The Learning Landscape: The Metaphor for Better Learning

The Learning Landscape is a powerful metaphor for learning. Students and teachers alike love how it brings learning to life engages learners in the process of learning, and makes learning more enjoyable. But the true power of this metaphor lies in how it helps students develop a more growth-oriented mindset, and become better learners

A person with a fixed mindset doesn’t “get” learning. They believe their abilities lie within them, waiting to be discovered. But every time we use the metaphor of the Learning Landscape in our classroom, we remind students that learning is an active process.

Students move through the Learning Landscape and explore new lands, acquiring new knowledge and understanding along the way. As they climb higher they encounter more and more complex understandings, building expertise.

Challenges in the learning landscape come in the form of challenge pits – 4 different types – which students need to climb out of. In order to succeed at these challenges students must take action to fill their backpacks with the required Habits of Mind.

Each part of this journey requires students to actively engage in the learning process. What they learn and how they learn is entirely within their control.

If students want to become musical, then rather than asking the fixed mindset question; “Do I have musical ability?”, they have to go and explore the music part of the learning landscape, and equip themselves with the skills required to perform music.

Each time students encounter problems that are too difficult for them, they have to go and find the tools they need to put in their backpack so they are then able to solve them. 

Success in the learning landscape isn’t about who you are, it’s about what you do!

The entire metaphor of the Learning Landscape is a nudge (see last week’s blog). By keeping the classroom narrative focused on the learning process, teachers naturally fill their classroom with positive mindset movers, helping them to move students along the Mindset Continuum and develop a more growth-oriented mindset.

And because success and learning in the Learning Landscape is all about what you do, it begs the question of “how well are you doing it?”. It allows us to have a conversation about Learner Agency. It allows us to make getting better at how you learn, a part of our everyday classroom environment.

Imagine your regular classroom dialogue filled with discussions about how well students were engaged in learning, and what they needed to do to become a better learner.

Students would discuss the types of challenge pits they were taking on, and if they were taking them where they needed to go in the learning landscape. Are they taking on the right sort of challenges? Are those challenges in their Learning Zone, Performance Zone, Comfort Zone or Aspirational Zone?

As a class, you map out the weeks learning journey and identify the tools that will be required to complete that journey successfully. You then look inside students backpacks to find out if they have the tools for the job and what they might need to add in order to be prepared to succeed.

Students regularly “unpack” their backpack to discuss the tools that helped them to succeed during the week. Reflecting on their growing backpack students recognize how they are slowly filling their backpacks and becoming more effective as learners, able to take on more challenging climbs into the mountains of expertise.

Students look back over their week to analyze how they used their time and energy. Did they climb mountains and learn to do more difficult things, or if they just spent their time wandering around the lowlands doing easy things. Rather than asking “how much time” a student spent on tasks, we can more meaningful ask “how did you spend your time?”

The metaphor of the Learning Landscape is far more than just a way to engage learners and make learning more fun. It’s also a way for teachers to keep the classroom narrative focused on the process of learning. It fills your classroom with positive mindset movers and helps develop more growth-oriented mindsets in students. Importantly it gives teachers a student-friendly way to talk about how you become a better learner.

If you’d like to know more about how you can bring learning to life through the Learning Landscape, or if you’d like to know more about how to create positive mindset movers in your school and classroom, I’d invite you to come along to my Learning Landscape or Growth Mindset Toolkit workshops near you.

James

James Anderson is a speaker, author and educator who is passionate about helping fellow educators develop students as better learners. James’ work combines Growth Mindset with Habits of Mind and Practice to create Learning Agility. He puts the growth back into Growth Mindset. And through creating and describing the Mindset Continuum, he provides the cornerstone for effective Growth Mindset interventions.

James is a Certified Speaking Professional and speaks regularly at conferences around the world. He has published several books including Succeeding with Habits of Mind, The Agile Learner, The Mindset Continuum and The Learning Landscape.

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