Reflecting On Learning

14th July 2016

I recently watched the ABC four part series Revolution School.  If you get a chance you should catch it on iView.  One of the things that Professor John  Hattie commented on (I think it was in the last episode) was how parents talk to their children about learning.  As I was watching I remember thinking good point Hattie, but do parents know how to do this?

So I thought I’d create a little list for parents that could give you ideas on how you can talk to your kids about their learning.  It’s very different to talking to them about their day at school.

  • Ask about what they’re learning at school.  Then ask their opinion.
  • Ask how they think they’re going with their learning.  If they say great, ask ‘how do you know?’ if they say terrible, ask ‘what makes you say that?’
  • Ask about who they think – in their class is good at say maths or reading or writing – and then ask ‘what makes them so good at maths/ reading/ writing?’  Prompt some positive discussion about how your child could adopt some of those qualities that they see in their peers.  Don’t aim for comparison with other kids or set up competition.
    • So if they say “Olivia’s great at reading.”  And you say “What makes her so good at reading?”  They might say “She’s always borrowing books from the Library and bringing them in to show us.  She gets them from the public library.”  You might say something like:  “Hey – we could check out the library sometime.  It sounds like there’s some good books there.”  See how that can help you make connections with your child’s learning?
    • If they say “Sophie’s super fast with her maths.”  And you say:  “What makes her so fast do you think?”  They might say “I don’t know, she’s just fast.”  And you would say:  “Do you think being fast at maths is important?”  And then you could talk about speed versus accuracy.  See how it can lead into a convo about learning and thinking?

When you’re engaged in an activity with your child, comment on how they’re progressing and help them make links to other learning experiences:

  • “Hey good listening – you’ve followed the instructions well.”
  • “Is that working for you?  How did you make the decision to do it that way?”
  • “What’s hard about this activity?”
  • “Have you done something like this before?”
  • “What does this remind you of?”
  • “I think it’s great how you’re…. insert behaviour here.” e.g checking your working/ trying hard/ persisting/ thinking about this/ asking questions

Try to keep the responsibility of learning fairly and squarely on their shoulders.


  • How are you going to improve on these results?
  • How are you going to celebrate these results?
  • What level of effort do you think you gave to this?
  • What would you change if you could do this again?
  • Are you happy with this?
  • Yep – I can help you with this homework/ assignment/ project – what’s your plan?
  • You could do it this way (demonstrate) it’s up to you
  • Have you thought about insert idea here?

And more generally and broadly, you should regularly be having conversations about what your child is reading, their fave authors, what concepts they’re covering in maths, what their last piece of writing was about and just their general preferences for subjects, topics, sports and hobbies.

These are just quick ideas that spring to my mind – notice how they’re mostly questions!  I know you will adapt these to suit your child.  But I think it’s valuable to shift conversations away from things like:

  • teacher personality
  • school procedures
  • student behaviour
  • test results
  • what happened last year in another teacher’s class
  • what other students achieve/ do
  • what a teacher said, once

Let me know how you go this month talking with your child about their learning.


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