Approaches to Learning

Getting Results and Solving Problems – the GRASP process – is described, under that heading, in the History section of the web-site. GRASP emphasises the importance of explicitly exploring purpose, of returning to the question: “What do we really want to achieve?” and stresses the need always to look for different possible ways of achieving intended outcomes. The GRASP process underpins Comino approaches to learning. The Foundation has encouraged and supported such approaches for many years in different settings. The 40th anniversary booklet Demetrius Comino OBE, a life and legacy of achievement contains a detailed account of how, when and where.

Such approaches to learning involve both students and teachers, individually and collectively, in questioning the purposes of their learning through discussion, reflection and experimentation. Over time these approaches develop habits of mind, in which you find yourself regularly confronting questions such as:

“What do I really want to achieve?”
“What would it actually be like if I succeeded?”
“What different ways might there be of getting there?”
“Which one shall I choose?”
“How will I start? What is my plan of action?”
“Is that working?”
“Is that what I really do want to achieve?”
“Who might help me think that one through?”

In our current work we continue to test these approaches and observe their impact. We help schools to provide learning experiences in which young people undertake the kinds of challenges which develop in them an increased understanding of how to get results. Feedback, discussion and reflection lead these young people to connect their learning to other parts of their lives and to develop a growing awareness of their own capacity to achieve. These approaches can be found in the work of: the Science, Engineering, Education, Research and Innovation Hub at the University of Manchester; the North West Comino Creative Consortium schools in Greater Manchester; the RSA’s Pupil Design Award.

The Comino Foundation provided funding for the PACE Centre (Positive Achievement inspired by the principles of Conductive Education) from 1997 to 2009 and the Centre is now recognised as a leading institution for conductive education.  This support has enabled PACE to expand but its main focus was to train representatives from other institutions using conductive education both in the UK and internationally. In partnership with Comino, Pace developed innovative approaches to learning designed to improve the development of children with motor disorders, such as cerebral palsy. This led to the development of effective training programmes for staff, which combined practical know-how together with programmes in the theory and application of conductive education.

Learning how to get results happens through active problem-solving, where young people take on practical challenges which lead to tangible, real-world outcomes. The impact of such learning can be heightened through mentoring and is also increased where young people have opportunities to work in contexts which are new to them. It is helped even more when they have a chance to collaborate with and learn from adults other than teachers – especially when those adults come with specialist expertise. It is enhanced when young people work to achieve results in teams and have the chance to take on leadership roles. These approaches to learning are also used in the continuing professional development of teachers, for instance in the work of the Centre for Real World Learning at Winchester, through eedNET and its concept of Expansive Education.

Guy Claxton presenting at eedNEt conference May 2012
Guy Claxton presenting at eedNEt conference May 2012
Guildhall Conference Dec '09
Guildhall Conference Dec ’09
Guy Claxton with teachers
Guy Claxton with teachers

Above: Teachers planning together as part of the Expansive Education Network

The habits of mind outlined here are also captured in this poem by our Development Fellow, José Chambers, from her collection: This Good Fight.

Making it
What do I want?
What do we want?
What do we want to make happen?
What do we really need to make happen?

Always our questions
Shape the answer

Behind every question
The answer can be

It is possible
To make things different

And to make them differently