Covid-19 – a dreadful opportunity for schools

On Tuesday the government here in The Netherlands announced that primary schools will re-open on 11 May and secondary schools on 1 June. Although somewhat anticipated, it’s triggered a lot of discussion about how schools will re-open in a safe way that respects the physical distancing rules still in place.

What’s obvious to all is that schools cannot re-open and carry on like they did before. It won’t be possible for everyone to be in school at the same time and that means our schedules, classes and routines cannot simply be re-activated. And realistically, we won’t be able to re-activate them for a long time as disruption is here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Image by CoxinhaFotos from Pixabay

Is this a massive headache? Yes. Is there a simple answer? No. But it is a (dreadful) opportunity for us to re-think the way schools work and perhaps emerge from the crisis in better shape than when we entered.


We know that a lot of things schools currently do don’t make pedagogical or even basic sense. For me, the biggest is that schools are usually built upon the idea of groups of people doing the same pre-planned thing at the same time. Students are batched by age and expected to learn through fixed a timetable of classes often set for them often years in advance. 


And this jars with our understanding of learning as a very personal, individual process. As Sir Ken Robinson argues, we have systems based on a paradigm of standardization when what we need are systems based on the individuality of those they serve: the students and their unique bundles of interests, talents and needs.

Sir Ken Robinson – Changing educational paradigms (RSA Animate)

So why do we still do what we do? My experience of trying to influence that paradigm is that it is so strong because the assumptions it’s built upon pervade everything: the schedule, the curriculum, the mindsets of teachers, parents and students. Everything. So if you want to change the paradigm from standardization to anything else, you need nothing short of a revolution in all areas!


Covid-19 isn’t a revolution or something that anyone wants. But it is forcing us to go back to the drawing board and re-think everything we do. And that is an opportunity to do things better.


The good news is that we’re not starting with a blank page. There are plenty of “alternative” models to education and even more smaller scale initiatives that might be useful starting points.


For example, a number of schools in the #Future of Education Now network run a “9th day” timetable. This is where on regular days through the year – the 9th day believe it or not – the timetable is collapsed. Instead of regular classes, students sign-up for extra-support sessions, enrichment classes offered by teachers, students or other members of the community, or activities that take longer than an ordinary class would allow. Similarly, teachers can sign-up students who they feel need some extra support.


This initiative could be combined with existing systems of online learning to provide more effective personalized learning both during the Covid-19 crisis and after. Online task setting and classes remain, but students have a designated day(s) when they are in school with some of their peers – at safe distances! – accessing the sessions and support they need, rather than attending the classes their pre-set schedule tells them they need to attend. It provides flexibility as staff and students can self-isolate when they need to without disrupting provision. More importantly, it’s scalable, perhaps starting with one day and increasing as and when possible.


As I previously said, there are no simple answers. 9th day models won’t work for a lot of schools. Maybe when the details are looked at it won’t work for any! But the point is that there are options out there for schools to try and make Covid-19 a trigger for systematic improvement, not just a crisis to managed. That’s a point made by many others too; are we going to look back at this as a “temporary blip or a permanent flip”?


I’d go further to say that it is our obligation to try and make a permanent flip. If healthcare workers are walking into buildings full of the virus and people working in the food industry turn up to work each day to make sure we can all eat, the least we can do is try to think about long-term, systematic improvement and ensure their children return to schools better able to meet their needs.


So I’d be interested to hear what opportunities you see to improve schools during this crisis? And, more importantly, how do we bring them about?

Student Agency Resources

Recently on Twitter I shared a Google Doc where I have been collecting and collating anything and everything I can find about student agency over the past few years – blog posts, videos, images, podcasts, slideshows, academic journals, articles and more.

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And I’ve received a really positive response from educators around the world, appreciative of the resources. Since I know not everyone is on Twitter, I thought I’d share the same resources here to hopefully reach even more educators wishing to deepen their understanding and practice of respecting and supporting student agency!

If you prefer the pretty, colour coded Google Doc click here. 

If not, check out the links below. 

Happy learning!  

Resource Categories:

  1. The “WHY” behind student agency
  2. Agency in General
  3. General “How To’s” – Strategies for Upping the Agency
  4. Students Setting Up the Learning Space:
  5. Students Planning Units:
  6. Students Planning their Day/Timetables:
  7. Students Owning Assessment:
  8. Student Voice/Democratic Process:
  9. Student Agency and Literacy:
  10. Student Agency in Early Years:
  11. Student Agency and Specialist Subjects:
  12. Student Agency and homework:
  13. Teacher Agency:
  14. Examples of Schools/Classes/Teachers Supporting Student Agency:
  15. Agency vs. school structures and systems:

 

  1. The “WHY” behind student agency:

Sir Ken Robinson – Bring on the learning revolution (Ted Talk)

Sir Ken Robinson – Do schools kill creativity? (Ted Talk)

7 Sins of our Forced Education System (article)

What works can hurt – side effects in education (academic journal) (and keynote speech)

The Future of Human Work is Imagination, Creativity and Strategy (article)

The role agency plays in happy children (article)

Who owns the learning in your classroom? (blog post)

Why is agentic learning important (article)

5 lessons on “learning” (blog post)

What kids need from grown-ups, but aren’t getting (article)

10 provocative quotes from “Deschooling Society” (article)

The case for the self-driven child (book review/interview with author)

The similarities between school and prison (comic)

Is real education reform possible? If so, how? (article)

Self-directed learning is the pursuit of happiness (article)

Why school is not ready for us (Tedx Talk)

What skills will employers value in 2020? (article)

Kids don’t fail school… school fails kids (article)

7 things that happen when students own their own learning (video) (and visual)

The difference between school and “real life” (sketchnote image)

WANTED: Professional Learners (article)

Are we ready for exponential change (video)

The Science of the Individual = The Case for Agency (compilation of research)

 

  1. Agency in General:

What is “agency” in the Enhanced PYP (graphic and short summary)

What is student agency and why should we care? (blog post)

10 questions in pursuit of learner agency (blog post)

The year of agency (article)

Developing student agency improves equity and access (blog post)

Student agency? Teacher Agency? School Agency? (blog post)

What is student agency (blog post)

‘Student Agency’ is not something you give or take (article)

#student agency (Twitter hashtag)

Making the shift from engagement to empowerment (video and blog post)

The art and science of developing student agency (article)

What is student agency? (Academic research)

The complexity of learner agency (academic research)

Don’t say agency unless you really mean it! (blog post)

Play at “agency” (article)

Misinterpreting Student Agency (article)

Traditional Approach vs. Agency-Supportive Approach (image)

What’s the difference between “engagement” and “empowerment” (visual)

Defining Learner Agency (blog post)

Choices for children – how and when to let children decide (blog post)

Learner Agency: Beyond the Buzzword (video workshop)

Living with Agency – beyond agency as a learner (blog post)

 

  1. General “How To’s” – Strategies for Upping the Agency

7 Ways to Promote More Choice in Compulsory Schooling (blog post)

5 ways to promote student agency (blog post)

Supporting Student Agency (blog post)

Supporting Student Agency – Take Two! (blog post)

Strategies for Supporting Voice, Choice and Ownership (Google Slides Presentation)

Let students teach (blog post)

How to reimagine schools (video series)

Opt-in lessons (blog post)

Learning to Self-Manage: Autonomy and Intrinsic Motivation (Harvard Article)

 

  1. Students Setting Up the Learning Space:

Preparing for students to set up the classroom (blog post)

Example of students setting up their classroom (blog post)

Teacher spaces vs. Student spaces (blog post)

Students setting up their own learning spaces (podcast)

Gleanealy School flexible learning spaces (video)

The boards are down (blog post)

Creating Spaces (blog post)

What an agency-supportive first week of school could look like (blog post)

 

  1. Students Planning Units:

Inviting students to teachers’ planning meetings (blog post)

The blank unit planner project (blog post)

Involving students in planning the lines of inquiry (blog post)

Involving students in planning for inquiry (blog post)

Student-led development of lines of inquiry (blog post)

Encouraging students to plan a unit (blog post)

Agency and the UOI (blog post)

Student-Planned UOIs (blog post)

Student-Planned UOIs: An Update (blog post)

 

  1. Students Planning their Day/Timetables:

Who should be writing the day plans? (blog post)

Student Written Day Plans (blog post)

How and why we let students create their own timetables (blog post)

Students making their own timetables (video)

Students Design their own school days (video & article)

Clear my schedule! (blog post)

Handing timetable reigns over to students (blog post)

 

  1. Students Owning Assessment:

Assessment done with students, not to students (blog post)

Should students be writing their own reports? (blog post)

Forced feedback vs. found feedback (blog post)

Co-constructing success criteria (blog post)

Rethinking exams in MYP (blog post)

What happens when students design their own assessments (article)

Student Written Report Cards (blog post)

Choice Boards – A Shift in Ownership (blog post)

Learning – Who gets to define success? (blog post)

Agency in assessment (blog post)

 

  1. Student Voice/Democratic Process:

Report Cards for Teachers (blog post)

School – a more fair and free place to learn (blog post)

How democratic is your classroom? (blog post)

What do we mean by “student voice”? (collection of short videos)

Continuum of ownership (image)

Student Voice – Our School’s Most Underutilized Resource (blog post)

When students have real power (blog post)

Respecting and Responding to Student Voice (blog post)

Continuum of Ownership (Sketchnote Visual)

More Agency in Student-Led Conferences (blog post)

 

  1. Student Agency and Literacy:

Student agency vs. reading instruction (blog post)

Reading “rules” we would never follow as adult readers (blog post)

On reading tasks (blog post)

Can I just read now!? (cartoon)

 

  1. Student Agency in Early Years:

Agency in Early Years (webinar)

Supporting Learner Agency in the Early Years (blog post)

Inside the world’s best kindergarten (article)

Promoting agency in early childhood (pdf newsletter)

Early Years Learning – Agency in Practice (pdf)

A sense of agency in early years (PDF)

Involving young children in decision making (PDF)

Respecting Students’ Agency and Rights to Participation (Academic Journal)

Engaging with children’s voices (article)

Promoting independence and agency in early childhood (brochure)

Examining learner agency in your setting (list of criteria)

Simple Moments (blog post)

Unstructured Play is critical for kids (article)

 

  1. Student Agency and Specialist Subjects:

Student agency in PE (blog post)

Personalized learning in PE (blog post)

Agency – a paradigm shift in the role of the library (blog post)

Voice, choice and ownership in the art classroom (blog post)

Agency in Visual Arts (blog)

Technology isn’t necessary in personalizing learning (blog post)

Launch Cycle – A framework for design thinking (video)

Examining learner agency in your setting (list of criteria)

 

  1. Student Agency and homework:

An inquiry into homework (blog post)

Home Learning – Student-Led Debate (blog post)

Student-Led Homework (blog post)

 

  1. Teacher Agency:

10 ways for leaders to encourage agency (blog post)

5 ways to increase teacher agency (blog post)

#teacheragency (Twitter hashtag)

Self-directed PD (blog post)

Personalized Professional Learning (blog post)

Personalized Professional Learning Take 2 (blog post)

Born to Learn – Moving beyond school reform to educational transformation (website)

Some thoughts on PD about agency (blog post)

Ideas for more agentic PD (blog post, podcast, visual)

How to lead an evolution through inquiry-based leadership (blog post)

Agency-Based Professional Development (blog post)

Agency As and For PD (blog post)

School Leaders… knowing when to follow the rules, bend the rules, break the rules (blog post)

Leading like a robot, or a rebel? (blog post)

Evolution Starts Here: Inquiry-Based Leadership (blog post)

 

  1. Examples of Schools/Classes/Teachers Supporting Student Agency:

Building Agency (video)

How schools develop student agency (blog post)

A year of supporting student agency (blog post)

Example of agency within units of inquiry, literacy and math (webinar min. 23 – 50)

Summerhill School (website)

Windsor House School (website)

Supporting Student Agency Take Two! (blog post)

Project Planning Paralysis (blog post)

Templestow School (video)

Studio 5: Breaking Down Moulds (podcast)

Already Breaking Moulds – Studio 5 (Learning2 Talk)

Studio 5 – What have we just walked into? (blog post)

Studio 5 (website)

Be the change you want to see in High School – article

How students create motivationally supportive learning environments for themselves (academic research)

Templestow High School (podcast)

FLOW21 – Western Academy of Bejing (website)

Voices of the alternative education movement (video)

Unschooling movement (written interview and podcast interview)

No Grades. No Timetable. Berlin Schools Turn Teaching Upside Down (article)

Examples of learner agency in early years (padlet)

Gleanealy School (short video)

Studio 3: Skills first approach (blog post)

Student Agency, Change and Pushing Boundaries (blog post)

Futures Academy ISB (article)

Innovation Institute SAS (website)

Purdue- Trying to upend the traditional highschool model

My pragmatic journey to voice and choice in the high school classroom (article)

Elon Musk Tinkers with Education (article)

 

  1. Agency vs. school structures and systems:

Who is the God of Curriculum and what does he/she have against student agency? (article)

Learning targets (blog post)

Flexible Scheduling (article)

Standards – Why realizing the full potential of education requires a fresh approach (article)

Breaking the mould of assemblies (blog post)

Timetables – the enemy of creativity (blog post)

Feeling backwards about backwards design (blog post)

The untouchables (blog post)

Breaking away from the homeroom mould (blog post)

A Rebel Alliance

It was very clear at the 2018 IB Global Conference and IB World Heads Conference that there are a number of educators out there who are pushing the boundaries, shaking up the system and challenging the status quo. All in pursuit of respecting and supporting agency and a better, more humane approach to education.

Agency for students.

Agency for teachers.

Agency for schools.

We’re from all over the worldAustralia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Germany, China, Bahamas, India, Switzerland, Qatar, Mozambique, Hong Kong, America, Malaysia, Poland, Korea, Italy, Thailand, UAE, Laos, Canada, Singapore, Japan, Kenya, UK, Portugal, Angola, The Netherlands, Estonia, Pakistan, Brazil, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Spain, Indonesia, Cambodia, Panama, Madagascar

We have different rolesteachers, leaders, coordinators, librarians, counsellors, administrators, heads of school, IBO staff members.

We’re at different stages of our journey first steps away from being a robot all the way to being full fledged rebel-leaders.

But we ALL share in a dream of a better approach to education and are willing to fail, be a little a different… and even get in trouble if we have to 😉

And we’ve joined together, through this blog, to share our risks… our failures… our successes… our ideas… our challenges… our frustrations… our pilots…. our prototypes… our initiatives… our innovations…

Our stories. 

So we invite you to follow our blog, read our posts, leave us comments and join the conversation.