Learning Skills and Work Habits

Halton District School Board

Project Overview
Through collaborative inquiry, educators in this project investigated:

  • a shared understanding of learning skills and work habits (LSWH),
  • skills students need to develop strategies in meeting learning skill and work habits expectations,
  • how LSWH can support student learning with respect to curriculum expectations,
  • the use of learning goals, success criteria and descriptive feedback in the development of LSWH,
  • the role of explicit modelling of the LSWH during the learning curriculum expectations, and
  • embedding LSWH into learning, assessment and task development.

Conclusions from the Classroom
Using a collaborative planning model (i.e., planning, teaching, analysing and reflecting), teachers began planning for a lesson by ‘unpacking’ the curriculum expectation that would be the focus of the lesson study.  Both the elementary and secondary panel participated in the learning. This provided a perspective where teachers could consider the developmental differences in how to best support the development of the students with respect to their acquisition of LSWH in each of the primary/junior, intermediate and senior grades.

Preliminary conclusions after the first ‘lesson study’ in a Grade 3 math class:

  • All students rated themselves “high” on collaboration which contrasted with teachers’ assessments of students.
  • There was no apparent relationship between the product and collaboration.

Questions arose as we explored these results.  These included:
“Did we match the right LSWH with the curriculum expectation?”
“What was the impact of our modelling?”
“Did we identify too many look-fors for collaboration?”
Teachers realized that students were exhibiting collaborative skills, but that these were not identified by teachers at the outset of learning.  Students needed to be part of the co-constructing of the success criteria for collaboration, and the teacher needed to be open to unexpected indicators of collaboration during the learning. Teachers also recognized the need to be explicit about the components of collaboration that they model for students and give feedback during the learning about how students are applying the criteria for collaboration as they learn. Teachers further concluded:

  • We have to make the skills very explicit, through modelling, so students make connections  between the criteria and strategies
  • Need to focus on descriptive feedback that includes next steps
  • Focus on one skill at a time, in the same way we might focus on one skill for curriculum learning
  • Ensure the tasks require the use of the LSWH in order for students to benefit

Lesson study continued in a grade 7 class and a grade 12 Social Science class.  Teachers confirmed that the process of embedding the LSWH in planning ensured that the LSWH were more authentic and relevant to the learning and to the students’ development of the LSWH. 
Teachers experimented with one more potential connection between collaboration and task development.  They wondered if completing a learning task in a Grade 6 math class was affected by students’ ability to collaborate with peers, compared to completing the same task independently. 75% of the class responded “yes”  when asked if the task would have been better accomplished independently compared to 31% who did not agree with that statement. 
The teachers concluded after reflection on the data that:

If you want to observe collaboration, and you want to ensure that collaboration will help improve the student learning product, the task needs to be something that you cannot do alone. This confirmed the relationship between the LSWH, curriculum learning and task development as co-dependent factors in supporting students as they develop the LSWH.

Educators’ Learning in the Classroom PDF

Reflections about the LSWH   


“There is a co-dependent relationship between the Learning Skills and Work Habits and the curriculum.”

“Start LSWH early on and sustain it throughout K-12.”

“We see the connection between the learning of the LSWH and engagement!”

“If you don’t give them (students) an opportunity to use the LSWH you will never see it.”

“The teaching of learning skills and work habits must be treated much the same as we teach the curriculum expectations. The lesson planning should have the LS embedded into the curriculum lesson in a way that ensures the same clarity for all students. i.e. posted success criteria, learning goals, ability to practise them and have the chance to demonstrate them. This blending of the LS into the curriculum and the way in which they are being taught alongside each other, will improve the overall outcome of the learning our students will engage in.”

“Students were able to learn about the LSWH from each other in engaging activities that made it more real to them. They are able to see how their teacher also models collaboration and learning.”

“The need to explicitly teach and model the LSWH- to continuously revisit and integrate daily- is important to a student's learning of the curriculum. There seems to be a correlation between higher abilities with LSWH and student achievement. LSWH are life skills that NEED to be taught and assessed and students need to be given descriptive feedback regularly to make them an integral part of daily activities. I need to have a greater understanding of each learning skill and acquire resources to effectively teach these to the students and assess them.”

Examples of LSWH in Action   

Embedding the learning skills and work habits as part of lesson planning:

Teachers ‘unpacked’ the curriculum expectation for that lesson to reveal the intended knowledge and skills contained in that expectation:

Teachers then looked for opportunities to embed opportunities to support the development the learning skill or work habit they believed was necessary for that particular curriculum learning:

For more information about this project, please contact us at aer@edugains.ca