Flinders Primary Staff Develop Students' Learner Muscles

Developing in students the ‘skill’ but also the ‘will’ for learning is a priority at Matthew Flinders Anglican College on the Sunshine Coast, with a new Learner Powers program to build positive learning dispositions. 

The program was launched in the Flinders Primary School on Monday, 27 March through a mix of skits, songs and superheroes, acted out by the teachers dressed in fabulous brightly coloured capes and headbands – much to the childrens’ delight! 

The teachers acted out clues for students to guess the five Learner Power dispositions – Collaborative, Innovative, Reflective, Resilient and Self-Motivated.

The students from Prep to Year 6 learned how they can develop these Learner Powers to become engaged, successful and confident learners. 

The program was developed in 2022 in collaboration with students and staff working through professional development training and workshops.

The first step saw the specialist teaching and learning team collect extensive base-line data to find out from students what it meant to them to ‘be a good learner’.

The Learner Powers program is based on research revealing that a significant predictor of academic achievement and positive wellbeing for children is having positive attitudes, expectations and dispositions as a learner. 

Flinders also drew upon Professor John Hattie’s ‘Visible Learning’ research and theory involving more than a quarter of a billion students, which discovered students’ active engagement in learning had the most powerful influence on their achievement. 

Head of Primary, Mrs Trudi Edwards said Flinders Primary School valued its role in nurturing students with a passion for learning. 

'Even expert teachers, using the most wonderful resources, cannot beat what a student brings to the party,” she said. 

“At Flinders, we are committed to developing robust learning dispositions and related skills and strategies in order for our students to become highly engaged and successful learners, capable of reaching their potential.”

The Learner Powers program provides a shared and positive language of learning by all in the College community – at school and in the home.

  • “I bring energy to my learning.” (Self-Motivated); 
  • “I am brave, persistent and positive.” (Resilient); 
  • “I think about my learning and set goals to grow as a learner.” (Reflective); 
  • “I push my thinking. I think big and imagine possibilities.” (Innovative) 
  • “We are better together.” (Collaborative) 

To explain and communicate the five Learner Powers in a playful and memorable way, the College – with the help of the students – has custom-designed five brand mascots, which are illustrations of brains dressed as superheroes.

The five characters feature on large posters and whiteboard magnets for ease of reference in every classroom, and on reward stickers and badges which students receive once they achieve a goal they have set for themselves to grow their Learner Powers. 

Developing the Learner Powers program through staff professional development and student input

Flinders’ Head of Learning and Teaching in the Primary, Mrs Debbie Planck, said it had been rewarding to develop the Learner Powers program throughout 2022. 

“We have always actively encouraged our students at Flinders Primary to build positive habits of mind as an integral part of our curriculum,” Debbie said. 

“However, in 2021 we collected extensive base-line data by asking our students to share what it means to them to ‘be a good learner’,” she said.

“The students’ responses showed they needed support with building their learning dispositions, because they thought that being a good learner was solely related to behaviour, such as “being quiet when the teacher is talking”, “putting up a hand to answer a question” and “sitting still”.

“So our staff team got to work, to identify and distill the learning dispositions which will most potently serve our students now and in the future. 

“Our aim at Flinders is to encourage our students to understand and embrace the dispositions of an effective learner as someone who:

  • articulates what we are learning
  • knows the next steps in our learning
  • sets learning goals
  • sees errors as opportunities for learning
  • seeks feedback and 
  • knows what to do when they are stuck.  

“Our staff worked to narrow the vast list of learning dispositions down to five dispositions, to make it simple and achievable for our students to understand and strive for.

“And then we created a shared language of inspiring sentences for each of the five dispositions for students, staff and families to use, which helps explain what each Learner Power looks, sounds and feels like.” 

Next, staff developed success criteria for each of the five Learner Powers, to provide a common language around goal setting and achieving goals students set for themselves.

Debbie says, “For example, a student can aim and set goals to be ‘Reflective’ after completing a project, so that they look back and use their own reflection as well as their teacher’s feedback to improve and move forward. 

“This reflection disposition helps build a student’s self-esteem as they learn to take on feedback as a positive and essential tool to improve as a learner, rather than seeing it as a negative.”

Next, the Primary staff invited the students to get involved in developing the Learner Powers graphic cartoons or mascots, asking them to draw and design their own ‘brain’ characters as superheroes wearing capes. 

The students had to suggest expressions for each learning disposition as well as props and special features, and their ideas were solidified into a design brief for the professional graphic design team who created the final illustrations. 

“The Learner Powers program has been a wonderful collaborative journey for our students and staff,” Debbie says. 

“Now we want to also get our parents and families involved at home, so that we are all speaking the same language, encouraging and celebrating when we see the powers in action and building our learning dispositions for our students to be engaged and have ownership of their learning.”   

To help with learning and understanding the language, a special Learner Powers song has been written by Head of Music, Primary Mrs Lenora Phillips. 

The song was first performed at the launch by the Junior Primary Choir, conducted by Mrs Amy Armitage. 

Singing about each of the Learner Powers provides another tool students can use to remember the dispositions, so they can draw upon them at any time.

To conclude the launch event, each class from Prep to Year 6 received their very own Learner Powers resource pack for their classrooms, including the custom-designed magnets, posters, stickers and badges.  

The feedback has been very positive, with classes together deciding how, where and when they will use their Learner Powers resources as part of their daily learning and celebrating.


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