April 2nd, 2014

Taking a Look at the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory

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The Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory, developed by a research group at the University of Bristol in the UK, is a self-assessment tool that helps learners develop an awareness of how they learn and encourages them to take responsibility for their learning. It contains seven scales that profile an individual’s capacity for lifelong learning. The high and low ends of those scales identify two very different approaches to learning. I think they make a nice companion to the list of learner characteristics in the January 22, 2014 post.

  • Growth orientation – “Some learners appear to regard learning itself as learnable. They believe that, through effort, their minds get bigger and stronger, just as their bodies can.” This makes learning a lifelong process of growing, changing, and adapting. Trying to learn something is a positive experience—it’s what exercises the mind muscles. Opposite these growth-oriented learners are those who believe that the ability to learn is fixed. They avoid learning that appears difficult for fear it will show their learning limitations.
  • Creative curiosity – This learner characteristic is demonstrated by the desire to find things out, to get at the truth. These are not learners who accept what they are told without question. They challenge assumptions and aren’t afraid to do so in the presence of others. They want to come to their own conclusions and they do that by taking ownership of their learning. On the other side of the spectrum are very passive learners who tend to believe what they’re told. They don’t like to speculate or explore ideas in discussion.
  • Meaning-making – These learners want to see how things fit together. They are “on the lookout for links between what they are learning and what they already know.” They try to make sense of things in terms of their own experience. They ask questions that help them place new knowledge in a larger big picture. Opposite the mean-makers are learners whose approach to learning is piecemeal. They accumulate data, but are not inclined to put it all together in ways that make sense to them.
  • Dependence and fragility – Some learners are easily discouraged. They tend to go to pieces when they get stuck, which makes them risk averse. They depend on other people and external structures for their sense of self-esteem. “They are passive imbibers of knowledge, rather than active agents of their own learning.” Opposite are learners who like a challenge. They don’t get frightened when they find out that learning something is difficult. They aren’t afraid of making mistakes because they know they can learn from them.
  • Creativity – High scorers on this scale are able to see things from different perspectives. They like playing with ideas. They use their imaginations, visual imagery, pictures, and diagrams in their learning. They let ideas bubble up and understand that playfulness advances learning just as surely as purposeful, systematic thinking. On the opposite end are learners who prefer information that is clear cut, tried and true. They like to know how they are supposed to proceed. They do fine when there’s a routine way to tackle a task or solve a problem, but not so well in ambiguous situations.
  • Relationship/interdependence – These learners are “good at managing the balance between being sociable and being private in their learning.” They do learn from others, including teachers, family, and peers, but they also know the learning requires solitary study times. Learners on the opposite side are either too dependent on others or too isolated from them.
  • Strategic awareness – These learners are good at reflection and self-evaluation. They are mindful of how they learn. They can assess tasks, determining how much time and what resources they will need. They like to plan and organize their own learning. Opposite the strategically aware are learners who lack self-awareness, often confusing it with self-consciousness.

This paraphrase of the ELLI scales is drawn from: Deakin-Crick, R., Broadfood, P., and Claxton, G. (2004). Developing and effective lifelong learning inventory: the ELLI project. Assessment in Education, 11 (3), 247-271.

Here’s the research that documents the validity and reliability of the instrument: Deakin-Crick, R. and Yu, Guoxing (2008). Assessing learning dispositions: Is the Effective lifelong learning inventory valid and reliable as a measurement tool? Educational Research, 50 (4), 387-402.

For information about the instrument see: http://www.vitalpartnerships.com. (There is a fee and teachers cannot use it without training.)