The Project Zero team at Harvard University has spent the past forty years investigating how humans learn. One of their main findings is that school pupils are not limited by their IQ, but by their ability to concentrate.

Everyone has a pre-dispositional concentration style, and some are more favorable to classroom learning. However, through practice, pupils can learn how to improve their concentration.

This week, conversations with staff, pupils and parents during my work at Colfe’s School have focused on building learning routines. The focus of these routines are to:

  • Control activation
  • Set goals
  • Maintain focused attention

The rationale for each is as follows:

 If a learner is not alert (activated) they cannot learn. Activation management strategies can to be deployed to optimise alertness.

Once the learner is alert, they need to orientate their focus. Goals, which are written down, are powerful orientators of attention. Goals can be set relating to content, effort, or time.

Once goals have orientated attention, trigger words (self-talk) and pictures (imagery) can then be used to help sustain concentration.

It is not easy for some pupils to concentrate in class. That the evidence suggests that pupils can be taught how to improve their concentration is exciting.

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