Learners on learning…

Teaching can be tough. There are days when dealing with difficult situations, students or parents can feel unrewarding and you might feel unappreciated, disappointed or overwhelmed.

Listening in on Year 6 students reflecting on their learning with an outsider (a researcher exploring the PYP enhancements for the IB), I was impressed by the extent to which they understand the learning process and can articulate their understanding. Teachers, they are a credit to you.

When asked if they have agency, they said they didn’t know what that meant. But here are some of their thoughts about their learning…

  • Our learning is like a ‘choose your own adventure’. We have control over how we learn and that makes us more invested.
  • The attitudes we demonstrate show who we are and what we care about. We talk a lot about what dispositions we need and which ones we need to work on.
  • There is leashed and unleashed learning, like Studio Time, where we choose what we want to inquire into and how. There is no point everyone just learning the same thing. The way we learn encourages individuality and authenticity.
  • Inclusion is a big focus this year. It’s about not leaving people out and we have tried to make friends outside our usual friendship groups.
  • Assessment is how the teachers know what we need and how they can help us. Everything is assessment, we don’t always notice when they are assessing us. Teachers are with us all the time, they don’t need tests to know where we are at.

I know there are times when you wonder if it’s all worth it. Based on the thoughtful comments of these 12 year olds, I can assure you that it is.

What really matters?

What do you think is unfair?

We take some time to think individually and write each idea on a separate sticky note. One teacher finds it difficult to get started. Another finds it cathartic getting all the injustices she sees around her down on paper. Someone wrestles with the difference between annoying things and unfair things. Once we’re on a roll, most of us could keep going at this for ages!

What we find unfair ranges from trivial to extremely serious, from intensely personal to global….

  • playground bullying
  • that sweets are fattening
  • uneven distribution of wealth
  • favouritism
  • lack of access to education
  • the price of petrol
  • lack of accountability at work
  • racist comments

The next stage is to arrange these injustices on a diagram of concentric circles.  Does it relate to me personally?  To my family? Or is it a local, national or global issue? 

At first we take turns to place our notes and explain our reasoning, but soon everyone has something to say, opinions differ and there is vigorous debate. We discover that deciding where to place our injustices is not so easy. Some could go in several circles. Some could go in all. Sometimes it depends on the perspective of the writer. We realise that it doesn’t matter where we place them, it’s about the process.

In the process of the debate, different examples are presented, new issues are raised and a range of perspectives are explored. In a way, the process draws us closer together as we reveal what bothers us and find commonalities. We make connections between the different injustices and relate them to our own experiences. We shift back and forth between personal and global perspectives.

We discuss how global issues might affect us personally and how personal issues might be relevant in broader contexts. Visualising students sitting in groups having the same sorts of discussions, the  teachers are excited to try this with their classes.

This will be the first step in setting the scene and provoking thinking for our PYP exhibition unit.

The central idea is ‘Developing an awareness and understanding of inequity empowers us to act‘. Within this broad conceptual understanding, students will find what they are passionate about to explore in depth. 

Last year we focused on social inequities in the world. While the learning was rich and the exhibition highly successful, some students inquired into issues beyond their grasp and there was limited opportunity for really meaningful action. This time, everyone will have the opportunity to find something to which they can relate deeply. We hope to use tools and experiences such as the one above to help them find what really matters to them. 

As a learning community, my school is further down the track in our understanding of inquiry learning than we were at this time last year. Teachers talk about how much they have changed. There is a greater awareness of what’s possible when teachers let go and learning is more student owned.

Our exhibition will be a celebration, not just of our students’ learning and growth, but of our own. Watch this space to read about how the learning unfolds…

With thanks to our (virtual) friend, Sam Sherratt , not just for sharing the concentric circles idea, but for inspiring us to let go and really let the students lead. 

Virtual worldwide conference

conference

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Remember when you had to be physically present in order to attend a conference?  Overseas conferences are often not practical or financially possible, but times have changed…  Now you can learn from great educators in other parts of the world, without ever getting off the couch. What you miss will be recorded so you can even learn in your own time.

The Reform Symposium, from 30th July-1st August, is a free online conference, showcasing innovation in education. It’s for educators, administrators, parents and students and will focus on the role of innovative practice in educational reform.

The presenters are absolutely inspirational educators!  I’m proud to say that many are part of my online learning network, I read their blogs and interact with them on Twitter,  and I can’t wait to hear them ‘in person’.  Organised by the inimitable Kelly Tenkely and  Shelly Terrell (who never sleep!) along with Jason Bedell, and Chris Rogers , this is an opportunity not to be missed.

For more background and information on how to participate, see Kelly’s blog ilearntechnology and the Reform Symposium.

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