Learning

The Woodline learning program is shaped by the values and objectives of its founders. It has been designed to generate a love of learning through understanding each student’s unique learning style, incorporating (among other tools) Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory to draw out each child’s beauty and genius. We believe that education must be child centred, through a teaching and learning program that aligns education to the child’s interests.

Our purpose is to help develop growing, thriving young people who embody the following personal competencies:

“School is not a preparation for life. School is life.”

– Maurice Elias, Director of the Rutgers Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Lab and principal investigator for the Developing Safe and Civil Schools initiative

Emotional Intelligence can be defined as the ability to identify and manage our own emotions, as wellbeing aware of our impact on the emotions of others.

Among the benefits of having higher levels of emotional intelligence (EI) are psychological wellbeing and educational attainment. Researchers describe EI working as a “stress buffer.” So, when difficult situations occur, those with high levels of emotional intelligence will be more adaptable, have lesser negative emotional and physiological reactions and have a faster recovery once the situation has passed1. This could also be described as resilience.

As a side note, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2018, emotional intelligence will be one of the top ten job skills in 20202.

Within the context of school, we value emotional intelligence because (i) there is solid evidence3 that links successful learning to social-emotional competencies and (ii) our aim is to help children hone valuable life skills.

“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”

– Carol Dweck

The terms ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’ were coined by psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck. In a fixed mindset, we believe our basic qualities, such as intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits – we are either intelligent or talented (or an adept reader, or a slow learner) and that we can only ‘work with what we’ve got.’ But research on brain plasticity, however, has shown that with practice, new neural pathways can be made that allow us to grow beyond what were once believed to be ‘fixed’ traits such as intelligence or talent. The key word here is practice.

An interesting aspect of the research for educational purposes, is that when children believe that their brain can grow, they are more motivated and more willing to take risks. As Dweck states in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “In the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

At Woodline, growth mindset starts with our attitude towards ‘achievement’. Rather than praising a child for getting the ‘right answer’ or ‘doing a good job’, we cultivate a growth mindset by placing value on the practice or effort a student has put in. The end result being children who keep trying, who will take risks and for whom the fun and challenge is in the learning, not the outcome.

“I don’t want people to say, ‘Something is true because Tyson says it is true.’ That’s not critical thinking.”

– Neil deGrasse Tyson

Definitions for critical thinking go back as far as Socrates, but our preferred definition, from author Lee Watanabe Crockett is that it is clear, rational, logical, and independent thinking. Studies have shown that critical thinking ability is a greater indicator for whether a child will go on to make positive life choices than is a high level of intelligence4. Why? Critical thinking also helps with interpersonal relationships, it helps us to outmanoeuvre cognitive bias and understand our own behaviour, and the behaviour of others.

Children are naturally inquisitive. Our role is to nurture that innate quality by cultivating in them a respectful scepticism, encouraging them to ask good questions in order to make sound value judgements. There is so much more to critical thinking than merely being able to provide a critical assessment of an article or book but in the early years of school this may be as simple as providing a reason for why they disagree with a premise or a decision.

Our children have inherited a world in which information is available at any moment, to anyone with an internet connection, and it’s crucial that they are able to be discerning about what they accept as truth. We don’t want them to defer to an opinion or idea merely because it is given by an ‘authority’. So we have created a culture that welcomes and nurtures curiosity and independent thinking.

Celebrate yourself no matter what… make how you move through the world an homage to your beautiful, luminous, powerful, magnificent, righteous, sacred… self.

– Danielle Laporte

Self-expression can be defined as, “Expressing one’s thoughts and feelings, and these expressions can be accomplished through words, choices or actions.”5

When we are open and able to express ourselves is when we do our most innovative work. Self-expression activates our prefrontal cortex, giving us greater access to our higher-order abilities such as creative thinking and problem-solving.6 Conversely, empirical research conducted by physician and researcher Dr Gabor Mate concludes that suppression of self-expression, is a leading cause of stress in the western world and is often the reason behind addictions and destructive behaviours.

Being able to express our most authentic selves, allows us to connect with others in a way that is meaningful and deeply affirming. Woodline students develop the confidence to express themselves by practicing the art of conversation with teachers and peers, through written and performance pieces, through creative works and all via a supportive student cohort who are also learning about who they are and how to express their unique selves. Students are able to ask for what they want, and speak their truth with wisdom and kindness.

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”

– Lau Tzu

Self-acceptance is the first of the 6 key-elements of psychological wellbeing as defined by psychologist Carol Ryff (the last, as with ours, is self-actualisation). We defer to her definition of self-acceptance:

  • Having a positive self-attitude
  • Acknowledging and accepting all aspects of ourselves
  • Not being self-critical about our identity, and
  • Not wishing to be any different from who we already are


There is a widely agreed scientific consensus that on average, self-esteem (how valuable, or worthwhile, we see ourselves8) is relatively high in childhood, and then fluctuates throughout life. Encouragingly, individuals who have relatively high self-esteem in childhood tend to have relatively high self-esteem years later, and of course the inverse is also true. The dip starts as children move from preschool to primary school because they usually receive more negative feedback from teachers, parents, and peers, and their self-evaluations “correspondingly become more negative.”9

We are fortunate at Woodline, to receive students when they have an abundance of self-esteem, and rather than lessening it with negative feedback, we fortify it by fostering in self-acceptance so that throughout life, students aren’t inclined to rely on external input (grades, the opinions of others, financial status) to make them feel worthy. An intrinsic sense of oneself becomes a perpetual touchstone.

Woodline is an environment designed to teach and nurture self-acceptance. Everything we do is driven by a commitment to ensure a caring and safe environment to foster the emotional wellbeing and self-awareness of our students. Teachers affirm and encourage children to be themselves and to treat themselves with compassion. They model positive self-talk, self-care practices and continue to work on their own personal development so that they are free to be present while at school. Children are truly valued and celebrated for brilliant little people they are.

Self-acceptance gives us the courage to follow our personal interests, and to love and deeply connect to others. Once we have cultivated a level of acceptance of ourselves, it becomes easier to accept others for exactly who they are.

“Your own self-realisation is the greatest service you can render the world.”

Ramana Maharshi

Self-actualisation is a state in which people are at their very best. A concept introduced by Abraham Maslow, a 20th century Psychologist, he is best remembered today for his idea that people have a hierarchy of needs.

Starting with Physiological needs (food, water) and then a need for safety (secure environments) When our Physiological needs for survival and safety are fulfilled, we experience calm, security and comfort.

It then moves on to belonging and love. When these needs are fulfilled, we feel a sense of warmth, renewed strength within ourselves, and a sense of being whole.

We then come to our esteem needs – our need to value ourselves. When these needs are met, we feel confident, masterful and worthy.

Maslow referred to the above as ‘deficit’ needs because they describe a state in which the person seeks to obtain something that is lacking. But when these needs are met people move to the next level which is self-actualisation. This refers to various characteristics such as being:

  • Efficient in how we perceive reality
  • Accepting of ourselves and of other people
  • Able to form deep relationships
  • Appreciative of life
  • Guided by our own inner goals and values
  • Able to express emotions freely and clearly

At Woodline Primary we aim to assist children to achieve these goals through a safe holding of their needs, so they are able to access internal freedom – in thought, expression and within the environment.

References

1. Rosanna G. Lea, Sarah K. Davis, Bérénice Mahoney, and Pamela Qualter, “Does Emotional Intelligence Buffer the Effects of Acute Stress? A Systematic Review,” Frontiers in psychology 10, (2019): 810.

2. World Economic Forum (2016), “The Future of Jobs Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Global Challenge Insight Report.”

3. Kathryn Duckworth and Ingrid Schoon, Schoon, “Progress and attainment during primary school: The roles of literacy, numeracy and self-regulation,” Longitudinal and Life Course Studies 1, (2010): 223-240.

Clark McKown, Nicole M. Russo-Ponsaran, Adelaide Allen, Jason K. Johnson, Heather K. Warren-Khot, “Social-emotional factors and academic outcomes among elementary-aged children,” Infant and Child Development 25 (2), (2016): 119-136.

Mara Welsh, Ross D. Parke, Keith Widaman, and Robin O’Neil, “Linkages between children’s social and academic competence: A longitudinal analysis” Journal of School Psychology 39, (2001): 463-482.

4. Heather A. Butlera, Christopher Pentoney and Mabelle P. Bong, “Predicting real-world outcomes: Critical thinking ability is a better predictor of life decisions than intelligence,” Thinking Skills and Creativity 25, (2017): 38-46.

5. Kim, Heejung S. and Ko, Deborah. “Culture and self-expression.” In Frontiers of social psychology: The self, edited by Constantine Sedikides and Steven J. Spencer, 325-342. New York, US: Psychology Press, 2007.

6. Glaser, Judith E, “Self-Expression: The Neuroscience of Co-creation” Last modified December 06, 2017

7. Carol D. Ryff, Burton H. Singer, “Know Thyself and Become What You Are: A Eudaimonic Approach to Psychological Well-Being,” Journal of Happiness Studies 9 (1) (2006): 13–39.

9. Richard W. Robins, Kali H. Trzesniewski, Jessica L. Tracy, Samuel D. Gosling, and Jeff Potter. “Global self-esteem across the lifespan,” Psychology and Aging 17, (2002): 423–434.