Unlocking the Secrets to Developing Resilient Learners | Coomera Anglican College

Unlocking the Secrets to Developing Resilient Learners

By Lisa Glass

Head of Teaching and Learning P-6

Embedding Dr Judith Locke’s Approach to Raising Confident and Capable Children into a Teaching and Learning Framework

Over the past decade there has been a growing body of research supporting the view that parenting styles have a significant impact on the social emotional development of children. A leading voice in the conversation on modern parenting belongs to that of nationally renowned researcher and psychologist Dr Judith Locke, author of the bestselling book ‘The Bonsai Child.’

Coomera Anglican College recently hosted workshops for parents of Primary and Junior Secondary students in which Dr Locke discussed how societal changes have impacted upon modern approaches to parenting. Where it was once the goal of the average parents to raise children who were able to contribute to society, it is now often the objective of parents to making children happy at all costs. Dr Locke readily acknowledges that although this is being done with the best of intentions, always making children successful gives them an unrealistic and inaccurate worldview. This ultimately reduces resilience, self-regulation and makes children more heavily reliant on the assistance of others for tasks that they are capable for completing independently.

Throughout the session, Dr Locke established that it is the experience of disappointment that teaches children the value of persistence and sustained effort in self-actualisation. In an endeavour to nurture, comfort and make children happy, parents can inadvertently deprive them of opportunities to develop coping mechanisms while this behaviour can actively stifle those skills which are essential to thrive in life. Extreme levels of parental responsiveness when coupled with low expectations are counterproductive and limit the development of resilience and independence in children.

At Coomera Anglican College, we have considered the implication of Dr Locke’s research on classroom practice and pedagogy. As educators, we are constantly questioning how to have a significant impact on shaping students to become successful global citizens, but do we sometimes limit this through the same mechanisms as those who ‘over-parent’?

In an educational context teachers can, on occasion, become too responsive to student needs by making routines extremely predictable and by stepping in too early when students are grappling with difficult conceptual understandings or when trying to solve complex problems. That is not to say that teachers should be under-responsive in relation to providing necessary differentiation, adjustments or support. The role of a teacher is to assist students of all ability levels to engage in deep learning, but we must ensure that assistance is not provided before a child has rigorously attempted a task first. If the teacher is making success too easy and accepting minimal effort from the student, even when the work is of an appropriate difficultly level, it is likely that they are venturing into over-teaching mode.

In an endeavour to embed Dr Locke’s research into practice and prevent this over responsiveness when is not developmentally appropriate or academically necessary, we must consider pedagogies that support Dr Locke’s five essential skills of respect, resourcefulness, self-regulation, responsibility and resilience.  One way this is being achieved at Coomera Anglican College is through the blending of an inquiry approach with existing quality teaching and learning programmes.

Inquiry learning comes from a constructivist paradigm and is designed to encourage intrinsic motivation, allowing students to make meaning of the world around them. This approach features student agency as a key characteristic, aiming to increase learner responsibility and is often self-initiated with appropriate guidance and facilitation from the teacher. While there are many benefits to utilising an inquiry approach, it supports the Dr Locke message of development of robust, resilient and resourceful learners who acknowledge that it requires sustained effort and some degree of cognitive struggle to achieve success.

Through the ongoing partnership between the College and Dr Locke we will continue to prioritise holistic development and evidence-based approaches to student learning. While we deeply embed resilience as a key idea in both teaching and learning programmes and wellbeing initiatives, it will be with the understanding that to remove appropriate challenge from the lives of learners would be to deprive them of the opportunity to experience true growth.