The learning process can be divided into three stages. First we have the learner; secondly there is the process of learning, which describes the ways in which we get to know something; thirdly there are the areas of knowledge that organise what we learn. Naturally there is some cross over between these categories as learning is a nebulous word that does not fit easily into clearly defined fields.

In mainstream education the focus is on the knowledge to be gained, to which ends we have the National Curriculum which sets out to establish what should be learnt and when in every subject. Some attention is paid to processes that lead students to “know” something but they tend to be limited to memory, language, and reasoning. However, little attention is paid to a thorough understanding of the receptivity to learning of the learner, and to creating an internal condition for learning. Our school will take an alternative innovative approach to learning which seeks to rectify the imbalance typical in mainstream education.

1. The Learner

All of our senses and ways of learning are nothing without our consciousness. We might hear a bird singing, but we can only learn something from it if we turn our attention to it and actually listen to the song. This paying attention or being mindful comes from our consciousness. It gives us the ability to focus, analyse, value and make decisions regarding our outer and inner lives (1). Since our learning is determined by how we perceive the world, and our consciousness heightens and broadens our perception, developing our consciousness is essential to maximising our potential as learners.

The school seeks to help create the best internal condition for learning. Through yoga, other exercise, meditation, eating healthy food, harmonious classroom relations, and analytical interconnected thinking, students deepen their inner calm and become more receptive to learning. We can define this receptivity as passive and active. By passive we mean just receiving, by active we mean engaging with the learning. Passive and active learning happen simultaneously and naturally, both are equally important.

Passive receptivity to learning Active receptivity to learning
Mindfulness Ability to think independently
Be emotionally calm Ability to analyse
Be physically relaxed and alert Ability to look up new words and concepts
Ability to focus mentally Ability to ask questions when unsure
Ability to read Ability to diverge and make associations
Ability to listen Ability to organise knowledge
Ability to write
Ability to speak


2. The Process of Knowing

  • Sense perception
  • Intuition
  • Reason
  • Imagination
  • Language
  • Memory
  • Emotion
  • Interconnectedness

Our consciousness is structured to learn in particular ways (2). These ways help us to understand the world but also condition how we understand it. For example, we have the senses, reason, imagination, language, memory, intuition, and the imagination. Some of these we share with animals, others are specific to humans. Nobody knows exactly why these capacities have evolved within us but they make up the human mind and help us to interrelate with the world and with ourselves. To “know” something, we need to access at least one of these ways. To know something well we will probably have to learn about it in many different ways. Mainstream schools focus on learning through language, reason, and memory. This is mainly because they are confined to the classroom and they focus on what needs to be learnt for exams.

At Hebden Bridge School we also encourage learning experientially through sense perception, intuition, emotion, and imagination. We also take learning outside of the classroom and simultaneously deeper into the child’s inner world. This approach appeals to all types of learners: visual, audial, or kinaesthetic, and facilitates a holistic approach to knowledge.

3. Areas of Knowledge

In the UK education system areas of knowledge are divided into the subjects we study at GCSE. In most schools these are taught independently of each other. This organises knowledge in the child’s mind adequately for the exams but hinders learning by not making connections between the subjects studied. Children are always making connections between experiences, ideas, and feelings. These can appear to be very random at first but this randomness is the child’s unique personality coming to grips with the huge phenomena of life. To complement the natural ways in which a child’s mind works, we will use cross subject learning for years 7-9.

From year 10 we appreciate that our students must prepare for exams so a more pragmatic approach is taken, where students learn their GCSE subjects but are still encouraged to think in an interdisciplinary way.

(1) Consciousness based learning

(2) Ways of knowing and IB Theory of Knowledge