Learning requires a connection to be made where a concept or a skill is understood or interpreted.
Let's look at those two things more closely...
A Concept - understanding an idea or piece of knowledge such as
- what the colour red is,
- what the word "under" means,
- what the symbol "f" or "3" mean.
Skill - understanding the steps needed to complete a complex task e.g. how to hold a pencil, the strings on a guitar needed to play a simple sequence.
We learn concepts and skills consecutively, cumulatively and generally in an expected progression.
We learn in a hierarchy of general to specific.
So we learn the all-purpose word "dog" before we remember all the different breeds of dogs.
We learn the colours red, green, and blue before we learn lilac, mustard, and teal.
We start to build a spiderweb of knowledge with links between previously learnt information and new concepts. The more connections made in the brain - the easier it becomes to learn new concepts and skills.
In our Turn on Learning framework, we may identify a child as having a "fragile" switch. Making connections when being exposed to concepts can be more difficult for these children.
As adults, we can recognise concerns in this area when a child has some of the following difficulties;
- not understanding the same amount of spoken language as other children of around the same age (comprehension difficulties),
- difficulty recalling instructions,
- poor retention of concepts e.g colours, numbers, letters
- delay in responding to spoken information
A child's connect switch is described as fragile when they are unable to follow classroom instructions and when they are demonstrating a lower rate of learning progress than expected for their age/ school year.
It is critical that a child's level of connection to concepts is understood and that concepts are expected in close alignment to their current level of development. Children with a fragile connection switch may be being exposed to concepts or information beyond their current developmental level. Progress will be made if they are supported to focus on the next level of connection expected developmentally.
Enhancing Learning Assessors look for children who are the last to respond to class instructions and who struggle to answer verbal questions and instructions that they give to the child in small groups and one-to-one conversations. A formal check may be undertaken to better determine the child's current level of conceptual and comprehension development.
Adults need to adjust the way information is presented to support children when they have a more fragile connect switch.