Activate Learning is a group of schools, colleges and training providers operating across the Thames Valley and overseas. The group’s members are united by a distinctive Learning Philosophy, which recognises the elements required for effective learning.
Our Learning Philosophy was first outlined in our Strategic Plan 2014-18 as fundamental to our approach to teaching and learning. The philosophy is based on our collective experiences of educating, developing and listening to people. It enables us to achieve our mission that everyone who comes into contact with us goes ‘further than education’.
As a result of hundreds of conversations with our students, teachers, parents and employers we identified that when we focus on relevant, applied, co-created learning, transformation happens. Our students become motivated, engaged and are able to realise their potential. They are more likely to develop positive mind-sets, become confident, inquisitive, creative and articulate and achieve their ambitions.
Our Learning Philosophy, which is now integrated across the curriculum in our three FE colleges and two UTCs, is driven by the following principles:
BRAIN – our brains are capable of incredible things. From the study of neuroscience we know how the brain forms networks and how learning takes place when neurons connect. We know how to deepen these neural connections through ongoing practice and how to replace poor learning with effective habits.
MOTIVATION – while our brains may be capable of learning anything, we are only likely to use them if we are motivated to do so. It is our job to demonstrate the relevance and impact of new skills and knowledge so that students maintain motivation.
EMOTIONS – the biggest barrier to effective learning is our emotional response. If we have had negative experiences of learning in the past, this will reduce our willingness to try again. Learning involves taking risks and students must feel safe, secure and confident to do this.
This Learning Philosophy has inspired new applied-learning approaches across the group, including:
- Employer-sponsored project-based learning, rooted in real-life scenarios
- The development of career pathways, co-created with employers
- The launch of learning companies, where students work and learn in commercial operations
- Work experience and experiences of work embedded across all study programmes
- A faculty structure which enables leadership teams to build relationships with employers in their sector and inform curriculum development
This shift has been supported by induction and tutorial programmes which enable learners to understand how their brain works and develops, and the environmental factors affecting good brain health. Coaching and mentoring develops learners’ emotional resilience and intelligence, while work with employers identifies the particular attributes required for their industry.
These approaches have contributed to a three-year increased trend of student success in our FE colleges and progression rates which far exceed national averages.
Activate Learning won the Edge sponsored, 2016/17 AoC Beacon Award for Practical Teaching and Learning.