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ELLI - a new way of learning

Press release issued: 19 May 2003

A new concept in learning is to be previewed at the Bristol Head Teachers' Conference on 20 May.

A new concept in learning is to be previewed at the Bristol Head Teachers' Conference on 20 May.

The ELLI Project (Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory), is an exciting new idea in learning that has captured the imagination of many teachers. It demonstrates that when teachers are free to focus on what really matters in the classroom - learning - they are able to create a climate which helps children actually get better at learning itself, rather than just passing tests.

Researchers at Bristol University's School of Education have identified what makes some people interested in learning throughout their lives, while others drop out of the system early on. They have also developed ways of tracking, evaluating and recording people's growth as learners, and developed methods to improve learning.

They gathered data on nearly 2,000 people from the age of seven through to adulthood, over a three-year period. The results showed that over time, and particularly through the course of formal schooling, students actually became weaker as learners, especially in one key area - creativity. At the same time they became more dependent on teachers and others to help them learn, and less able to cope with mistakes and failure.

The project identified seven aspects of the learning process, termed 'learning dimensions', which helped them develop the 'ELLI Profile', an assessment tool which can differentiate between effective and ineffective learners. A group of teacher researchers then used information from the ELLI Profile to decide how they could help children become better learners. The overall objective was to stimulate 'learning energy' and focus on learning itself, rather than simply passing tests, or achieving high grades.

After two terms the children had become more aware of themselves as learners and more effective at learning itself. They were also more resilient when they did not know the answers, or when they were confused, and they were more motivated to learn. There were also indications that students actually achieved more in terms of tests and grades. In addition, teachers themselves were more motivated since ELLI reached to the heart of why most teachers do what they do -promote learning.

Professor Patricia Broadfoot, co-director of the project, said: "At a time when there is overwhelming evidence of the devastatingly negative effects of much testing on the quality and quantity of learner motivation, with students that are more and more oriented towards 'trading for grades' and teachers to 'teaching the test', these findings are of strategic importance for education policy and practice."

Funded by the Lifelong Learning Foundation, the ELLI Project owes much to Bristol schools and teacher researchers. The Lifelong Learning Foundation is continuing to fund the project and plans are well advanced for the creation of a Centre for Learning Transformation at the Graduate School of Education at Bristol University in September 2003.

The ELLI Profile will be available commercially from January 2004. Meanwhile, Bristol schools will continue to be a test-bed for the development of this exciting project.

The ELLI Project will be previewed at the Bristol Head Teachers' Conference "Leading in the Culture of Change", being held at the Hilton Hotel, Newport, South Wales on Tuesday 20 May.

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