In my last position as head of skill-based learning for Key Stage 3 pupils, I spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of qualities that I wanted all students to aspire towards having; qualities that would help them fulfill their academic potential, find good jobs, build solid relationships and lead happy lives.
Today, having been fortunate enough to teach children from Key Stage 1 through to Key Stage 5, I have developed a clear idea of exactly what skill-based learning should look like. I chose to name ‘Fishing Net’ skills as such, based on the old proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” No doubt this resonates with teachers across the board – so often in the classroom it can feel like we’re constantly handing out fish to mob of hungry children. The idea of the ‘Fishing Net’ skills therefore, is that students have their own net, and they’re taught how to use it. They gain the confidence, independence and ability to think and act for themselves.
So what are they?
Freedom – Students must be able to make mistakes; ask questions; and adopt creative learning approaches to suit their individual needs.
Independence – As independent learners, students will be able to follow instructions, organise themselves, complete tasks, find their way out of ‘stuck’ and take responsibility for their actions.
Self-belief – Our students need confidence in themselves in order to take risks, try new things and face challenges.
Honesty – As reflective learners, students should be able to truthfully acknowledge their own strengths, weaknesses, wins and losses.
Investigate – Students should be able conduct research while considering the reliability and trustworthiness of their findings.
Notice – Students need to be taught to notice instructions and information in class; to read the body language and subtle social cues; to become aware of when their concentration has slipped and needs bringing back; to build up those all-important memory muscles.
Go for Goals – For some students, we need to inspire ambition. As reflective, independent learners, our students need to be able to set their own realistic but aspirational targets.
Nurture – Students need to be taught to look after their minds and bodies.
Elasticity – Resilience is everything. We need our students to develop that bounce-back ability so that when things go wrong, they spring right back into action.
Team work – As collaborative learners, we need our students to practise empathy and understanding, share and listen, organise, problem-solve and contribute.