The core purpose of our school is for every child to learn.Lessons in Plantsbrook are for learning. Nobody would dispute this, but defining exactly what we mean by learning is a crucial first step in ensuring that our core purpose is a reality.

As a school (pupils and staff), we have recognised how difficult it is to define learning.

The whole school team and a learner forum have spent time trying to define learning and have come to an agreement on the following:


  • Learning is an active process
  • Learning is done by the learner
  • Learning involves making personal sense of information and experience.
  • Learning involves receiving and processing information
  • At the heart of learning is understanding and memory
  • Learning can be unpredictable

It’s when you get it! When it all makes sense.

Year 9 pupil

One of the key benefits of reflecting upon the meaning of the word ‘learning’ is that it presents an opportunity to draw attention to the central role of understanding in the learning process.

The implications for this are significant:

  • Just because it has been taught does not necessarily mean that it has been learned
  • The aim of the lesson must be for children to understand new information rather than just receive it
  • Teaching involves sharing information – Learning involves making sense of it
  • “Learning, that’s when you take in what the teacher is telling you. If you don’t that’s not learning, that’s listening. It’s only learning if you think about it!”
  • Can children be making sense when the teacher is inputting or are they just acquiring information at this point?
  • It is impossible to tell when inputting who is thinking and who is not. It may be impossible to gauge who is even acquiring information!
  • If one child answers a question surely they are making sense? But what about the other 27 pupils? Can we guarantee they are making personal meaning?
  • To understand, pupils need to make personal meaning, do something with the teacher’s input
  • “If I know something I can repeat it in the teacher’s words. If I understand it I can explain it in my own words”

Indicators of learning – How do we know pupils are learning? What does ‘making sense’ look like?

Learning – making meaning- is a bit like the wind: we can’t see it, only evidence it because it is personal and goes on inside the individual’s head. Many things indicate that learning might be taking place, but it is not so easy to know for sure. We felt that generating some indicators that learning might be taking place is helpful.

  • Children explain things in their own words
  • Children are asking questions
  • Children are making connections
  • Children are re-creating
  • Children are frowning (the penny is stuck) and then smiling (the penny drops)
  • Children are talking purposefully to each other
  • Children are doing something with the information (active)
  • Children are offering analogies or metaphors: ‘Oh, it’s a bit like…’

The Key Principles of learning at Plantsbrook

We believe children learn best:

  • When they want to and they believe they can
  • When they are fed and watered
  • When they interact or collaborate
  • When they are active
  • When they are engaged
  • When they are comfortable, happy and feel safe
  • When they ask questions
  • When information is explained clearly
  • When they are appropriately challenged
  • When the information is presented to them in their preferred way (Learning styles)
  • When they review
  • At the beginning and ends of lesson or learning activities
  • When they have ‘time outs’ or breaks
  • When the whole brain is engaged (both sides) and they have to transfer and ‘do something’ with information
  • When they use their ‘context’ memory