31 August 2020
You may have seen or heard the words "learning dispositions" in your child’s documentation or through discussions with your child’s teachers but what are learning dispositions and why are they so important?
Dispositions can be described as a person's characteristics or personal traits. Some dispositions we may have inherited from our parents, for example, the disposition to be creative or determined. Other dispositions are developed in response to our interactions with the people in our lives and the environments that we experience.
Dispositions can also be socially constructed as different cultures may influence which learning dispositions are valued and how. For example, in te ao Māori these could be rangatiratanga, manaakitanga and aroha.
There are also some dispositions that support lifelong learning and these are referred to as learning dispositions. Our early childhood curriculum Te Whariki identifies the learning dispositions of courage and curiosity (taking an interest), trust and playfulness (being involved), perseverance (persisting with difficulty, challenge and uncertainty), confidence (expressing a point of view or feeling) and responsibility (taking responsibility).
In our rapidly changing world, we need to be preparing children for their future, for occupations that don’t even exist yet. This is why there has been a huge shift in recent years from focussing not on what to learn, but how to learn. Having a positive attitude towards learning and an ability to approach new experiences with confidence will support children to be successful, competent learners now and in the future.
There are a number of ways to encourage learning dispositions. Through careful observation, we begin to see which learning dispositions are evident in children’s play over a period of time so we can plan for ways in which to respond.
It is important for us to role model desired dispositions for our tamariki. We need to show children how we cope if things don’t go our way or how we are not afraid of making mistakes and how we can try again.
We consider the resources that are available to children that support learning dispositions. Open-ended materials (loose parts play) which are freely accessible for children to choose from empowers children to drive their own learning and provide endless possibilities for creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving.
Our choice of words and the language we use when interacting with children will also support desired dispositions. For example, if a child had been building a tower, instead of staying “Yay, Great job, I like your tower” we can highlight the dispositions we can see. “I saw how hard you were concentrating when building your tower. Although it fell down a few times, I really liked the way you persevered until the tower was the way you wanted it.”
At Treetops we believe that the environment is the third teacher and therefore it is important that we evaluate the environment in response to the emerging learning dispositions that we observe. We ask ourselves questions such as; does this space provoke wonder and curiosity? Does it have different challenges? Are there places where children can collaborate and negotiate? By providing a responsive environment, children will be able to practice these developing dispositions within different contexts and within different areas of play.
By identifying learning dispositions, understanding why they are important and knowing how we can encourage them through play, we are supporting our tamariki to view themselves as competent and confident learners with a positive attitude towards learning in any situation.