What do you notice about Audri as a learner?
We begin our Year 4 collaborative planning session with Audri… to generate thinking about the ways young learners own their learning, outside the classroom…
The teachers notice and name his confidence, persistence, belief in himself, resourcefulness, curiosity, commitment, ownership of learning, enthusiasm, excitement...
Layla wonders if Audri’s uniqueness and enthusiasm would be stifled in a traditional school setting.
Jina responds that she is excited by the possibilities of creating such authentic learning opportunities in her classroom.
Watching an extract from Guy Claxton on building learning power adds another layer to our conversation:
He says the ‘The ability to learn is very learnable’…
Some key questions which he asks:
- What habits or attitudes of mind do you invite and cultivate in your students?
- What learning muscles are being stretched beyond mastering content?
Important learning dispositions that have value for our learners in the ‘real’ world (beyond passivity, remembering, note taking and regurgitating, even if these might be useful in some contexts):
- Curiosity – asking questions, seeking problems, finding solutions, desire to learn
- Persistence – sticking with it in the face of challenges and difficulties
- Resourcefulness - experimenting, taking initiative, having a range of strategies on which to draw
- Collaboration - being willing to and knowing how to collaborate effectively
- Thoughtfulness - standing back and thinking metacognatively, being able to think clearly and critically
- Imagination – visualising new concepts, producing new ideas
Claxton says it is possible to strengthen all of these, even within the parameters of conventional classrooms. One of the major considerations is how we talk. Most teachers spend a great deal of time talking about ‘work’. Shifting the focus to the process of learning, makes a huge difference.
Back in our planning meeting, we talk about the importance of making thinking visible and the value of noticing and naming learning behaviours, raised in both Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart et al and Choice Words by Peter Johnston. (Both books are highly recommended.)
The latter highlights the influence our language has on student learning. I particularly like examples like this one, which demonstrate the effect of a few well-chosen words…
“What have you learned most recently as a reader?” …the teacher begins with ‘given’ information that is not up for discussion: a) the student is a reader, and b) readers learn things. The only question is, what has this particular reader learned? For a student to respond to this question, he or she has to review recent learnings. The opening question requires an answer that begins, “I learned. . . .” It insists on an agentive identity statement about reading and learning. At the same time, it creates a learning history, which is an antidote for students who think they are not good and have always been not good.”
As I’ve frequently said in this space -
We have learned that it’s more valuable to spend time building a deep understanding of what a unit of inquiry is about and deciding on conceptual understandings than on planning activities.
A valuable tip we gleaned from Sam Sherratt is to agree on one word that sums up the conceptual essence of the unit. In this case it is ‘ownership.’
Central idea – Taking ownership of learning empowers us.
Conceptual understanding rubric -
|Learning is meaningful when we take responsibility for it.
|I see the teacher as the one who knows what to do, how to do it and if it’s good.
I expect the teacher to tell me what to do and how to do it.
|Sometimes I make decisions about my own learning, without asking the teacher.
I can describe some ways I am becoming more responsible for my own learning.
|I make decisions that support and promote my learning.
I can explain the reasons behind my choices and decisions.
|Reflection and metacognition lead to ownership of learning.
|I don’t think much about my learning.
I can’t explain why I am doing specific tasks.
I don’t understand the difference between ‘work’ and ‘learning’.
|I am beginning to think about how I learn.
I can explain why I am doing specific tasks.
I can identify the skills and attitudes I need or am using.
I can decide which strategies to use in my learning and explain my choice.
|I think about myself as a learner and can identify my strengths and challenges.
I reflect on my learning, set learning goals based on my reflections, and act on them.
I can explain how I could use my learning in different contexts.
I can explain what I gained from a learning experience, what I contributed, what could have made it better.