CLARA describes the qualities and dispositions that enable people to become aware of the way they learn and to take responsibility for their own learning journey. These are known are the dimensions of learning power.

At Holy Family, our students learn about the clusters of attitudes, values and dispositions which frame the way they approach new learning opportunities. We believe that through developing a better understanding of their own learning power orientation, students can become more self-aware and reflect on their learning journeys. They can then use their learning powers to work to navigate a way forwards to a solution or a product in any context in life.

We have developed our own icons for the learning powers which are specific to us at Holy Family:

The following descriptions of each learning power are taken from the Learning Emergence website.

Mindful agency

This dimension is about taking responsibility for my own learning and for improving it. It’s about how I manage my feelings, my time, my energy, my actions and the things I need to achieve my goals. It’s about knowing what I want to achieve – and why, then knowing how to go about it; stepping out on the path towards my goals. People who have Mindful Agency take time to reflect and think things through; they like to understand the big picture and how each part fits together. They plan ahead and ask questions like, ‘Where am I coming from?’, ‘Where am I now?’, ‘Where am I going?’ and ‘How will this task help me to get there?’ Learners with very little Mindful Agency are quite likely to react hastily or mindlessly to whatever they encounter. They are less self-aware and may confuse self-awareness with self-consciousness.

Hope and Optimism

This dimension is about being confident that I can change, learn and perform better, given time and opportunity. It is helped by having a positive story of learning and performance to reflect upon, that gives me a feeling of having ‘come a long way’ and of being able to ‘go places’ with more learning. Whatever has happened, though, and whatever obstacles I face, if I have a lot of Hope and Optimism I shall accept the challenge and believe I can succeed. Learners with less of this are more likely to feel ‘stuck’ and give up easily. Believing they might fail, they can be less willing to try.


This dimension is about making connections between everything I know – ideas, memories, knowledge, skills, facts and experience – and making sense of them in relation to each new context of learning and performance. It’s about being able to create a ‘knowledge map’ of what I’m learning, so I can see how it all fits together and ‘find my way around’. It’s also about how ‘learning matters’ to me, connecting new insights with my own story and things that already matter in my life. This strengthens my sense of purpose in my learning. To learners with little Sense Making, everything seems somewhat fragmented, harder to understand and they find it more difficult to know what’s important or how to go on.


This dimension is about using my imagination and intuition when I learn, being playful and ‘dreaming’ new ideas, having hunches, letting answers come to me, rather than just ‘racking my brains’ or looking things up. It’s about going ‘off the track’ and exploring ideas and coming up with unexpected and often better solutions. Those with a lot of Creativity understand that learning is often about surprise, wonder and inspiration, not simply about sticking to rules and routines, doing as you were told or following instructions. Without creativity, learning is confined to what someone can achieve using logic and reasoning, or may be limited by doing what they have always done, or by instructions and procedures imposed on them.


This is about my desire to investigate, find more out and ask questions, especially ‘Why?’ If I am a curious learner, I won’t simply accept what I am told without wanting to know for myself whether and why it’s true. I might challenge what friends, leaders, parents, teachers, colleagues say, rather than take it at face value. I want to know the reason for everything, as young children often do. Learners with less Curiosity might be present and involved in learning activities, but relatively passive, expecting others to tell them or show them what to do and how to improve rather than working things out for themselves or finding things out for the group.


This dimension is about how I learn through my relationships with other people. It is about knowing who to turn to for help or advice and how to offer such things, too. It’s about solving problems by talking them through with others, generating new ideas through listening carefully, making suggestions and responding positively to feedback. If I am strong in this dimension I can move easily between the group or team environment and learning on my own. With less strength in this dimension people may either be over-dependent on other people, or more isolated in their learning, preferring to learn alone.


This dimension is about how much I feel part of a ‘learning community’, a group with a shared commitment to learn, improve and do better, whether at school, at work, at home or in my wider community. It’s about the confidence I gain from knowing there are people around me whom I learn well with and to whom I can turn when I need guidance, support and encouragement in my learning journey. People who are weaker in this dimension may feel left out, or out of place, ‘not fitting’ into their learning community: a ‘square peg in a round hole’.

Orientation to learning

This dimension is about being open to learning, new ideas and challenge and having the ‘inner strength’ to move confidently from purpose to performance by embracing learning and change, rather than either giving up and withdrawing or ‘toughing it out’ and getting mad with the world. It’s about knowing, deep down, that I can go on learning when things get tough. I know learning isn’t always easy and that struggling, even failing sometimes, is a natural part of it – so I’m open and ready for new ideas and ready to change my mind and my heart as I learn. I need to be like this to build my learning power. People less open to learning may be fragile and dependent, on the one hand, more likely to give up easily and accept that they are not getting anywhere; or they might be ‘rigidly persistent’, on the other hand, determined to stay as they are, do things their way, tending to blame things they can’t control, less inclined to listen to others. Either way, they will be hindered from building their learning power.

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