 

Creativity – Creativity is using your imagination and intuition, being playful and “dreaming” new ideas, having hunches, letting answers come to you, rather than just 'racking your brains' or looking things up. It’s about going 'off the beaten track' and exploring ideas. 

Curiosity – Curiosity is your desire to get beneath the surface, find things out and ask questions, especially “Why?' If you are a curious learner, you won’t simply accept what you are told without wanting to know for yourself whether and why it’s true. 

Collaboration – Collaboration is how you learn through your relationships with others. It is about knowing who to turn to for advice and how to offer it, too. It’s about solving problems by talking them through, generating new ideas through listening carefully, making suggestions and responding positively to feedback. 

Belonging – Belonging reflects how much you feel you belong as part of a “learning community”—at work or at home, or in your wider social network. It’s about the confidence you gain from knowing there are people you learn well together with and to whom you can turn when you need guidance, support and encouragement. 

Openness to Learning – Openness to learning is being open to new ideas and to challenge and having the “inner strength” to move towards learning and change, rather than either giving up and withdrawing or “toughing it out” and getting mad with the world. Becoming more open to learning is like a pathway to all the other dimensions of learning power, just as the other dimensions also help you become more open to learning.

Once these qualities were identified and validated through research, it was then possible to develop assessment strategies to utilise their value in learning design. 

To read more from It’s a Gift: Disposed to Learn and other white papers in the Corwin Educator Series, click here

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