I keep finding stuff.

Sorry but this has a context of bridge, the card game I am currently learning, again. But just trust/ignore the bridge specific stuff. As always I am writing about learning.

I learn bridge in a number of different ways. I want to explain two of these.

First, I watch YouTube videos and pause the video to think about what I would bid before seeing what the experts would do. I feel no pressure to choose a bid/pass when the video is paused. Why do I say such an apparently silly and obvious thing?

My second way is by playing live in the bridge club. When the cards get dealt and I check and think about my bid I am very aware of the other three players waiting for me. I feel a bit more pressure to come to a conclusion about bidding/passing when the game is “live”. This pressure is good as it changes the context of the learning.

We need to change the context of learning for our children in school. It presents what appears to be the same challenge but because of the context change, the thinking is, at least, slightly different, in each context.

Small changes, seating position, live presenting or video of the teacher, even questions from a textbook or from a worksheet can be enough for very new learners.


Notes, not quite clear enough.

Again, this is not really about bridge, but is about learning. This is about how to set challenge.

I just re-read some notes I had made on a bridge bidding that my personal bridge tutor had talked me through. My personal tutor is a really good player at my current bridge club. He is a great bridge player but does sometimes present me with a challenge too far. I am not sure that his teaching technique is intentional but my attitude, I really want to learn, and his less structured teaching provides challenge.

As teachers, I think we can use what happens intentionally to better support learning in our children.

The notes I re-read had gaps, were not linear and were hard to read and understand. Not so hard that I gave up but hard enough, because of their lack of clarity, so that I hard to think a lot about what they meant.

Think hard – that should attract you as a teacher. If we can make our children think hard, about the stuff that matters, then we will be supporting their learning.

So the trick is to provide children with notes that are not complete, are a little less clear than one might believe, and have them work on those with a highly positive attitude to learning.

That might also apply to our teaching. Make the explanations a little less clear so that children have to think hard to make sense and make meaning.

Minor challenge for you to get the clarity balance right.

Not a novice now. A bit better.

A bit more about bridge, but I want this blog to be read as about learning, and particularly moving from knowledge to understanding.

Understanding is a 3 stage process. In very simple terms it is about first, knowing more. Having more “bits of knowledge”.

The second stage is recognising the linkage between those bits of knowledge and how those bits of knowledge interact.

The third stage is the one that makes me feel joyful. Recognising the significance of that linkage. Realising the meaning that the previously somewhat disparate knowledge items has. It is about beginning to see the knowledge as a whole, within a system.

You could leave it there but my example is a bridge example as I have recently recognised this process in myself. When I explain it you may well say that it is obvious. That is because it is but I am making the linkage apparent to you. Once we recognise the links and the system elements then we are understanding. I am shortcutting that part for you. But my shortcutting is really only giving you a rule which you need to obey. Just obeying the rule will work but understanding the significance will lead to a deeper understanding.

So two bits of bridge, which all bridge players know.

To open one needs 12 high card points, HCP.

To respond to that opening bid one needs 6 (or more HCP)

WHY 6???

Well, the opener opens one of a suit with 12 to 19 HCP. So 19 plus 6 makes 25 HCP. And with 25 HCP the partnership can go to game. Obvious as a rule but by recognising why 6 points not as a rule but as understanding is both more powerful and easier to remember. It also, significantly, means that there are other understandings to be sought. The why of bridge bidding and not just the rules.

The question for teachers is how might we support learners in this move from knowing to understanding? Do we ask the question “Why do we bid with 6 HCP after a partner opens?” Is a response, “Because opener might have 19 points and 25 is game” evidence on understanding? How do we know it is not just a statement of a rule?

Should we not ask the question as that can prompt a rule-response? Should we just leave the learner with the knowledge and let the “discovery” happen?

Can we move the understanding process faster?