COgnition and learning
The cognition and learning thread in our (semi-formal) discovery curriculum provides our learners with a strong foundation for their life-long learning journey.
Our earliest knowledge for those learners not engaged in subject specific study is taught and acquired using the engagement model. The engagement model was adapted from the 7 aspects of engagement, which was devised by Professor Barry Carpenter in the DfE-funded Complex Learning Disabilities and Difficulties project in 2011. The engagement model was developed with the support of an expert group involving members of the Rochford Review and using the evidence from an evaluation of the 7 aspects carried out in 2018. The model recognises that engagement is multi-dimensional and breaks it down into 5 areas- exploration, realisation, anticipation, persistence and initiation. Each of these areas is interrelated. Children’s progress through these areas will differ for each pupil according to the profile of need set out in their EHCP.
Examples of learning taking place within each area include:
I can show curiosity towards a stimulus
I can display more than an involuntary reaction to a stimulus
I am responsive to the same stimulus over differing time periods and in different environments
I am motivated to investigate further
Exploration is important in order to establish what interests and motivates our learners.
I seek more control over a stimulus e.g. stopping and starting it independently
I apply my knowledge to controlling other stimulus, in differing contexts.
Realisation is important as it can keep a pupil excited in their learning and can prevent an activity from becoming routine.
I can anticipate when a routine event is about to start or finish by interpreting auditory, visual and tactile clues
Anticipation is important in developing an understanding of cause and effect and helping the learner to develop their memory and sequencing.
I can show a determined effort to interact with a stimulus or activity through intentional changes such as changes in eye gaze, posture or hand movement.
I can sustain my attention for long enough to actively interact and try to find out more.
Persistence is important so that the pupil maintains an activity long enough to develop, reinforce, and apply their skills or knowledge so they can achieve their desired outcome.
I can investigate a stimulus in order to bring about a desired outcome.
I can act spontaneously and independently during a familiar activity without waiting for direction.
Initiation is important to establish how well the pupil is developing independence, which is
required for more advanced progression
Subject Specific Model:
When our learners are ready to engage in a subject specific curriculum we focus on the following subject knowledge.
Our discovery learners develop their knowledge of the following subjects:
- Early reading
- Early writing
- Early maths
- Creativity (art, music, drama)
- My World
- PE Fundamentals
Our Discovery Pathfinder learners develop this knowledge further of the following subjects:
- Functional reading
- Functional Writing
- Functional Maths
- World studies
- Functional Life skills
- Preparation for adulthood
- PSHE and RSE.
Throughout all areas of the Discovery/Discovery Pathfinder curriculums we recognise the importance of developing learning skills in addition to acquiring knowledge.
Dr Joni Holmes (Working memory and learning difficulties 2012) states that “working memory enables us to store information in our minds for short periods of time and use it in our current thinking. It is a kind of mental workspace that we use for many aspects of our everyday life, including reading comprehension, mental arithmetic and planning a series of thoughts or actions. For children, it appears to play a crucial role both in supporting learning and in maintaining focused behaviour in the classroom.”
Our Discovery learners may require additional support to develop working memory to help them with the demands of the learning environments. Memory loads within our Discovery classrooms are reduced by breaking tasks and instructions down into smaller steps, frequently repeating important information in a way that makes sense to the learner, re-presenting information and by encouraging the use of memory aids. In addition to this we frequently play structured memory and listening games to develop the ability of the learner to be able to hold a piece of information and process it.
Generalisation and Problem solving
We place emphasis on opportunities to overlearn key concepts in a range on contexts to ensure that knowledge and skills are generalised and secure in our learners’ long term memory. In addition regular problem solving opportunities are provided within both subject specific learning and engagement model learning in order to allow learners to develop their ability to perceive a problem and to consider how to solve the problem; trying out strategies that may have been explicitly taught in other contexts or that the learner is attempting for themselves. Staff model problem solving techniques in order to support children in increasing their own independent problem solving capability.
Our learning environments and resources contain interesting and challenging elements to prompt our learners’ natural curiosity and thinking skills. Opportunities are provided for learners to choose their own activities and to combine different pieces of equipment and use them for their own purposes. Discovery adults will be on hand at these times to engage in shared thinking that may enable the learner to take their curiosity and exploration in different directions. In addition our Discovery staff explicitly model the thinking process and use talking and thinking vocabulary when engaging in activities or delivering subject specific knowledge in order to support the development of thinking skills.