As part of my professional inquiry for this year I decided to focus on student directed learning and student agency. The explanation of this is an entire blog post of its own (next one on my list) but in short I was looking at how I could play with my classroom logistics in order to stay true to what the school were requiring but still allowing the students to have agency.
Part of my process was to keep the parents of my class informed and aware of these changes. We are a team and it is important that there is complete transparency between us in order for the students to truly succeed.
Below is an edited blog post that I wrote to parents in December of this school year. The purpose of the post was to explain the changes that had started to happen in their child’s classroom. The response was extremely supportive and positive and resulted in many parents coming to visit and have a look.
PLEASE NOTE: the ideas that I have been implementing in my classroom are by no means my creation! I have adapted ideas received through observations of other amazing teachers and readings. The ideas are constantly changing as the students and I work together to make them the most successful for our class of learners! It is often messy and not always successful but there has been one constant result…learning!
Teacher to Parent Blog Post; December, 2017
At the moment in the education world, and specifically in the PYP, there is a big push for student agency and for educators to encourage students to be more in control of their own learning. The IB PYP is focusing on introducing student agency in a more focused way. They highlight the following advantages about increasing student agency as…
“Students with agency:
- have voice, choice and ownership; and a propensity to take action
- influence and direct learning
- contribute to and participate in the learning community.”
As part of my own professional learning, I have been researching and looking for ways to create a learning environment that allows for greater student agency. For the last 4 weeks I have been introducing the class to new structures and concepts and giving them time (and a lot of guidance) as they learn what it all involves. This week was the first week where the students really saw it all come together, and I am so happy to witness the enthusiastic way that they have tackled the new approach!
Every morning the students come in to read an overview of what the day has to offer. Below is an example.
An example of a completed weekly goals sheet that highlights not only the goal but also what success will look like and strategies to use to get there.
During the “Where We Are In Place and Time” unit of inquiry, the students did a range of tasks that were related to the unit but targeted specific math and literacy skills. They started to talk about their learning in terms of “I learned about… through the lens of math/reading/writing”. The content was focused on the unit of inquiry however the “skills” that they were learning were specific from the English and Math curriculum. At the end of the unit the students expressed that they felt they had a better understanding of the unit as they were looking at it from many different perspectives. They also highlighted that it allowed them to strengthen skills such as time management, reflection, cooperation and commitment.
An example of the Transdisciplinary Inquiry Journals that all students use to document their learning process.
The list of Transdisciplinary Tasks students were required to do over the course of the unit, including a time management plan.
This week we have focused on developing our understanding of child rights, what they are and what they mean. Students have selected a range of tasks to undertake (each through the lens of either data handling, writing or reading) and began to work towards finding ways that they can take action towards to enable more children access to their rights.
At the beginning of each week they will reflect on their past week’s goals and look at how they are achieving them. They need to provide evidence of their learning and create their next plan of action, do they continue with the same goals or do they create new ones?
Creating her weekly goals on Monday morning using her reflections to help her.
They then create a schedule for their learning. The class schedule is now broken into three sections;
- student directed / transdisciplinary inquiry
- whole class lessons
- specialist classes
- teacher and student led workshops on specific learning objectives
It is through the transdisciplinary inquiry that students get to take true control over their learning and achieve a level of learning that is authentic and connected to the wider world. They decide what they are doing when (with teacher guidance!) and sign up for teacher OR student led workshops or independent inquiry tasks. Their key focus is on what they need to do to deepen their understanding and to have a balance of reading, writing and math. I help them with gaining this self-awareness and guide them to understanding what their needs are, if I recognise that they have not signed up for a workshop that I believe they would benefit from.
Signing up for teacher led workshops and recording these sessions on his personal schedule.
An example of the workshop sign up sheet. Students have this information when developing their schedules and goals.
Students deciding on the tasks they will undertake for the week ahead.
Overall, the classroom has become invigorated by the thinking that has been involved. The students are excited by the chance to shape the way they inquire into our classroom focus.
An example of a planning document for individual workshop focus. Homeroom teacher (Mel), Teacher Assistant (Huong), EAL teacher (Nicole) and Learning Support teacher (Sara).
5 thoughts on “Exciting, Authentic, Connected…Transdisciplinary Learning!”
Allowing students choice always works to promote agency and thereby, develop ownership. I am amazed at the way your students are almost shaping the time table themselves, based on their workshop choices and selection of what they want to learn!
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Thanks for sharing! Just wondering, did parents reply or give any feedback to your email? I find that I rarely get replies, even when I ask for feedback. I only have a small class but I expected something, even concerns. I thinking of reaching out to parents individually and talking to them about it in person.
Just to let you know that I have stolen your weekly goals planning sheet idea! I have been trying out different versions for students to plan their learning because I saw that the daily or weekly timetable format I was using was boxing up the learning into classic lesson blocks, whereas the goal setting sheet was an overview of their learning that could take place for as long as necessary. When they’re fully focused on their learning they just keep going!
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Very cool! Giving me a bit to ponder. I’m just wondering 2 things: do you do team teaching? And how do you manage your teacher groups?
Hi Leahleht 🙂 It was really interesting actually! Some parents wrote to me immediately and wanted to know more but for the majority I didn’t hear anything. I made sure I upped the amount of work that was going home as well as encouraging the students to explain more about the tasks in their blog posts. I felt that it was important for the parents to see the type of work happening and for them to see the evidence that even though things had changed in the delivery the content actually didn’t change a lot. I have a total open door policy so parents often come by and when we had open classrooms I spent a good 20 minutes explaining to 5 of my Korean mums how we do math and what it looks like throughout the week. They asked a lot of questions and all left happy as they were able to see that the scope for challenging is as extensive as it is for remedial! A lot of the feedback has been the increase in responsibility that they have witnessed with their students and also that they are sharing more about what they are learning and the connections they are making when they come home each day. I am preparing myself for the change in classes between this year and next and thinking about how I can front load with what I send home in the first week of school.
Hi Westley 🙂 That is great! I am glad you can get use out of the sheet! I have shared it with my class as a soft copy also so some do it on the computer and some handwrite it. They have all tried both options at different stages and I have been interested to see many go back to the hard copy. On the other side of the page is their weekly schedule that they fill in following the goal setting / review.
Hi Judy 🙂 We don’t do team teaching as such but we do a lot of co-teaching with our support teachers (such as EAL and learning support). Workshops come from the learning intentions that we are covering as a grade level. The students reflect at the beginning of each unit what they need instruction on in order to achieve the objectives and then we use this feedback to plan our workshops – I will edit my blog post and include a photo of and example of this for our narrative writing. The sheet really helps us. We can see what the students needs are based on their own self awareness as well as seeing which objectives should be a whole class focus. We also then have more enhanced collaboration as we are using raw data to make our decisions. The other nice part is that the co-teaching / support teachers are able to work with more students other than only those on their official list. This creates a more inclusive classroom for the support students as well as providing targeted assistance to others. (I hope this answers your questions!!).
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