Building Learning Power

What is Building Learning Power?

BLP is an approach to learning to learn.

Here at The Deans we beilieve that Learning is happening all the time and that we can all mcontinue to learn throughout our lives. We use Building Learning Power as part of our aim to develop independent lifelong learners with a growth mindset.

Lifelong learning is our birth right. We can continually develop our capacity to learn throughout our lives. We are all learners every day of our lives it’s just that sometimes in our busy schedules we can lose sight of this wonderful capacity, worse still we can take it for granted and then assume that our children will just "pick it up"!

We use the language of BLP to help children see the learning that is happening all around them in school and outside too! Some of this language may seem strange, but once you see learning happening and start to recongise it and give it a name then you will see it everywhere!

Where does Building Learning Power come from?

Guy Claxton, who has created Building Learning Power, suggests that there are 4 key parts to learning:





These dispositions are inherent in us all. They are not fixed at birth, or when we leave school; they can be developed by everyone regardless of “ability”, social background or age. In fact, ...there are NO limits to extending our learning power!

How empowering is that? How liberating? How exciting?

We can think of these dispositions as being like groups of "learning muscles". Just as we can build our physical muscles with the right kinds of exercise, so we can exercise our learning muscles to develop their strength and stamina. Each of these dispositions is made up of a number of learning behaviours, which are called capacities. Because the learning capacities are quite specific in nature, they can be individually trained, nurtured and exercised.

The Learning Muscles


being ready, willing and able to


Absorption Learning Muscle; you become engrossed in what you are doing; you are unaware of time passing

Managing Distraction Learning Muscle; you know what distracts you, you try to minimise distractions, you settle back quickly after an interuption

Noticing Learning Muscle; you notice how things look, what they are made of, or how they behave, you can identify significant detail

Perseverance Learning Muscle; you are not put off by being stuck, you keep on going despite difficulties and find ways to overcome them, you recognise that learning can be a struggle.


being ready, willing and able to become


Planning Learning Muscle; you think about what you want to get out of learning, you plan the steps you might take, you access resources you may need

Revising Learning Muscle; you are ready to revise your plans as you go along, monitor how things are going, change your plans when you have had a better idea

Distilling Learning Muscle; you mull over experiences, draw out useful lessons from experiences, think about where else you might use these lessons

Meta-Learning Muscle; you are interested in how you learn as an individual, know your strengths and weaknesses as a learner, are interested in becoming a better learner


being ready, willing and able to


Questioning Learning Muscle; you are curious about things and people, you often wonder why, you play with ideas, asking "How come?" and "What if?"

Making Links Learning Muscle; you look for connections between experiences or ideas, you find pleasure in seeing how things fit together, you make patterns

Imagining Learning Muscle; you picture how things might look, sound, feel, be; you let your mind explore and play with possibilities and ideas

Reasoning Learning Muscle; you create logical arguments, you deduce what might happen, you look for evidence


being ready, willing and able to


Interdependence Learning Muscle; you know how much interaction you need with others to assist your learning, you make informed choices about working on your own or with others

Collaboration Learning Muscle; you manage your feelings when working with others, you understand the ground rules of team work, you are able to work effectively as part of a pair or team

Empathy and Listening Learning Muscle; you put yourself in other people's shoes to see the world from their point of view, show you are listening by eye contact and body language, hear feelings and thoughts behind someone's words

Imitation Learning Muscle; you are ready to learn from others, notice the approach and detail of how others do things

What Can I do as a Parent?

First and foremost, appreciate the impact that developing these learning behaviours can have on your child’s potential. Parents have a powerful influence on a child’s self-concept as a learner.

Activities that help in exercising the learning muscles:

  • Using interesting and complex vocabulary.
  • Encouragement to read for a range of purposes.
  • Cultural activities (libraries, museums, performances or historical sites).
  • Development of hobbies.
  • Providing opportunity to question and try out new things.
  • Having conversations about things outside the home.
  • Discussions about progress at school.

Everyday behaviours and skills to develop:

  • Encourage your child to take responsibility for preparing for school.
  • Ask not what they did but what they learned.
  • Help them think about and plan activities.
  • Encourage flexibility and the ability to change the plan.
  • Model being a good learner (show them what it looks like).
  • Work and play alongside your child, enabling them to pick up good habits through imitation.
  • Make expectations of turn taking and co-operation clear.
  • Encourage them to take calculated risks in their learning.
  • Instil the ethos that we learn from our mistakes and that it is good to make them.
  • Remind them that learning can be messy and there will always be ups and downs.
  • Encourage an enjoyment and satisfaction in challenging ourselves and stretching our learning.

Providing opportunity for children to develop the 5Rs at home, give them safe and secure experiences to draw on and apply in school. It helps build their confidence in themselves. We know children do well when they feel they can do something well but this does not always provide new learning experiences.

We also need to help them feel just as confident when they don‘t feel they can do something so well. We want our children to face such challenges without feeling that they are a failure or not clever any more, but to see setbacks and frustration as a normal part of learning that everyone experiences at some time or other.

Parents need to be ready for the challenges. You need to be able to regulate emotions when faced with setbacks. You may be faced with your own feelings of impatience, or be presented with challenging behaviour from your child. You need to be able to stick with it – just as you would when working on issues such as bedtimes or healthy eating.

The same philosophy is required when a child says they can’t do something or wants you to do it for them. Of course it should not become a battle ground, but think twice before stepping in. Help your child think about using their learning muscles.