Dispositions for Learning

As learners, no matter how old or young we are, we all have unique skills that lay a foundation for how we learn. These skills are called dispositions for learning. They are the underlying attributes that enable us to learn. No one has created a concise list that everyone agrees on. 

However, in childcare we are prescribed nine dispositions in the Early Years Learning Framework. These nine dispositions are:

  • Curiosity
  • Enthusiasm
  • Persistence
  • Commitment
  • Reflexivity
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Imagination
  • Confidence

These nine dispositions are easily observed and compared between children. One child may be curious about everything, while another child may be creatively driven. One child may be committed to the end, while another child is full of imagination. All children have some amount of each of these dispositions. A Child may be very creative, flexible, and curious but find it hard to commit and persist in their learning. Another child may be confident, enthusiastic and committed but struggle to be creative and imaginative. One child may be overflowing with 7 of the 9 dispositions while another child may not have any strong dispositions for learning.

These skills can be looked at like stats in a video game.

When I was growing up (and still as an adult) I enjoyed playing video games, particularly racing games. I was always particular about the stats of whatever character or car I was choosing. The stats show how much of each unique skill a character has. They lay a foundation for how fast you can accelerate, top speed, how well you can turn, how powerful you can boost and what ever else the game designers can come up with. So the higher your stats, the better your chances of winning. In most games, there would be a graph of some description, displaying how much of each different stat that character had. But in some games, the stats are hidden and you are left to work out the stats yourself.

Like the stats in a video game increase your chances of winning, children’s dispositions increase their chances of learning. Unfortunately, children don’t come with a stats bar on selection. These skills are hidden. As the child grows and develops their dispositions for learning are revealed in their play and interactions.

Luckily, all good gamers know that you don’t settle for base stats. Likewise, all good educators will not settle for base dispositions. Games will often give the ability to build your stats through levelling up, upgrading etc. Likewise, dispositions for learning are not stagnant. They can be developed, nurtured, and encouraged. All great educators will recognise children’s dispositions for learning and strive to create a learning environment that develops, nurtures, and encourages children’s dispositions for learning.


Curiosity is the desire to know. Children who are curious and inquisitive will seek out knowledge. Whenever a tradesman walks into First Steps they have an instant crowd. The presence of someone new and interesting draws the attention of the children (and the staff…) Children’s curiosity drives them to observe, inquire, hypothesis and then go and test out the knowledge they have gained.

Curiosity is nurtured when an environment is set up to capture a child’s attention.  The learning environment should allow them to find things they have never seen before, to use things they have never used before, experience things they have never experienced before and meet people they have never met before.

First Steps Curiosity


Enthusiasm is the excitement and passion to pursue an interest. Enthusiastic learners are driven to pursue ideas and express themselves. They often draw others into their play easily, which brings more knowledge and expression to play and learning.

Enthusiasm is encouraged when educators show enthusiasm for children’s ideas. When others are enthusiastic about what a child is doing, the child learns to express their own enthusiasm. An emergent approach to teaching helps to build enthusiasm in children as their ideas are validated and pursued within the classroom.


Persistence is continuing even when a task gets difficult. When children persist with a task they increase their chances of succeeding. Persistence is a key ingredient to completing difficult tasks and challenging ourselves. When tasks become challenging, that is when learning starts to multiply.

Persistence is gradually built as a child is encouraged to try one more time and in trying one more time they experience success. Then each time they are willing to try a little harder and a little longer because trying harder and longer brings success. Sometimes educators may need to ensure that success comes with the extra effort to build this disposition over time.

Persistence at First Steps


Commitment is the dedication to a task despite whatever else is going on. Being able to focus on a task and give it your full attention can be a difficult thing to foster in a child. But when a child finds something, they are interested in, it is amazing how focused they can become to the point of being completely oblivious to their surroundings.

Commitment is developed when children are positively encouraged to complete a task they have started. Children are not always capable of completing the tasks that they start. But, with adult help they are often able to see their task through to completion.

Commitment at First Steps


Reflexivity is the awareness of one’s role within learning. In play, children show their reflexivity through their understanding of what they are doing with others in play. Reflexivity helps children engage with others. When a child understands their role then they can engage with learning in meaningful ways.

Reflexivity is encouraged by creating opportunities for children to play together. Reflexivity is learnt socially. When children are reflexive, they are aware of others around them and how they should act with them. By providing experiences for children where they experiment, investigate and hypothesis with new ideas the children will become aware of the ways their experiences shape their understanding.

Reflexivity at First Steps


Cooperation is when two or more people work together on the same task. The classic idea that two heads are better than one. When play becomes social and cooperative learning is multiplied. Knowledge is shared, problem solving becomes a team effort, conflict resolution comes into play, success is shared and celebrated by all involved and so much more.

Cooperation is developed through play and mediation. As children begin to play alongside other children, conflict eventually arises. Mediation is required to work through the conflict. Mediation is a demonstration of how to cooperate. Children learn to cooperate when they see it demonstrated by others who are capable to cooperate and manage conflict.

Cooperation at First STeps


Creativity is using an original idea to create something. It is said that creativity is the highest form of thinking because it goes beyond knowledge recall and extends into knowledge creation. Children that are creative engage in play using their own ideas rather than simply copying others.

Creativity is encouraged by supplying a variety of media for children to express themselves with, from painting to natural resources, from recycled bottles to large sheets of material. Also, allowing them to have freedom in their expression and by talking to them and celebrating their expression at the level they are at.

Creativity at First Steps


Imagination is the ability to think clearly about things that are not present or existent. Children with a strong imagination can form new concepts quickly and clearly see how they will work. They express new ideas in their play and never lack inspiration.

Imagination is nurtured by creating spaces that inspire children to become new and interesting characters, by stimulating their minds with stories and books and songs that allow them to experience new things in their minds.

Imagination at First steps


Confidence is the knowledge or feeling that what you do will be accepted and appreciated by those around. When a child feels confident then they are free to share their ideas, get involved with play and interact positively with others.

Confidence is nurtured by celebrating successes, building social bridges, connecting home to education and by showing care and empathy through everyday interactions. Confidence grows as a child feels excepted for who they are and what they do.

Confidence at First Steps

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