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Characteristics of Effective Learning

The Characteristics of effective learning are an essential part of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. Staff will plan, observe and assess children’s learning and development with the EYFS Characteristics of Effective Learning (CoEL) in mind. These characteristics are there to help staff identify and support children’s individual learning styles. The CoEL’s advocate that in planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners must reflect on the different ways that children learn, and then reflect these in their practice. A child’s individual learning characteristic will determine the way they respond to both the teaching and learning taking place in the environment. The three characteristics of effective teaching and learning identified by the EYFS are:

  • Playing and exploring – children use their whole bodies to find out and explore, play with what they know and are willing to have a go;
  • Active learning - children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
  • Creating and thinking critically - children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

The focus of the Characteristics is on how children learn rather than what they learn i.e. process over outcome. Underpinning the Characteristics is the understanding that during their earliest years, children form attitudes about learning that will last a lifetime. Children who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during these years will be creative and adventurous learners throughout their lives. Children who do not receive this sort of support and interaction are likely to have a much different attitude about learning later on in life. Hence, why the supportive practitioner, and the environment they provide, need to nurture these CoELs to occur, but without forgetting that children are individuals who bring their own needs, talents and histories to the learning environment.