I have now been involved with developing a programme of ‘Building Learning Power’ at my
school for about 20 months. In that time I believe that I have observed profound effects in so
much of what I am involved in.
I have always been a confident teacher and have been lucky enough to have positive
relationships with the students that I have taught, I have also been keen to try new ideas
and help my students to develop as learners. Some initiatives have worked to a fashion and
other ideas have simply exasperated me. When I initially heard about ‘Building Learning
Power’ I was somewhat sceptical, but I read a little further and began to appreciate the logic
of the process. Without a doubt the opportunity to empower students with a better grasp of
their own learning and to instil a genuine resilience for university study really motivated me
to help develop a ‘Building Learning Habit’ culture at my school.
I have noticed that as we have introduced the learning habit terms to the students they have
taken them on board with real zest and enthusiasm. The ‘splicing’ of learning habit language
into our learning objectives has been quite easy and, I believe, has given our objectives more
meaning. As time has passes we are finding that students already have an understanding of
the habits and are able to more clearly visualise our dual learning objectives.
In one of my As level teaching groups I had a couple of students who were languishing at
grade E/U level when they started their course16 months ago. I have targeted these
individuals and their group for close BLP attention! Although it is so difficult to link cause
and effect between learning habits and exam performance this group has made astonishing
progress, but in particular the two underperforming students have just got strong grade A’s in
their mock A2. I anticipate a full set of A and A* grades in the summer from this group. I feel
comfortable suggesting that our conversations about learning habits have helped the group
with a clearer understanding of their learning. They agree with me that they feel more
confident as independent learners as they move toward the challenges of university study.
It is pretty straight forward to see the effect on my students. I find it very uplifting as they
discuss their own learning using BLP language as the tackle learning challenges. When I ask
the students what their impression is of the use of BLP, they are very positive and
acknowledge the way in which they are now thinking about their learning. I have just done a
session with our Students As Learning Partners or SALP group. They have constructed their
own learning ladders and have identified how they might feedback to staff their observations
in as constructive a manor as possible. There responses have been so mature and
In my school I feel that the development of BLP has been substantial. After targeting the
introduction of learning habits to years 7, 8 and lower sixth in our first year we have
expanded to encourage staff to use BLH in all those lessons that they feel comfortable. It has
been a natural and unforced progression that now sees the vast majority of lessons
incorporating the use of learning habits. We still have a long way to go. Departments have
been working on learning ladders which detail their interpretation of the progressive
development of learning habits. This work has also been done by parents and our SALP
group. Staff triads or quads have also been meeting regularly to share practice initially across
curriculum areas and currently within departments. Altogether we are deepening our use of
Given these developments and the cultural change which makes us ‘feel’ like a BLH School.
There is the bottom line. We see emerging evidence of a positive effect on internal exam
results. External exam results remain at record levels despite the school having to
deal with continued challenges, especially financial. It is not really possible to link our exam
successes directly to BLH, but I remain convinced that the effects can only be positive and
will get even better. I also know that my A level students will take on university study with
more highly developed and resilient learning skills and that gives me a real sense of
satisfaction. I think that we can sum the progress that the school, has made with a recent
comment made to me by a teacher of german, who said that the effect of the student using
BLH regularly in their lessons has been that they learn more content at a deeper level in less
time than ever before.
Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, Sutton Coldfield.