Learning Dispositions - Ready, Willing, Able

**this is a supporting resource to support further understanding of the concept of 'ready, willing, able' made visible on the learning disposition cards set available at


Google “learning dispositions” and multiple definitions and discussions are presented, each one reflecting and contributing to the complexity of the idea. In this article we will lean on the definition of “dispositions” from our National Early Years Learning Framework which states that dispositions are “enduring habits of mind and actions, and tendencies to respond in characteristic ways to situations, for example, maintaining an optimistic outlook, being willing to persevere approaching new experiences with confidence”.[1]

We also borrow from Duncan, Jones and Carr’s discussion of learning dispositions which suggests they  are developed socio-culturally.[2]This means with the right support at the right time, all children have the opportunity to engage with positive dispositions for learning, irrespective of their abilities, interests, or previous experiences. [RF1] This is because dispositions are environmentally sensitive - the decisions you make as an educator or teacher about the time, space, experience and encouragement you offer a child will support their evolving learning dispositions. 

I have sometimes found it helpful to see that children progress along a continuum of 'being ready, being willing, being able' as they draw on the complexity of their disposition for learning in any given context.[3]We will use an example of a child demonstrating a disposition of bravery by riding their bike down a ramp as a way to illustrate this. 

Children draw upon a disposition when they have an inclination or attitude towards it. We can encourage a child’s towards a disposition by supporting their interest or motivation and their sense of purpose: the ‘why’ of an experience. For example, a child may show their readiness to be brave when they show an interest by observing others riding on a ramp. Perhaps they show their curiosity by frequent observation, asking questions or

they may experiment with rolling a cylinder down the ramp initially. Here we see that learning dispositions cannot be separated from the learning context itself as the child’s readiness, willingness and ability to be brave is not separated from their readiness, willingness and ability to ride down the ramp. These behaviours not only demonstrate the child’s initial inclination towards experimenting with velocity using the ramp, but also their readiness towards drawing on the disposition of bravery.

Children show willingness when they demonstrate engagement of that learning disposition. In this example, the child demonstrates their willingness towards bravery when they line their bike up to the top of the ramp and experiment with various strategies in getting down the ramp. Perhaps they look to you for encouraging words and you remind them of their bravery earlier in the week at taking up that challenge of trying an unfamiliar vegetable. They respond, indicating their understanding that bravery crosses contexts.

Finally, children are able to draw upon a disposition when they demonstrate mastery, they have developed strategies for how to apply and draw upon the disposition in a particular context. In this example, the child demonstrates bravery when they gain working strategies that allow them to gain confidence and mastery in riding down the ramp. In this situation, they have successfully applied their experience of trying a new vegetable inside at lunch, to a new experience outside today on the ramp with their bike. By applying the disposition of bravery from one context to another, the child demonstrates their mastery, one which becomes a building block they can lean on in the face of new risks as their lives and experiences evolve. Supporting the development of dispositions is important as children construct their identities as a learner. In this example the disposition becomes part of the child’s self-concept as they begin to know: I am brave.

Educators and teachers play a significant role in supporting children’s dispositions in a number of ways:

  1. Our ability to notice is where it starts and therefore building our knowledge and understanding of learning dispositions is helpful. 

  2. We recognise through children’s play episodes how a child’s funds of knowledge shows ‘readiness, willingness and ableness’ to develop, diversify or progress learning.  We also recogniseand value the place of dispositions in children’s learning just as we do the importance of skills and knowledge.

  3. It is only then, we are able to respond in a way that reinforces, strengthens and enhances children’s learning dispositions.

Educators and teachers play a critical role in supporting children’s metacognition of a disposition by providing the language of the disposition. In this example key words may be “risk”, “try”, “challenge” and “brave”. Take a moment to think about how you can build each child’s learner identity by offering feedback and discussion about their engagement and the relationship this has to learning dispositions.

Reflective Questions:

  • Take a moment to consider how you support children to feel confident, safe and supported when they are exploring new learning?  

  • How are you aware and responsive to occasion?  

Whilst this concept of ready, willing and able is complex it does shine a light on the depth at which we can think about our practice as educators and teachers.  Understanding the impact you can make in a child's early years is important and as such this may offer you another tool kit in your teaching strategies as you go forth.

Purchase cards here: Learning Disposition Cards



[1]Australian Government Department of Education and Training (2009) Early Years Learning Framework for Australia: https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdfp10

[2]Duncan, J., Jones, C., Carr, M. (2008) ‘Learning Dispositions and the Role of Mutual Engagement: factors for consideration in educational settings’. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood. 9(2)

[3]Carr, M., Smith, A., Duncan, J., Jones, C., Lee, W., Marshall, K. (2010) Learning in the Making: disposition and design in early education. Sense Publishers: Rotterdam


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