Child-centred learning is about adapting the sessions to meet the needs, abilities and interests of each child. This can be quite daunting if you have large numbers of children in your session.
The key to child-centred learning is involving the children in their own learning. Each child needs help to understand what they can do, what they like doing, what they want to do, how they want to do it, what they want to improve and then planning activities with them to help them improve. Initially you may need to deliver an activity that finds out exactly what the child can or cannot do. You could use a Technical Skill Card or an Activity Card to do this. As part of a Coaching Conversation, ask the child to reflect on their current skill level. Observe the child in action to assess the accuracy of their judgement.
Conversation Coaching is an approach to delivery that involves working with the children, rather than telling them what to do or giving instructions. Conversation coaching features discussing, prompting, questioning, modelling, challenging the children to think for themselves, making decisions, reflecting
accurately, etc. The Activity Cards include questions that you can use to support conversation coaching and enhance your questioning skills,
If you agree with the child, you could then engage in a further coaching conversation to help the child decide what they might work on next so the child has ownership over the own learning, taking responsibility for their own improvement. If you disagree, it is still a coaching conversation but this time seeking to clarify what the child can do, relying on evidence to come to a decision, trying things out together. Once you have agreed, revert back into the ‘what next’ coaching conversation.
Children enjoy making decisions about ‘what’ and ‘how’ they do things, as well as ‘who’ they work with. An opportunity to work in friendship groups is very important to children and affects their long-term participation.
The personal and social aspects of sessions must not be underestimated, children often value these more than ‘physical’ opportunities.
To support you in delivering child-centred learning there is a continuum of both Skills and Activities. The continuum within the Technical Skills Cards ranges from ‘as they develop skills’ through to ‘as they apply their skills’. If a child is struggling with a particular skill, there are teaching points, Traffic Light practises and video clips for each technical skill. This will help you to work with the child to identify ways to make that skill easier or harder, as well as select earlier skills that might contribute to the execution of a more
The Dragon Multi-skills Activity Cards are progressions from the ‘Play to Learn’ Activity Cards. If a Multi skills activity is too challenging for a child or group of children, you can select activities from the ‘Play to Learn’ resources. Many of these activities have the same name but are simpler versions. The suite of activity cards (Play to Learn and Dragon) presents a whole continuum of learning that you can use to plan your sessions.
Your biggest tool in helping you to child-centre the learning is your imagination. Have a coaching conversation with the children to create alternative ways to adapt activities by changing the space, the task, the equipment or the people. Making the activity more appropriate.
In most instances it will be a pair or a small group of children that want the same thing, rather than an individual, but you will be able to challenge specific individuals if you want to. You will need to think about the way the children are grouped in your session to maximise learning. Grouping children in friendship and opposite groups might be appropriate for personal and social outcomes, ability groupings might be beneficial to skill development and mixed ability groups might be beneficial to fair competition.
Groups could be working on the same outcome but using different skills/activities, they might be working on the different outcomes with the same skill/activity, or different outcomes and skills/activities.
Pace is important to child-centred learning, some children want to move on or are ready to before others, so the pace of learning is another coaching conversation to ensure that the timings of progressions are appropriate. Your role is to engage in conversation coaching with the children to support them and ensure their safety as they take increasing responsibility for their own learning, helping them to learn how to learn. It will help to have a range of resources you can use to support this independent learning, including equipment, resource cards, ICT equipment, including digital cameras and young leaders. The more support, the better the child/leader ratio, which will mean the children have more support from a significant other if they want it. This helps make the approach more personalised as the children have someone they can go to for support. Research has shown that relationships are important to children, they like to interact with significant others and establish rapport and trust with these individuals. Young Leaders are good role models for children.
It is important to discuss each child’s progress with them and their parents/carers/advocates. The Dragon Multi-skills approach encourages children to transfer their learning from one situation to another. One case of this might involve a child taking part in an after-school Multi-skill session and also a community Netball programme. If the child is going to make progress in both situations then both sets of deliverers need to be kept informed of the progress the child has made in the other sessions. Deliverers need to seek out and take advantage of creative ways to transfer information so that all deliverers can continue to
build on the current needs, abilities and interests of each child. The children themselves have a role
to play in this by being able to identify accurately what they can and cannot do.
It is by working with children, engaging in conversation coaching, developing a shared understanding of needs, abilities and interests that deliverers will be able to provide child-centred learning.