Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guy Claxton's Magnificent Eight

Guy Claxton author of 'What's the Point of School', a book that examines why our current school system is failing so many children and how we might put it right.

Claxton's first priority is to create enthusiastic learners who can thrive in our complicated world.'Learnacy', he believes is more important than literacy and numeracy'.



Guy Claxton believes that teachers need to focus on how they relate to students in their classrooms. What is important , he writes, are the values embodied in how they talk, what they notice, the activities they design, the environments they create, and the examples they set day after day. These represent the culture of the class.


Every lesson invites students to use certain habits of mind, and to shelve others. The 'key competencies' ( or 'dispositions'), he says, are not a whole new thing but are an attempt to prioritize the 'habits of mind' young people are going to need to thrive in the 21stC. For some teachers, he continues, 'key competencies' are merely making explicit what they already do.


In his book 'Whats the Point of School' he outlines what good learners do (as against being a 'successful' students). He has sorted the dispositions of good learners into what he calls his magnificent eight'.Teachers need to encourage all of them.

1 Powerful learners are curious. They are born curious and are drawn to learning. They wonder about things, and know how to ask productive questions. They enjoy the process of wondering and questioning. Curious people, however, can be demanding and skeptical of what they're told.

2 Confidant learners have courage. They are not afraid of uncertainty and complexity. They have the confidence to say, 'I don't know?' - which is always a precursor to, 'lets find out'. They are willing to take risks and try new things. They 'stick' with things and 'bounce back' when things go wrong. They also know when to give up. They have 'mental toughness' or resilience.

3 Powerful learners are good at exploration and investigation they like finding out and are good at seeking and gathering information. They take the time to attend carefully and do not jump to conclusions. They are good at 'sifting' ideas and trust their ability to tell 'good evidence'.

4 Powerful learners requires experimentation. This is the virtue of trying things out to see if it works, or just to see what happens. They make mistakes, keeping what works for 'next time'. They like adjusting things, enjoy admiring their work in progress, and seeing how they can continually improve things. They say, 'lets try'...and, 'what if?' And they also know the importance of practice.

5 Powerful learners have imagination. They know how to use their 'inner world' to explore possibilities. They know how to make use of 'mental rehearsals' of how they might act.They also know how to relax and let idea come to them, finding links and connections ; they have a good feeling of 'rightness'.

6 The creativity of imagination needs to yoked to discipline. They have the ability to think carefully, rigorously and methodically. They are good at 'hard thinking' and ask, 'how come'? They are good at creating explanations, making plans, crafting ideas, and making predictions based on their evidence. They are also open to serendipity and to changing their minds if necessary.

7 Powerful learners know the virtue of sociability. They are happy collaborating and sharing their ideas and resources. They are good members of groups able to help groups solve problems. They are able to both give their views, receive feedback, and listen respectfully to others.

8 Powerful learners are reflective. They are able to step back and take stock of progress. They are able to mull over their actions and consider how they might have done things differently. Good learners are self aware, able to contemplate their actions to continually 'grow their learning power'.

Claxton believes that his 'magnificent eight' are both specific enough, and general enough, to cover most of the positive learning behaviours ( 'key competencies') we need to encourage, both as teachers and parents.

They seem to me to be the 'dispositions' that we would want of our teachers as well?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Claxton's 'magnificent eight' seem more sensible than the NZC 'Key Competencies' and would make an 'ideal student' for a creative school to aim for.

Bruce said...

My thoughts exactly.

wayne said...

Seems also that the magnificent 8 are also the competencies required by 'creative' people - what the world needs - competent creative leader learners!! Can't see too much of that in out new government!!

Bruce said...

Greetings Wayne.

Developing the creativity of all citizens ought to be our number one priority and the basis of our education system.And you are right, creativity is not a word I would use to describe any mainstream politician.

Winter said...

Just read the book myself and loved being fired up by it. Want to get on with incorporating and naming in class (and school more generally) the Magnificent 8. Thanks for summarising...used your summary in www.teachingthelatest.blogspot.com