What I offer
At the heart of Effective Leaners is a commitment to develop the attitudes, habits, skills and insights that underpin successful learning. I provide workshops and private sessions for students, parents and schools to remove barriers to learning and put in place strategies that produce confident, engaged, self-motivated learners.
For children and teenagers:
- One-to-one coaching to develop learning confidence and self-reliance
- Strategies to help children and teens to do their best with homework
- Help to prepare for important occasions such as performances, competitions, interviews and exams
- Customized Thinking, Learning and Study skills courses for individuals or groups
- Support for parents whose children have learning difficulties or sensitive, reactive temperaments
- Help in establishing the habits, attitudes and skills that pave the way for school success
- Help in creating the relationships and home environment that best support learning
- Help in balancing the conflicting demands of work and family
- Advice and collaboration to develop the skills of independent learning in school settings
- Awareness and understanding of the contribution coaching can make to the quality of teaching and learning in schools
- Motivational coaching for pupils
- Motivational coaching for teachers, providing a space for professional reflection and helping to identify and work towards objectives and aspirations
For students of all ages
- Teaching and training in the skills, attitudes and habits of independent learning
- One-to-one coaching to develop learning confidence and self-reliance
- Help in establishing goals and finding a purposeful direction
Do you recognise any of the following situations? If so, I can certainly help!
(All stories are illustrative fictions based on real experiences)
George (Year 8 pupil), as seen by his mother
George is in Year 8 now. He did well at primary school without ever having to try too hard and he seemed to settle quite well when he went to secondary school. But the teachers are now telling us that he has poor concentration and is starting to clown around in lessons. He often skips doing homework and is full of silly excuses about why he has not done it. If he does do it, he rushes it – he’s only interested in getting it done as quickly as possible – and the quality isn’t good. He’s not interested in talking about school, so we get very little information about what’s going on from him. He’s very preoccupied with his own friendship group and is constantly texting and checking Facebook and I think he’s taking an interest in girls. He doesn’t seem to have any real interests apart from computer games and we can’t get him to read at all.
I’m really worried that he’s losing interest in learning and that he’ll do badly when it comes to exams. This will discourage and turn him off even more. I know he’s capable of getting good GCSEs and A levels, but at the moment he’s not even keeping up with the rest of the class. I worry that he may have some sort of learning difficulty that hasn’t been spotted and I don’t think the teachers are handling him well – they always seem cross with him. I don’t even know if he’s happy.
I’ve thought about getting him a tutor, but don’t know which subject to focus on and it might just make him lazier at school if he knows a tutor will help him at home. My husband thinks he needs a firmer hand and threatens him with all sorts of punishments. I’ve tried bribing him to get better marks. He likes getting the rewards, but I worry that he shouldn’t be getting rewards for things he should be doing anyway. I nag him constantly and sometimes I lose my temper, but none of it seems to have much effect.
If only I knew how to start turning things around and getting him back on track. He used to be such a lively and inquisitive child and such fun to be with. I want him to be interested in what he’s learning and proud of what he’s achieving at school.
Emily (Year 5 pupil), as explained by her mother
Emily has always been a strong character, but at the moment I’m finding her really difficult to handle. If I ask her to do anything she ignores me, comes up with all sorts of excuses or tells me to get lost. I have to ask again and again and even then it often doesn’t work. The mornings are the worst time. Trying to get her up and out of the house is a nightmare. She won’t tidy up or help with any household chores – she doesn’t seem to think it’s any of her business. She’s not getting on with her siblings. She is always stirring and trying to wind them up and she says incredibly hurtful things to them. Both of them try to avoid her as much as possible. All this is having a bad effect on our family life – we don’t enjoy spending time together any more.
I’m worried about the kind of family we are becoming and where this will all lead to. Being at home isn’t relaxing for any of us any more. I’m tired and short-tempered, the children are fractious and irritable and my husband spends as much time as possible at work.
I’ve talked to the school, but they say they haven’t noticed anything unusual in her behaviour. They say she probably could do better, but they have no big concerns at the moment. I’ve thought about taking her to an educational psychologist or some other professional, but I’m not sure how that would help and it would be difficult to persuade her to go there. I’ve talked to other parents and they say that children go through these phases and you just have to tough it out.
I’m at my wits end. I feel so out of control. Life is very hectic with four children and two working parents, but up to now I’ve always felt I could manage. I just wish I could see some way out of this nightmare.
Thomas (Deputy head)
Some of our pupils are capable of academic success but have poor motivation and learning habits. They seem to find it hard to connect their schoolwork with the rest of their lives or their ambitions for the future. They find it hard to think ahead or to plan and organize their time. They don’t develop the habits of independent learners, but wait to be told exactly what to do, wanting us to spoonfeed them the information they need to pass exams. They dislike problem solving and they never think things through properly, so that they make rash decisions without considering the options. They clearly lack confidence in their own abilities and they can become very fussy and anxious about exams.
I worry that they are not well prepared to face the challenges of university and beyond. We can get them the exam results, but they haven’t developed the motivation and self-reliance to become life-long learners.
We have learning support for those who are struggling or have a recognized learning difficulty and the counsellor will see the ones who get too anxious or depressed. Our pastoral staff are very good, of course, but they are very busy dealing with their own planning, teaching and marking and all the daily routines of school. We have experimented with some study skills sessions and other ‘enrichment’ courses, but they don’t seem to really address the need to create active, independent learners.
It’s easy for all of us, teachers and students, to feel disillusioned if there is too much emphasis on tangible results. I think if we could shift the school culture so that it was focused more on the process of learning, we would all feel more fulfilled and satisfied and relationships within school would probably improve as well.
Most of our teachers teach good lessons most of the time. Some teach excellent lessons some, or even most, of the time. But there are a significant number who struggle or are patchy. We do get criticisms and complaints from parents and we pass them on to our Heads of Department to deal with. It’s very hard to ensure consistent minimum standards. Criticism can knock people’s confidence and confidence is important in teaching so we try to be supportive of each other. It’s quite a demanding job and we get a number of staff each year who suffer from stress and have to take time off. Of course, you get difficult pupils and difficult classes, or even year groups. New and newly qualified teachers can take a while to settle and some of our older teachers are clearly just biding their time until they can retire. Some departments are much more innovative than others and tend to produce teachers who move quickly up the hierarchy or get recruited by other schools.
I sometimes worry that the standard of our teaching is too dependent on the quality of our recruitment alone. There’s a circular element in this as well – the best candidates tend to be attracted to schools that already have a reputation for excellent teaching. They are aware that they will learn more and have a better career progression in a school where they can learn from talking to and watching their colleagues. So, if you want good teachers to apply, you need to have the best possible reputation. Unless you find ways to actively encourage and spread best practice you can very quickly slip into an accepted climate of safe rather unimaginative teaching
I am all too aware that while teachers may have several goes at teaching a particular topic or year group, each pupil only gets one go at it and we are letting them down if it is less good than it could be. Evidence shows that the best way to improve the standards of teaching in our classrooms is for teachers to understand that they are still learners in the art of teaching, even at the end of their careers. We need to build in ongoing opportunities for teachers to think about their own teaching, to discuss it with their colleagues, to learn new skills and to find ways of constantly raising their game. I think this would create far greater job satisfaction amongst our staff as well as better outcomes for our pupils.
Alex (university student)
I did well at school. I was very thorough and conscientious and I was good at learning my notes before exams. I wasn’t always the quickest in the class, but once I had grasped exactly what the teacher wanted me to do, I could do what was required to a high standard. The course I am on now is quite demanding. I feel as though everybody else ‘gets it’ better than I do. The lecturers are remote and not really interested in talking to individual students and my tutor can’t give me much time. I don’t know how well I’m doing and I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be doing. The reading lists seem to be endless. I’ve never felt like a failing student before and I don’t know what to do.
I don’t know whether the work I am doing is getting me anywhere and I am starting to wonder why I chose this course in the first place. I’m not sure where it’s going to get me and I think I might fail my exams. I could struggle on and hope that I scrape through the exams. I could drop out and start the whole university process again, or even not go to university, but my parents will be so disappointed.
I’m puzzled as to why I could do so well at school and yet feel I’m doing so badly now. I’m desperately worried about the shame and embarrassment of either failing or dropping out.