The Learning Skills Curriculum An Eight-year Evaluation of a Complex Intervention

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Dr James Mannion


Learning to Learn is a field of educational theory and practice that aims to help children become more effective learners. The field has grown significantly through-out the last 40 years and a number of approaches have been implemented on a large scale in the UK as well as internationally. Research into metacognition and self-reg-ulation suggests that Learning to Learn programmes should help boost academic attainment. However, to date, large-scale evaluations of Learning to Learn initia-tives have found no clear impact on academic attainment. This paper presents the findings of an eight-year case study of Learning Skills, a new approach to Learning to Learn that was developed at a secondary school in the south of England, and eval-uated over eight years (2009 to 2017). Using an interventional design used widely in medicine and other fields, Learning Skills reconceptualises Learning to Learn as a ‘complex intervention’ comprised of multiple areas of evidence-informed practice. The rationale for complex interventions is that the ‘marginal gains’ to arise from each component stack up and interact to yield a larger effect size overall. This eval-uation found that Learning Skills led to significant gains in subject learning, with accelerated gains among pupils from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Further qualitative data analyses indicate a positive causal relationship between Learning Skills and academic attainment. As well as evaluating the impact of a promising new approach to Learning to Learn, this study generates new knowledge about the implementation and evaluation of complex interventions in education.

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