Do your students leave you exhausted?

Are you ever exhausted at the end of the school day because you feel like you’ve been dragging your students through the learning process?

Sometimes, it’s like you have to hold your students’ hands through every step. You have to encourage them to get started. You show them exactly what they need to do. You set them challenges, then provide scaffolds so they can overcome them. Then you find their mistakes for them and show them how to correct them. And you feel like you have to do all of this, or they wouldn’t learn anything at all!

These students who leave us exhausted are the ones with poor Learnership – they haven’t learned how to effectively engage in the learning process. It’s not that they can’t learn; it’s just that they don’t know how to learn effectively.

In any given lesson, there’s a particular cognitive load that needs to be “lifted”. This is the intellectual work required to achieve the lesson’s learning outcomes. And if the teacher is doing all the heavy lifting, guiding the learning process every step of the way, it’s no wonder they end up exhausted!

On the other hand, skilful learners take on more of that cognitive load. In fact, like a weightlifter who uses weights to get stronger, skilful learners use the cognitive load to help them grow!

These skilful learners set their own challenges. They know just how much to stretch. They know how to interrogate mistakes to make progress with their learning. They are aware of their learning behaviours and Habits of Mind and constantly work to develop them. Far from leaving teachers exhausted, they give energy back to the teacher by taking on more cognitive load!

Visualising Learnership

Thinking about learning as a skilful process that must be developed like any other skill is a powerful classroom tool. It helps shift the conversation from how much students are learning to how well they are learning.

In fact, I’d argue that developing a student’s skill as a learner – their Learnership – is the single most important ability schools should concern themselves with.

One of the reasons why the Learning Landscape is such a powerful metaphor for learning is because it offers a way to visualise what skilful learning looks like. It gives us a clear language that brings learning to life, describing how students engage in the learning process and, most importantly, what they are doing to become better learners.

Learners can “see” what types of challenge they take on. They can “open” their backpacks to take an inventory of their Habits of Mind. They “fill” their backpacks with the tools required to help them climb out of Challenge Pits. And they watch as their learning journey takes them higher in the Learning Landscape. 

Six different types of learner

In the Learning Landscape, I identify six different types of learner based on how skilfully they engage in the learning process.

The least skilful learners waste their time and energy, causing teachers to take on the cognitive load and become exhausted. More skilful learners spend their time and energy in exchange for learning and growth, but the most skilful learners invest their time and energy in becoming even better learners. These learners energise teachers.

Spend some time familiarising yourself with the Learnership Table below and identify the type of learning most of your students engage in. 

What types of learner do you have in your classroom? How much of your time and energy is used to compensate for their poor learning skills? How much more energy would you have at the end of the day if you could shift all your learners one or two levels up this table?

Developing Learnership

The power deeply embedded in the Learning Landscape is that it guides your students’ learning journey and helps you steer them towards becoming better learners.

To become truly effective learners, to roam far and wide and climb the highest peaks, students must be more than active learners – they must be skilful ones! The most successful students actively work towards becoming more skilful learners. And the most successful teachers create skilful learners!

By giving a language and narrative to learning, we bring learning to life and make it visible. Once learning is alive and visible to students, we open the door for them to become more skilful learners. We can identify specific behaviours and help students recognise more productive learning behaviours.

If you’d like to know more about how to use the Learning Landscape to guide your students to become better learners – the type of learners who stop draining you of energy and start energising you – then I invite you to contact me …

Best Wishes,


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