Strength-Based Approach to Learning

At the Annual General Meeting for Families and Friends of Blue Gum there was a parent education session held on ‘What does Blue Gum Community School mean by strengths-based learning?’ This education session will be repeated for those parents interested on Thursday 29th August from 12:30-1:30pm in the Meeting Room at Hackett Campus. Below is a copy of the handout from the session.

A ‘strength-based’ approach is an approach that views people and situations realistically, and looks for opportunities to support and build on existing strengths and capacities. It represents a paradigm shift – a move away from a deficit-based approach, where attention is focused on what’s missing, what’s ‘wrong’ with a student’s learning/development, and what things a student cannot do.

Agencies, such as the Victorian Education Department, have identified an ever-growing body of research and evidence which promotes a strength-based approach that encourages educators:

  • to understand that students’ learning is dynamic, complex and holistic;
  • to understand that students demonstrate their learning in different ways; &
  • to start with what’s present-not what’s absent-and identify the way of learning that works for each student.

By personalising the learning, the educator’s task is to identify ‘what works’ and ‘how it works’ for each student, so that their learning success can be maximised now and into the future.

Strengths include students’ intellectual, physical and interpersonal skills, capabilities, dispositions, interests and motivations, as well as environmental/cultural/societal elements. However, a strength-based approach is not simply identifying and describing the positive aspects of a student’s learning/development, and ignoring or neglecting areas of concern or recommended for further development.

A strength-based approach is consistent with Blue Gum’s philosophy and our ‘image of the student’ as competent, capable, creative, responsible, resourceful and resilient, as well as a unique human being and valued contributor to their community.

A strength-based approach IS:

  • focused on what each student can do rather than what they cannot do, because every student is viewed as having equal value within the community;
  • a way of describing student learning/development respectfully and honestly;
  • a signpost for the most effective way of building on a student’s abilities;
  • upfront in acknowledging that all students experience areas of difficulty and challenge in their learning that need attention and support;
  • a way of maximising each student’s learning by identifying the specific strategies/conditions they require to be a successful learner, so that these can be adopted/reproduced.

A strengths-based approach IS NOT:

  • only about ‘positive’ things;
  • a way to avoid the truth;
  • an excuse to avoid tackling inappropriate behaviour;
  • fixated on problems or about minimising concerns;
  • one-sided;
  • a standardised, one-size-fits-all measuring tool to sort/classify or box/label students.

(Acknowledgment: A guide to a ‘Strength-based Approach’ from the Victorian Education Dept)

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