The Four Stages of Successful Learning
February 5, 2020
Contributor: Grade Power Learning

Successful learning consists of a series of purposeful activities – learning activities that we can control and direct. Children must acquire learning skills that it is possible to control and direct their learning activities. Often, they see this as an entirely new idea. Most kids are unaware of the power and control they possess! – Grade Power Learning

There are four primary stages in all learning skills. Until each stage is completed, no real learning occurs. The four stages of successful learning activities are singular or solitary stages. 

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In order to understand how to help kids develop better and more active learning skills, it is necessary to understand the stages of successful learning and how each stage supports every other stage. 

Stage One: Setting the Course

Setting the Course - successful learning  | Grade Power Learning

The first stage is the most essential and the stage most often overlooked. This is the stage that allows us to open our minds to learning. There are two components to the first stage. The first is what we call metacognitive awareness, and the second is good old-fashioned positive thinking.

Metacognitive awareness is a fancy phrase describing our ability to be aware of what we are feeling and how we are using our minds. It includes a willingness to use logic whenever possible, a willingness not to set boundaries on what and how we learn, and a willingness to learn to overcome distractions and to evaluate our own actions. It is also a willingness to try harder even when we fear failure. It is the opening up of the mind and heart to our own possibility of achievement. 

It has been clearly demonstrated time and time again that successful learning depends upon the expectations of the learner. A positive attitude and an expectation that the material will be learned are essential. Even today, when students may be confused about their ability to acquire learning skills in the classroom, it is possible to establish a positive attitude before learning activities simply by affirming that it will be done.  

Stage Two: Getting and Storing New Knowledge (so we can use it again)

Getting and Storing New Knowledge - successful learning

We are born with a clean slate. Our brains do not contain the accumulated knowledge of humankind. It is our responsibility to learn. It is not the world’s responsibility to teach. Understanding this allows us to prepare ourselves to acquire “new” information and then integrate that “new” information with all of the “old” information that we have already gathered.

There are many possible roadblocks to getting part of Stage Two. Some children have real or learned attention deficits, some have auditory processing deficits, some have really learned or learning disabilities and some children have mild to severe perceptual (primarily hearing and seeing) weaknesses. These deficits can become bumps in the road. Before children can progress through Stage Two, they have to learn how to deal with these problems. 

As kids develop more metacognitive awareness (Stage One), they are able to listen more effectively and, therefore, hear and integrate more information in class. They learn to set up a running dialogue with themselves – “Did I understand that? Is it new information?  What do I do with this information?” 

This type of successful learning is possible from ages three onward. It is not confined to senior grades. Even little children can develop an awareness of what they feel, think and do.

Stage Two means learning more effective ways of listening and understanding before consciously filing the new information so that it integrates with old information of the same type. The easy part is that our brains will do the filing for us once we consciously identify the type of information we wish to learn and decide where it belongs.  

The assignment is a totally separate piece of learning activities. For the student to remember and use it, she will have to identify that it is an assignment. This would create a separation from the rest of the day’s information to be learned or remembered and would allow the brain to file this information in the Important Events category. Depending upon other events and learning skills to be mastered, this would result in the assignment being remembered and completed. 

The successful Stage Two learner will have learned appropriate listening and remembering techniques and will be able to distinguish between the various pieces of information. 

Regardless of the style and quality of teaching, kids can learn to listen and distinguish between this information. They soon learn to make their own metaphors, to create the ties that bind, to see the connections. It makes truly successful learning viable!

Stage Three: What Does It Really Mean?

What Does It Really Mean? | Grade Power Learning

Most students will stop there. Confronted with two different pieces of information, they will memorize them. This is what they have been taught and it will ensure that they can parrot the facts back on an examination. What a waste of precious time and energy! During their most valuable learning years, children are too often reduced to cramming useless facts into their heads – facts that cannot be used because they have been memorized and not understood.

Successful Stage Three learners will go further. They will automatically ask:

  • Do these pieces of information belong together? 
  • Do they have any influence on each other? 
  • Did one cause the other to happen?  

Now we have something – an alive and active mind that is understanding and connecting new information. Dull classes will be transformed into alive classes full of meaning and passion. Ask the expert, the teacher, or the author to help you integrate this information. In other words, help me unclutter my mind. Help me to understand

Stage Three initiates kids into the world of expanding knowledge. They must learn to analyze and synthesize; to compare and contrast; to classify and categorize; to deduce or induce depending upon the information and how it is presented. They must learn to consider viewpoints and to create abstract or create new ideas from those already held. Stage Three is where active minds begin to create new paradigms and grow. It is where intelligence grows.

Stage Four: Applying Our New Knowledge

Applying Our New Knowledge

One of the sayings we like to offer teachers and students at GradePower Learning is that knowledge is never created until the student has heard, understood, felt, and used it. 

Without those steps, information is flat, random, and almost useless. We learn in order to understand. Education by itself is nice but essentially useless if it does not help us live successful lives. We learn in order to survive, compete, and grow. 

Education is not an end in itself. It is the means to the successful living and enjoyment of our lives. Stage Four is the stage where we learn to use our education to survive, grow, succeed, and enjoy.

Successful Stage Four learners will ask themselves if there are any incomplete issues. “Do I have enough information about the Sioux peoples to understand why they acted as they did when the Northwest Mounted Police arrived at Fort Hope?” or “Do I really understand why I follow a math rule or have I just memorized the formula?”

It is during Stage Four that students complete their investigations and make decisions. They create new information and act on it. It is the reason for the first three stages. It is the completion.  Having arrived at Stage Four, any learner will feel quietly satisfied at having made the journey. Regardless of the outcome of the test, exam, or proposed solution, this learner now understands the workings of his or her mind and is able to use that mind to think and act.

The task of parents and teachers alike is to help children move through these four stages of successful learning: to help kids learn about the workings of their minds, to believe that learning is possible, to successfully acquire and integrate information, to extend that information into knowledge and to act upon it is the sum total of the learning journey. 

It is a lifelong journey. It can help us to cope, to master, to achieve, to live, and grow. It is essential to happiness. And, it is the secret of intelligence. The old-fashioned, or crystallized IQ, is just a number attributed to a crowded mind. Real intelligence increases as we learn to use each stage more effectively. 

Grade Power Learning

For 25 years Grade Power Learning has been helping students reach their academic potential and learning skills with uniquely developed programs that make a real difference in the way that children approach their learning. With Grade Power Learning, better grades are just the beginning.

Check out the Grade Power Learning Elk Grove and their newest location El Dorado Hills for details on parent seminars for this and other topics. has a huge resource of tutoring providers. To find out more, visit the Tutoring Category. You can also read more of learning activities for kids in the Education Category blog post.

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