From the Research: Focus on “Learning” over “Performance”

Last week the Nation’s Report Card came out with these headlines from EdWeek:

‘No Progress’ Seen in Reading or Math on Nation’s Report Card

This is rather dismal news and should be a wake up call. What we should do now is to look closely on why we are seeing these results. Consider “standardized tests” that are based on performance and may be driving this data in a direction we do not want to continue. Let’s begin a new conversation in education with a focus on “learning” instead of “performance”. That means for all learners! Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP, states this:

In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.”

How do we change the conversation and the outcomes for the learners in our classrooms? Look at the research and ask yourself…

Why Focus on “Learning” over “Performance”

Some 8 years ago in my research on learners, learning and learning-centered environments, I came across a researcher who had done significant research on learning. Chris Watkins from the Institute on Education (IoE) – University of London published his research in the Summer of 2010 titled INSI Research Matters – “Learning, Performance and Improvement“. 

He points out that the review of the evidence is based on a reading of more than 100 classroom-based research studies. Most importantly, he states that…

“the evidence leads to the conclusion that learning about learning is a practically viable and educationally important strategy which also has the effect of improving performance.”

I would suggest that you delve deep into this report, maybe create a study group to begin the conversation about learning and how it should be the focus in creating inclusive learner-centered environments in your school where every learner progresses. The major takeaway I had after reading this report is this single statement:

A focus on learning can enhance performance, whereas a focus on performance (alone) can depress performance.

 

The Key Issue: A Learner’s Orientation

One of the findings that is important to point out from Chris Watkins’ research is that “studies of motivation, development and achievement, by many research teams across a number of decades and many countries, a recurring distinction arises. Any learner can, in a given context, adopt an orientation which can be described on the dimension below:”

Learning vs. Performance: What Do you Want Happening in Your School and Classroom?

To give you a clearer picture of what the difference is between “Learning and Performance”, I have taken the findings of the research by Chris Watkins to create some points of conversation we should all have as we decide how we may want to change our school and classroom cultures so that we can actually improve the outcomes for all of our learners.

Infographic on Learning versus performance

 

After delving into the research and in having the important conversations on how we can improve the outcomes for every learner in our schools, consider this next important question:

How do we create school and classroom cultures in which learning is valued more than performance?

 

Reference:

EdWeek: ‘No Progress’ Seen in Reading or Math on Nation’s Report Card bssparks@epe.org)

Watkins, C. (2010). Learning, Performance and Improvement. INSI Research Matters, 34, Retrieved May 10, 2013, from International Network for School Improvement Web site: http://www.ioe.ac.uk/about/documents/Watkins_10_Lng_Perf_Imp_ev.pdf

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