Maybe the kids have it all figured out – RETHINKING Learning Skills

Day 5

Over the last few years I have developed a new teaching mantra.  Expect of my students only that which I expect of myself. I know I have written and spoken about this idea often.  But there is rarely a day that goes by that I do not find a reason to return to this simple but, challenging concept.

As educators we are charged with helping our students grow and improve in areas that go well beyond academics.  We are even expected to assess and report on these non-academic skills known as learning skills. But that also means we must explicitly teach and model these same skills in our daily practice. Our guiding document called Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools (2010)  offers a very clear description of these skills as listed below.

Learning Skills and Work Habits

Sample Behaviours


The student:

  • fulfils responsibilities and commitments within the learning environment;
  • completes and submits class work, homework, and assignments according to agreed-upon timelines;
  • takes responsibility for and manages own behaviour.


The student:

  • devises and follows a plan and process for completing work and tasks;
  • establishes priorities and manages time to complete tasks and achieve goals;
  • identifies, gathers, evaluates, and uses information, technology, and resources to complete tasks.

Independent Work

The student:

  • independently monitors, assesses, and revises plans to complete tasks and meet goals;
  • uses class time appropriately to complete tasks;
  • follows instructions with minimal supervision.


The student:

  • accepts various roles and an equitable share of work in a group;
  • responds positively to the ideas, opinions, values, and traditions of others;
  • builds healthy peer-to-peer relationships through personal and media-assisted interactions;
  • works with others to resolve conflicts and build consensus to achieve group goals;
  • shares information, resources, and expertise and promotes critical thinking to solve problems and make decisions.


The student:

  • looks for and acts on new ideas and opportunities for learning;
  • demonstrates the capacity for innovation and a willingness to take risks;
  • demonstrates curiosity and interest in learning;
  • approaches new tasks with a positive attitude;
  • recognizes and advocates appropriately for the rights of self and others.


The student:

  • sets own individual goals and monitors progress towards achieving them;
  • seeks clarification or assistance when needed;
  • assesses and reflects critically on own strengths, needs, and interests;
  • identifies learning opportunities, choices, and strategies to meet personal needs and achieve goals;
  • perseveres and makes an effort when responding to challenges.

Yet I often struggle to maintain these skills in my own practice.

  • How many times have I failed to return a library book on time or misplaced an important piece of paper?
  • How often have I abandoned an organizational plan mid way through?
  • How many planning times have I misjudged the amount of work I could manage in the 40 minutes?
  • How many conflicts amongst my peers have gone unresolved?
  • How often has a new initiative been received by staff with trepidation rather than positivity?
  • How frequently have I failed to seek clarification when I feel unsure?

I believe in VERY high expectations for our students.  But I must also believe in them for myself.  Who am I to judge a child developing these skills and strategies when I continue to grow and develop them as well?

I am not suggesting we do not provide feedback, ongoing conversation and instruction about learning skills.  I am suggesting, however, that each educator reflect on their own learning skills and consider how they are actually teaching and modelling these for their students and with their colleagues.

And the radical in me is suggesting that we should consider eliminating the “levels” (Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement) for evaluation of these attributes and simply use feedback, collaborative reflection and anecdotal notes to support our children as they improve and grow.

I would certainly not give myself an EXCELLENT in my own learning skills each day as I continue to NEED IMPROVEMENT in different ways on different days.

So maybe the kids have things figured out already and we should merely be supportive observers/facilitators of their growth?

One thought on “Maybe the kids have it all figured out – RETHINKING Learning Skills

  1. Great post! I actually have my students fill in their own Learning Skills using Google Forms and then see what they think of themselves before I enter it in. It’s a great activity and the students actually pay attention to and finally understand the purpose of the Learning Skills.

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