Infinity Learning Maps provide a practical approach for teachers and parents to support students in fun and energising ways to analyse and improve their learning.
The approach merges the three sciences of learning-how-to-learn, teaching and positive psychology. Teachers support students to draw pictures of how they see their interactions surrounding a learning situation. Students then create data sets from the pictures and analyse their data to identify areas for improvement. These activities assist students to sort out relevant ideas buzzing around in their minds to the interactive web surrounding their learning. Go to this link to get a basic idea about what we mean by the interactive web:
Research by Annan, Annan and Wootton (2016) found that the linked activities of drawing, analysing and making changes to current learning situations typically,
- lifts student confidence and achievement, and
- motivates teachers and parents to rethink their respective support roles.
There are now many positive stories about Infinity Learning Maps supporting: students to improve their learning; teachers to alter their practices; leaders to strategise based on student’s perspectives about learning; and, parents to support their children
Theory underpinning the Infinity Learning Maps approach encourages teachers to view ALL STUDENTS AS SUCCESSFUL LEARNERS in the mapping activities.
Children love discovering that they are capable. They also love it when caring adults reinforce that discovery. They immediately feel more confident when their teachers, parents and other supporting adults acknowledge them as capable. Children who experience love, safety and security from their supporting adults and who feel confident in themselves typically succeed in academic learning (Parrett & Budge, 2012). The Infinity Learning Map’s approach is a way of manufacturing an arrangement in which supporting adults become closely associated, or ‘joined-at-the-hip’ as some teachers term the phrase, with their children in their learning journeys.
Is every child capable? Yes! Every child who starts school is capable in their unique way. However, those signs of capability can get lost as children progress through their formal schooling system. System-wide attempts to lift academic achievement globally have resulted in some children being seen as capable and others considered ‘not-so-capable’ in learning. Not-so-capable children have been given a range of politically charged labels over time; ‘At Risk’, the ‘Tail’, ‘Priority Learners’, ‘Below National Standards’.
Every child has a script in their mind about them as a learner. Irrespective of the intent of those not-so-capable labels, most of those students know and feel the script that has been written for them. They typically learn in line with that script, not because they want to but because the schooling system takes over and crafts how they will learn. Their needs and gaps are identified for them. Teaching professionals then build their knowledge and skills to meet those needs and close the gaps. Although this system-wide approach is well-intentioned for the ‘not-so-capable’, the results are generally underwhelming; a few children rise up the ladder but many only make small gains and experience disappointing plateaus throughout their years at school.
Our belief is that it is possible for ‘deficit scripting’ to be turned around but not by decisions made at the top-end of large systems.
A change in a system tends to build on what is already in place (Fullan, 2016). Additionally, top-down change takes a long time to transform anything. Decisions made by the students, their teachers and parents are more likely to encourage confident learners and accelerate academic achievement.
A school leader comments: https://youtu.be/ecyWNdY4yXA.
It is imperative that decisions are made with a strong belief in the capability of every child. Students need to hear that belief, feel it, and know that their new-found belief in their capability is there for the long term.
It is here that positive psychology comes into play.
The quote below summarises our view of how positive psychology can be used in the intervention space to activate student agency and engagement in learning:
“Positive psychology concerns the lens used to select the features of any situation and the processes by which we make meaning from what we perceive. It leads us to appreciate what does work, what is valued and what conditions are desirable for learning to occur (see Annan & Priestley, 2012; Edwards & Holtz, 2007; Nickerson, 2007). The positive psychology movement, initiated by Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), has encouraged the creation of optimistic climates for change by placing emphasis on presence rather than absence. Fullan and Langworthy (2014) suggest that schools build on the “pockets of educational innovation’ that are exciting students into learning.”
p.13. Annan, Annan, Wootton, & Burton, 2014
Our positive and appreciative approach towards strategy design does not ignore problems, challenges and gaps that children have in their learning and living. Difficulties in learning are dealt with but the emphasis is on students taking greater responsibility by using their strengths to address challenges.
Our view of successful learners is that there are no priority learners, no average learners and no gifted learners. Rather, every student can get stuck in mud, can be ordinary and can do something amazing on any given day.
As students become more active in their learning, teachers and parents can provide more personalised support. A central question to activate students is to ask, “What are you going to do differently to improve this situation?”
A school leader reflects: https://youtu.be/1tYdm25Xlps.
Typically, children are not asked to answer that question. Our research is finding that Infinity Learning Maps help to turn on the ‘learner agency tap’ inside children’s heads. This internal tap makes students far more active, connected and aware of the way they are learning and interacting with the world around them.
There are now many Infinity Learning Maps stories about children, with support from teachers and parents, re-scripting the way they learn-how-to-learn. Examples range across academic challenges, English-language challenges, replacing negative behaviours with positive behaviours, succeeding with visual and hearing impairments, engaging in passion learning adventures, project-based learning, addressing sporting challenges and many more.
Introduce Infinity Maps to your children and watch them map out their current learning situations, then address challenges in their own ways. Watch how they re-script the way they see themselves as learners.
Infinity Learning Maps are engaging both English and indigenous Māori medium teachers. One teacher of new entrant students, Papa Bill from Tolaga Bay region, New Zealand, shared his views in this video about the value of the approach after attending a series of workshops to learn about Infinity Learning Maps. An English translation is provided below.