What do we really know about learner potential?

Anjonet Jordaan -- Thu, 10/15/2015 - 16:22

What do we really know about learner potential?

According to the World Economic Forum Africa’s population will increase dramatically over the course of this century, while the Americas and Europe’s populations will most likely remain steady or decline. This means Africa must find answers on how it will prepare the next generation with the knowledge and skills they will need.

This begs the question: are our schools producing people with the knowledge and skills we will need in the near future?

This week Prof Deborah Eyre, global leader, writer and influencer in the area of high performance in young people, this week presented a workshop at North-West University’s Vaal Triangle Campus on theories of potential.

Prof Deborah Eyre
Prof Deborah Eyre

According to Prof Eyre, theories of potential lead to inequality in education. In this workshop she focused on how all learners’ potential can be enhanced. Since it is generally accepted that a focus on learning is at the heart of academic success, it naturally begs the question how can schools facilitate high performance for the majority of students, as opposed to the few?

Drawing on her research and implementation practice data, Prof Eyre reviewed the thinking around student potential, explored the learning factors and conditions needed for success, and also looked at the cognitive skills and learner behaviours that must be systematically developed to enable more students to reach the levels that gifted learners routinely achieve.

The workshop first explored important questions such as: what type of person do we create through school education; what do employers and society says they want; and why is there disconnect between that visions and what schools produce?

Evidence suggests that there are a number of negative effects related to making early assumptions about learners’ abilities. Much is now known about how the most successful people become successful; Prof Eyre explored what the critical factors are and how schools might systematically enhance capability in the key areas to enable more students to become high performers.

High Performance Learning introduces learners to 30 core competencies that students need to develop how they need to think and behave to reach advanced cognitive performance. Workshop attendees explored with Prof Eyre’s help how these can be developed in schools and ultimately how to become a High Performance Learning School.

*The Optentia Research Focus Area on the North-West University’s Vaal Triangle Campus currently has two sub-programmes exploring various themes in education:

  • Unlocking Potential in Educational Processes under the leadership of Prof Ike Xaba, and
  • Holistic Learner Development in Diverse Contexts under the leadership of Prof Mary Grosser.

Recently, Optentia hosted the First South African Symposium Teacher Education for Inclusion that explored how South African universities may better equip the next generation of teachers to practice inclusive education in the classrooms of all schools.