What you’re looking at is the aftermath of the only planned lesson of yesterday in my class. And as you might be able to tell from the image, even it went in a different direction from where I thought it might head.
On the journey of student agency, some stuff happened this week in my class and in my head and online. We made some stuff happen.
I guess it was a series of provocations.
- I blogged for the first time about what it was I believed about learner agency and why I believed it to be important
- The Twitterverse returned the favour by encouraging me and addressing almost all of my concerns
- I shared my Twitter feed with my class. Particularly, this thread with Abe Moore, in which we discussed my concerns over learners neglecting curriculum areas.
- My students reassured me that although my concerns might be well founded, they would try and build my trust by thinking carefully about how they might schedule their time
This is what we did. We planned it as a class. THE WHOLE THING. TOGETHER.
We decided the day before, that we would collapse the ‘teacher’ timetable on Wednesday. The students would have their normal specialist lessons, a lesson of geometry with me and then they could plan the rest of their day.
They each submitted a suggested timetable and to be honest, they seemed pretty sketchy.
We met again as a class and I showed them what ‘real’ planning looks like. My day planner. I spoke about how it wasn’t enough to write next to period 5, Writing. Writing what? With whom? With what literary focus? I know. I’m a tough crowd. But remember how worried I was?? Control freak.
Anyway, they rose to the occasion. Suddenly I had students writing lines of inquiry and great questions.
I offered a series of optional workshops across the sessions. Two writer’s workshop sessions, one reader’s workshop session, and one poetry performance workshop. Students signed up to the workshops voluntarily and some wanted to know if I recommended particular ones for them. I did and I told them and some decided to go with it, and some decided that despite my recommendations they’d still prefer to learn independently.
**grits teeth and smiles**
So how did it all go?
It was possibly the best risk I’ve taken in a while.
What surprised me?
It REALLY mattered to them. To make it work. They wanted it to work so badly that I never once had to talk about their behaviour. They were completely invested in everything they were doing.
They asked each other for help instead of me. Maybe because we were moving towards shared responsibility.
The learning was more diverse than I predicted. The writing was BIG as predicted, but many moved on naturally into other areas.
The small group workshops were small but SO rich. I was able to target my teaching/coaching in a way that whole class lessons just don’t allow. The assessment data I was able to collect in those sessions was of a higher quality than I predicted.
Students decided that they wanted to run their own workshops for the class. How does estimating and measuring the distance of a golf ball from the hole, sound? And how the angle of the putter is crucial to golfing. There was also an idea for a workshop called ‘Learning about conflict resolution strategies’.
Questions and concerns we still have:
Much of the student-initiated learning has sprung from whole class inquiries. How do we balance the timetable to provide the right amount of everything?
Is sport a viable student inquiry? They want to go outside and do sport. Are they actually going to be learning anything? Or just playing?
We need to schedule individual sessions to assess where the learners are at. When should this happen?
How do we keep the momentum? What learning about learning and this process in general needs to happen next? How can that best be supported?
How do we ensure accurate and regular learner self-assessment?
How do we ensure the learning is rich and conceptual?
They’ve convinced me to have another go tomorrow. I feel a mutiny brewing…