ELLI Learning Dimensions

Changing & Learning

This dimension is about a learner’s sense of his or herself as someone who can and will change and learn and get better over time. It is having a positive learning story or journey to reflect upon. This gives a layer of confidence, helping a learner to cope with obstacles and difficulties by putting them in perspective. Without much of it, a learner is likely to appear ‘stuck and static’ instead of having a ‘trajectory’: a sense of having ‘come a long way’ and of being able to ‘go places’ with her learning.

Critical Curiosity

This dimension is about a learner’s desire to delve into topics and get beneath the surface, find things out and ask questions, especially ‘Why?’ A critically curious learner will be unlikely simply to accept propositions without understanding their foundation. She might challenge what a teacher says, rather than take it at face value. Learners who lack Critical Curiosity might generally turn up and expect to be taught, rather than expect to do the work themselves, seeing themselves as passive recipients of their learning, rather than active agents in it.

Meaning Making

This dimension is about learners’ ability to make sense by ‘relating’: relating to facts and ideas, linking them up, seeing patterns and connections, constructing a ‘map’ of their learning, seeing how it fits together and ‘knowing their way around’. The personal nature of Meaning Making is important: it includes feeling that ‘learning matters to me’ and ‘connects with my story’ and so helps a learner to become engaged, linking new ideas to more familiar ones, connecting the present with the past and the here-and-now to more remote ideas and experiences.


This dimension is about being able to learn differently sometimes, by using imagination and intuition rather than logic and reasoning; being playful and ‘dreaming’, rather than just ‘racking your brains’ or looking things up; going ‘off the beaten track’ and exploring ideas that might seem ‘wacky’ at first, trusting that they will lead to an unexpected train of thought that starts to resolve the problem for you. It recognises that learning is sometimes about surprise, wonder, inspiration, ‘dawning moments’, and not just about following rules, routines and procedures.


This dimension is about keeping going when things get tough. When a learner has this ‘inner strength’ to draw on, she is less likely to give up and knows that obstacles can be overcome with persistence, help, creativity, steadiness of purpose… She has the self-belief needed to cope with feelings of failure or uselessness and knows from experience that they are temporary and a natural part of the learning journey. Learners who lack this quality are fragile and dependent, whether through anxiety about maintaining high standards or by having had their self-concept damaged by negativity, especially in close relationships such as with parents

Strategic Awareness

This is about a learner’s readiness and capacity to take responsibility for his or her learning, manage herself and the processes involved, have a sense of purpose and direction, plan ahead and accomplish intentions. It is about seeing how this task and this moment fit into a bigger picture. It helps a learner to fulfil his or her potential and develop the self-efficacy and autonomy to survive the transition to a learning environment with less structure and support, such as from primary to secondary school or schooling to higher education.

Learning Relationships

This dimension is about how a learner develops and uses the ‘social resources’ available to support her learning, whether in the family, in school, at work or at play. It involves learning from and with others, collaborating well and being a good ‘team player’, but also managing without them when necessary, rather than being either dependent, or withdrawn and isolated. Someone with strength in this dimension can move easily between the group environment and solitary learning.