Those beautiful questions.

Last month Edna Sackson published a new blogpost, Liberating the Programme of Inquiry.

Some beautiful questions to drive thinking, to challenge norms and to stir up those creative juices in response the newly published, PYP Enhancement documents. Before the publication of the documents, there had been many rumours and wonderings gleaned from the drip-drip of information coming from the IB. The new long-awaited documents now provide more clarity on the direction of the PYP,

I was recently running a PYP workshop, when Edna’s blog post was raised in open discussion. Some saw these beautiful questions as a relief , a celebration and step in the right direction and embraced the possibilities.

Others were more critical – these beautiful questions were pipe-dreams, un-realistic, and pushed the boundaries of the PYP just a little too far.

Before responding, I paused to reflect and remember that as learners and educators we are all in different places in our ‘PYP journey’, working in different contexts, within different parameters and are developing our understanding through different pathways. So, although I wanted to react and respond to those that were more critical, I understand that some may see these these beautiful questions as just that ….’beautiful’. But I urged…. they are not impossible.

At International School of Ho Chi Minh (ISHCMC) , some of these beautiful questions are very much a reality.

Edna’s Beautiful questions: 

  • What if….whole school unit of inquiry, linked to our whole school focus?
  • What if we we have the same central idea for all the classes at one grade level, but each group of learners develop their own lines of inquiry?

Since 2015 ISHCMC have had a whole school unit of inquiry, under Who we Are. This unit was developed in response to a need in our school of a consistent approach to our understanding of  being a learning community and is the first unit for the beginning of the year across all grade levels and specialists. You can read about the ISHCMC journey developing this HERE.

In 2018 – our whole school Who We Are unit looks like this

wwa#1wwa #2

This central idea and unit was developed for a purpose, a need in the school community and relevant to the school and the needs of the learners at that time. Over the past 3 years we have grown as a school, we have changed as a school and our learners have grown and their needs have developed, so this year we will review our process, our central idea and ask ‘is the purpose still true.’  Our whole community teachers, learners and parents focus on this inquiry as a community and it sets the tone for our year ahead – an inquiry into Who We Are.

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if units do not follow one after another, but rather overlap and intersect?
  • What if one unit incorporates two trans disciplinary themes? 
  • What if some units are year long, some short, some ongoing… depending on content, concepts, trans disciplinary possibilities and student interest?
  • What if we actively seek unexpected combinations of learning areas, like science and poetry? 
  • What if one unit incorporates two trans disciplinary themes?
  • What if we wait to develop the lines of inquiry till we see where the learners want to take it? 

At ISHCMC we have anumber of units that overlap, that flow into each other ( same central idea but different TD theme and lines of inquiry.  See our POI HERE across our grade levels.

ee 2018

Early Explorers @ISHCMCIB  – POI  – 2018-2019

In Early Explorers this year, we have all four units of inquiry running simultaneously over the year, and are observing as learners are invited to provocations and learning engagements and we are noticing, naming, documenting and responding to learners and their learning.

In Kindergarten last year we had two units running parallel, How the world works and How we express ourselves. (Previous blog post on this)  It allowed for time, space, connections and inquiry to happen. It transformed 2 lots of 6 weeks of  ‘hurry-time’ into 13 glorious weeks of inquiring, curiousity, play and the ‘so what’. Now with the new enhancements this unit has been rolled into one under How we Express Ourselves – with an authentic focus on science and maths, bringing the awe and the wonder to how the world works and how we are inspired to create.

Our Grade 3 team this year have played with theit units of inquiry. That beautiful “what if…” and the culture of the ‘Permission of Yes’.  They have put the authentic needs of their learners first whilst  designing their year. They now have 2 year long units, one of which threads itself through all of the other units of inquiry, because learning is not a silo. They have one unit that re-occurs (because learning never stops) and 3 that now have more time to explore and inquire.

g3 2018

Grade 3 @ISHCMCIB – POI – 2018 – 2019

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we actively seek unexpected combinations of learning areas, like science and poetry?

We are forever trying to fit Arts, Music. PSPE etc into our classroom units….but transdisciplinarity in not a one-way highway…. learning is learning.

This year, our Head of PE & I sat and watched kids playing at camp. We observed individuals and groups. We observed who picked up sticks and stones, and what they did with them, who observed and interacted with nature, who created natural game zones and courts and who climbed, ran, sat and played.

This led to a ‘eureka’ moment for both of us. We marveled as we watched and chatted just how much authentic maths and science there was in this 30 minutes of outdoor play.  So… we wondered, why could the maths, science and arts not be integrated and taught through the PE units and lessons? And why could classroom teachers not take more advantage of  more classroom time to bring learners outside to explore maths and science concepts through PE and outdoor exploration?

So, with a stick, drawing in the dirt we started brainstorming and mapping possibilities and opportunities for data collection, measurement , and forces through the athletics component ot the PE unit whilst ensuring learning had multiple pathways as classrooms maths units incorporated athletics and swimming and games into their real ife math applications.

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we wait to develop the lines of inquiry till we see where the learners want to take it?

We have a number of units where the first line of inquiry is the tuning in….and we wait.  If it is the learners unit, their inquiry and their learning, why do we insist on planning all 3 lines of inquiry at the beginning of the unit?

But, I wonder if maybe even writing the first line of inquiry is taking it too far?  What if the provocation is exactly that –  a provocation where we as educators observe and wait.  There is power in the wait. It creates that precious ‘think time’. So what if  we as educators also used this ‘wait time’ to observe, to reflect, to probe and to then discuss next steps forward?  (Found this mindful link that explores this idea) and we then bring all the student data back before we go next steps and respond to learners ….and plan which path to take for tuning in and true inquiry.

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we analyse our program of inquiry in terms of the concentric circle model and check the balance between opportunities for self discovery and thinking beyond ourselves?

At ISHCMC we don’t have a concentric circle model – although we are watching and learning with interest what Edna and her team are developing and using with their learners at Mt. Scopus.

21st cent

Our Head of School (@rebelleader18)  provoked our thinking last year –  “What if all units focus not just on developing knowledge, understanding and skills but on developing human beings?”

So during our reflections we include the attributes of the 21st Century learner – how did this unit help to develop and contribute to building better humans?

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if every grade level has at least one unit that is individual and personal, student selected and student driven?

At ISHCMC, our Studio model of self-directed learning allows for complete learner choice and mapping of the learning through the studio.  Follow some of our educator blogs – Making Good Humans & Innovative Inquirers to learn more.

This year, Studio 4 and Grade 3 currently have incomplete central ideas (the ellipsis is our friend!) ….where learners choose how to complete the Central Idea – giving them ownership of the unit, ensuring accountability of their learning and giving them the opportunity to construct their own understanding and to have ownership of their learning.

g3

Grade 3 – Where we are in Place & Time

g4

Studio 4 – How we Organise Ourselves  & Sharing the Planet

Edna’s Beautiful questions:

  • What if we liberate ourselves from the traditional curriculum prison and explore new vistas? 

Yep….what if ?  What if we were brave and daring? What if we put learners and learning before curriculum and standards and paperwork – What if ? What if we asked more of these beautiful questions and turned them into a reality? What if?

I look forward to reading how others have turned beautiful questions into reality within their learning contexts and how Edna and her team approach their POI review this year – we will be watching , learning and asking more of those beautiful questions.

 

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Agency…Empowering students to direct their own learning

Originally posted on my personal blog empower2b.

In a world that is constantly changing, how is the education system going to evolve? Senge et al. (2012) suggest it is time to move away from the traditional schooling system that originated from the industrial era. This is an opinion is evident in the movement seen in education recently. According to Holland (2015), “…2016 may be the year of student agency — the ability to act independently within a given environment and assume an amount of control and empowerment” (Holland, 2015, para. 1). In the second half of 2018, this self-directed learning movement is gaining momentum as schools and organisations, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), make student agency the main focus. Pushing outside comfort zones as educators and looking at how to elevate the learning environment for each individual learner is the first step to innovative teaching. (Couros, 2015)

In order to enhance opportunities for students to develop a skill set to enable them to be successful in employment that may not currently exist, educators need to be risk-takers and push past boundaries of the familiar. It is no longer possible to offer the “same” experience that has always been provided and be satisfied and successful professionally. Classroom diversity is also a realistic norm in today’s schools with class populations offering a range in academic level, cultures, beliefs and the life experiences children have had. This is particularly the case in the international school setting and educators need to cater to class populations that do not fit the one-size-fits-all mould. So how? How do schools encourage their educators to create a learning environment that provides individualised programs to ALL students, no matter their needs? When preparing for lessons, how can students be guided to take more responsibility for their learning journey? The answer is agency!

“Students have a sense of “agency” when they feel in control of things that happen around them; when they feel that they can influence events. This an important sense for learners to develop. They need to be active participants in their learning.” (NZ Ministry of Education, 2016)
Couros (2015) states that students “…must learn to collaborate with others from around the world to develop solutions for problems. Even more importantly, our students must learn how to ask the right questions – questions that will challenge old systems and inspire growth.” (Couros, 2015.) The concept of ‘agency’ is not a new educational term; many may argue that teachers have always been looking for ways to individualise learning for their students. John Dewey talked about the importance of student-directed learning in 1938 when he highlighted “that students should assume an active role in their learning process so as to develop the skills for becoming successful members of their communities.” (Holland, 2016, para. 6)  Agency enables all of this to happen!

The IB is currently releasing a series of enhancements to their Primary Years Programme (PYP), and one of the major changes for the programme is the inclusion, and indeed focus, on student agency. The PYP defines agency as being  “… the power to take meaningful and intentional action, and acknowledges the rights and responsibilities of the individual, supporting voice, choice and ownership for everyone in the learning community.” (IBO, 2017) Stevens (2016) believes that creating opportunities for students to have a voice and choice towards their own learning journey enables them to “…feel that that their opinions and ideas are heard and valued by their peers and teachers, they’re much more likely to be engaged with their education.” (Stevens, 2016, para. 1)

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Figure 1. IB PYP enhanced organizing structure. This figure illustrates the structure the PYP will take beginning in 2019.

Through voice and choice students are empowered to have a say in what their learning journey should look like, resulting in them believing that they are in control of their growth. It is difficult to see how you can have agency without empowering the students; in fact, Kearns (2017) suggests that “empowerment is synonymous with agency.” (Kearns, 2017, para. 9)

Levinson (2016) suggests the students of today are using the knowledge and skills that they are developing outside of the classroom to move them forward and often beyond what their teachers are aware of. Enabling a self-directed approach in the classroom allows students to have the agency to use skills to further develop inside the classroom and possibly assisting those they are with.  One goal of agency is student action. Action is an essential element of all IB programmes and can take various forms, such as: social justice lifestyle choices, participation, social entrepreneurship, and advocacy. (IBO, 2017)
Agency can take many different forms and like its purpose with students, enables educators to create an individualised environment in their classrooms. However, in ALL cases where agency is the goal, student-directed learning should always remain the focus. Students will have increased choice and voice throughout their day or in the way they organize their learning. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • Personalising learning through individual schedules
  • Teacher- and student-led workshops that students can sign up for
  • Creating physical learning environments to support the social, physical and emotional well-being
  • Creating a culture of respect in the classrooms in which students feel supported to take risks and be accountable, even when they make mistakes.
  • Collaborating and co-constructing learning and learning goals.
  • Genius Hour / iTime / 20% Time / Passion Projects

Opportunities to create agency in the classroom

When changing the climate of the classroom into one that is focused on being student directed, a fun and empowering place to start is the physical environment. Merrill (2018) states, “Flexible spaces, educators agree, alter the fundamental dynamics of teaching and learning, giving students more control and responsibility, improving academic engagement, and undermining the typical face-forward orientation of the traditional learning environment.” (para.15) When establishing a class climate at the beginning of the year, task the students in the class to “create” their classroom environment (Refer to figure 4 for an example of the classroom environment one class created during a mathematics geometry unit.).

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Figure 2. Taylor (2017) Flexible learning space.  This figure illustrates the results of a student-designed classroom during a transdisciplinary mathematics unit.

 

When teachers create a flexible learning environment the students will be empowered with the agency to develop their weekly goals and to sign up for focused teaching groups with the teachers or with students who believe their enhanced level of understanding will enable them to teach their peers. This will assist them in gaining a greater awareness of their strengths and weaknesses academically and also encourage them to be proactive in deepening their understanding. To assist students in gaining a more accurate self-awareness, they reflect on their learning of the literacy and numeracy achievement standards. They explain their decisions of where to place each standard by providing of their evidence of learning.

 

In his presentation at the Learning 2 conference Sam Sherratt (2018) discussed the importance of moving students away from being compliant and, instead, empowering them to take the lead. Stephen Downes (2010) states, “We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us and toward the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.” (Couros, 2015, p. 31) In an upper elementary school classroom, students are taught how to create their own weekly schedule.  Using their weekly goals the students decide upon the focused workshops and tasks that they will undertake throughout the week. With guidance from their teacher students focus on ensuring they have a balance of curriculum areas, a range of independent versus group work opportunities, and also meeting their individual needs with focused instruction.

IMG_0848

Figure 3. Empowered to create. This figure illustrates the student’s taking responsibility to schedule their weekly lessons and sign up for workshops.
Senge (2012) highlights the importance of students learning by being “alive”, and not compartmentalized into subjects that are looked at in isolation. In the IB PYP the focus is on providing the students with a transdisciplinary curriculum where different subjects are taught and connected simultaneously.  “Understanding a world of interdependency and change rather than memorizing facts and striving for right answers” (Senge et al., 2012, p. 65) is the goal. Through the units of inquiry undertaken throughout the year, the focus on content is overtaken by the importance of teaching concepts and skills. 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. Through asking questions and making connections between the key concepts and the different curriculum areas, the students can gain a realistic understanding of the unit. Assessments are no longer based purely on the content being addressed but instead a reflection of the learning they had made. This learning could be in literacy or maths but also the skills they developed and the connections they had made.

A real example of how agency can lead to authentic action

As students of the United Nations International School (UNIS), there is a level of responsibility to take action and help make improvements in the wider community.  A culture of student-directed learning and agency helps make this process of taking action a more authentic one. As students set their learning goals for the week, throughout the units of inquiry they set action goals that refer to how they can apply their new understandings practically. With teacher guidance, they are encouraged to look to the broader community, outside of the school, and gain different perspectives on the topics they are looking at.

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. Let’s consider a real example. Fourth-grade students are looking at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The teacher introduces the unit and the students ask questions that highlight their wonderings about the topic. Through these discussions and inquiry, the students begin to make connections to the rights of the Vietnamese children that they see outside the school every day. What rights are the local children accessing? What are the different circumstances that affect the rights they have compared to the students at UNIS? Soon the students are exploring a range of different avenues, all connected to the UN convention. They are working individually, in pairs or in small groups. They are emailing the local embassies and UN headquarters asking for information and interviews. They are working with a member of the Vietnamese staff in the school, to organise and attend field trips to the Hanoi Old Quarter to talk with local kids and find out more about them.

All of a sudden their “learning” is real and connected to where they live. They have popped their international school bubble and are seeing the world through a more realistic perspective. Then one day the teacher asks them: “what are you going to do now you have learned all of this?” Brainstorming begins, ideas flow and the excitement levels rise. All of a sudden the question, “As students of the UN, what is my responsibility?” makes sense, and an answer is achievable!

By the end of this unit of inquiry, the students in grade four were taking authentic action! They created social enterprises with a goal of achieving their desired actions towards giving Vietnamese children less fortunate than themselves, access to their rights. The following six weeks, as they worked on their new unit of inquiry, focused on building a small business (in their case, a social enterprise), and keeping in mind their end goal.

Following a successful Grade 4 Market Day, the students jumped straight into planning for their actions. They organised pencil drives for a local charity, went shopping with the school gardener, made gardening kits, and then delivered them to families living on the banks of the Red River; they purchased a Lifestraw water filter and gave it to a small rural community school, and they purchased teddy bears for each of the children in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City. The classroom was buzzing and the students were driven!

Upon reflection, students stated that they felt that they had gained more than just an understanding of the content about children’s rights. They stated that their time management skills, communication skills, and collaborative skills developed significantly and allowed them to take more risks. When reflecting on staying with the transdisciplinary, student-directed approach, they unanimously requested to stay with the new classroom approach. The students want to be held accountable for their learning; they want to be in control of their education journey!

For many educators change inevitably brings a sense of loss to those involved and evokes a number of different positive and negative emotions (Fullan, 2001). For innovation to be successful there needs to be collaboration and buy-in from the entire school community. (C. DeLuca, personal communication 2018) By empowering teachers and other members of the school community to have input and a certain degree of voice and choice, more support for the change will be achieved. (A. Richardson, C.Stander, and M.Taylor, personal communication 2018) Transparency and clarity are necessary in order to ensure that students are meeting the requirements that the school asks for. Inviting teachers into those classrooms where the innovation is in operation is a way for them to visualise the reality, see for themselves what it “can look like”, and to give them the opportunity to ask questions and inquire into the possible concerns they may have.

When communicating with parents, an open-door policy is also a strategy that Taylor (2017) suggests is successful. Provide the background and research for the change with an open invitation for them to come and witness the changes for themselves. Ask for feedback prior to the parents coming into the classroom so that you are able to address these areas during the open house. The key is to remember that parents want what is best for their child and their child’s future. Show them the big picture and the evidence of results.

“If innovation is going to be a priority in education, we need to create a culture where trust is the norm.” (Couros, 2015, p. 69) and to do this, educators need to be comfortable playing with the unknown and be ready to make mistakes. As a school community, it is important to value a shared vision that is centered around student learning being current and according to the latest research. The priority should always be on preparing the students for their future, not for a future that is now in the past.

References

Couros, G. (2015). The innovators mindset empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting.

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Holland, B. (2015, December 9). The Year of Agency. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-year-of-agency-beth-holland

International Baccalaureate. (2017, November). The Learner in the enhanced PYP. Retrieved from http://blogs.ibo.org/sharingpyp/files/2017/12/2017-December-The-Learner.pdf.

Kearns, G. (2017, December 11). Why student agency already exists. Retrieved from https://www.renaissance.com/2017/06/01/blog-why-student-agency-already-exists/

Levinson, M. (2016, April 11). Next Generation Learning: Bringing Student Agency Back to Schooling. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/next-generation-learning-student-agency-matt-levinson

Merrill, S. (2018, June 14). Flexible Classrooms: Research Is Scarce, But Promising. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/flexible-classrooms-research-scarce-promising

New Zealand Ministry of Education. (2016, November 15). Learner agency. Retrieved from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Curriculum-resources/NZC-Online-blog/Learner-agency

Senge, P. M., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Kleiner, A., Smith, B., & Dutton, J. (2012). Schools that learn.: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents and everyone who cares about education. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Sherratt, S. (2018, April 09). Already breaking moulds: Studio 5. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcM2Sos091Y&list=PLOkeXFURWAFpzz-uzQ-nG-HTv0kq-iy_x&index=7 L2 Talks Europe

Stevens, K. (2016, April 22). 5-Minute Film Festival: Student Voice and Choice. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/film-fest-student-voice-agency

Taylor, M. (2017, December 15). Exciting, authentic, connected…transdisciplinary learning! Retrieved from http://blogs.unishanoi.org/mtaylor/

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)

Accept a piece of homework, even if it’s 10 years late.

This post was originally posted in my blog Ser y Estar.

I started teaching when I was 22 years old. I used to teach EFL in Mexico, and many times, as I was getting my class ready, I was asked if I knew were the teacher was. I moved from teaching EFL at language institutes to teaching Foreign Language/Language B/Language Acquisition and later on Language and Literature at a bilingual school in 2002. At that time, I also collaborated in a Cultural Radio Station, and was doing theater. This is the first time I ever write about my journey in a blog entry.

I used to teach in High School, and was one of the youngest teachers at the school where I used to teach. I used to think that being young was what helped me connect with students. Then I started thinking that being involved in the radio and in theater and always having something to talk about is what helped me bond with them. But it was later when I stared developing the pleasure of listening to my students’ stories and dreams when I think I started shaping the form of the teacher I am now.

It was 2006; at school, discussing the book “Memoirs of a Geisha” and making comparisons with the movie was a ‘hot topic’ with my students, especially when I introduced them to a telenovela that was popular when I was a child: Oyuki’s Sin, a Mexican Telenovela based in a Japanese context- those were the days of real creativity. The best part of our discussion emerged from looking into “what may happen when a foreign context (Japan) was used to give life to a story whose characters were very Mexican?” I don’t think I was even aware of the word ‘inquiry’ at that time, let alone interdisciplinary learning, but it just felt so right to do things that weren’t necessarily just about ‘language’ in a traditional conception.

Thus, we started talking about how we could use one of our favorite stories originally written in Spanish and use Japan (since we were talking about a lot) as a context. The objective was to write a theater proposal for a group of potential sponsors, in the hope that they would agree to finance our play. The exchange of ideas was great; students were speaking without my constant reminders. It was noisy, but it was meaningful. Questions navigated the waves of energy in the classroom: What colors would we use? What language would characters use? How could we choose the best names for our characters?

I invited a few Art teachers and a few others from the school of Marketing to serve as the potential sponsors, and my students presented their projects to them. Needless to say, my students were petrified, but they knew what they had to say so well, that once they felt how their ideas impacted their audience, they gained confidence and managed to get the fictional aid they were aiming for. I was proud of them, but I was partially unhappy for one of my students was not able to present. He had not finished his proposal and decided not to go to school that day.

I had read descriptions of this student had and seen illustrations of how he envisioned his stage (See below). When I checked my email and saw his apologies for not being in school and asking me if he could submit this task later, I could not say no. We had invested so much thinking and energy in making this happen that everyone deserved to show their work. Sadly, due to work of his father, they had to leave the city a few weeks later. I had not yet received “his homework”. I left Mexico in 2007, and I never saw what this student of mine could have produced.

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The incomplete homework I received via email in 2006.

I had resisted joining Facebook, but gave in when I found it practical to help me connect with my friends and family in Mexico. I soon started connecting with past students of mine too. Obviously, I connected with this student I have been talking about as well. We never discussed that homework again. Our passion for music, cinema, and literature remained the main topic of our conversations.

Then all of a sudden, a few months ago, as I was reminiscing on my experience doing theater, and as he shared how he has taken the short films he’s made to films like San Sebastian and even Cannes, that legendary homework came up and he said: “I actually have to show you something; it’s not red; it’s not Japanese… But there is a Japanese face, and it has a Japanese title (Tomoki= Wise Tree)”. A deadline that was not missed, and a late submission have never been more welcome. He had done this 2 years ago, and I was seeing how his life experience had transformed what he did with paper and paint into a beautiful universe of light, movement and image.

I had to wait 11 years for that incomplete moment to come to a closure, and the wait has been so worthy. As I reflect on what I value in my journey as an educator, relationships always comes as a high-ranking value (maybe the highest). I believe that a lot of the ideas I come up with and the journeys I design make sense and HAPPEN because they are designed for the students I have at that moment, they are never replicas of something I did before.

In 2006 I used my blog to write about my theater journey. However, here is one of my very first blog entries about education. I remember that I started to write a reflection about one of the female characters in the play I was participating in and could not conclude it. I changed the content of the blog and wrote a note of appreciation for my students. In retrospective, I think that the day I wrote the blog post linked above was that day when I realized I wanted to be the educational version of Peter Pan: I wanted to stay a learner… I wanted to stay curious and full of possibilities at heart… Rebel at heart.

Leading like a Robot or a Rebel?

After attending the 2018 IB Global Conference I felt inspired, connected, and on fire!  Taryn Bondclegg shared her transformation from being a compliant robot student and teacher to a more critically thinking rebel, ready to challenge the traditional system. To keep the momentum going, Taryn created a space for educators around the globe to stimulate thinking, share, discuss and debate #IBrebelalliance. This theme resonated for me throughout my three day experience.

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Arriving at the airport with too many hours to kill and finding a book sale, I picked up some reading I thought would fuel my thinking. These books would answer my questions about who I was, what I was doing, when, why and how?

Returning home, the city of Suwon was transformed. Winter was over and the season of singing had begun! Cherry blossom trees lined the streets, warmth from the sun kissed my skin, and aromas of blooming floral arrangements gathered. I felt energized, full, beautiful, and connected back to nature in ways that had been dormant for months.

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photo credit to Anne Adams

In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek explains the “Golden Circle” and how defining our “why” connects directly to the hypothalamus, or the part of the brain that controls behaviour. My passions extend and include family, children, travel, cooking, nature, painting, and mindfulness. The connection between these passions that holds my being in perfect balance is my faith. I wondered why we have passions, where do they stem from? What were the influences? How do they grow?

Taking this idea further, Daniel Pink reveals in his book When the scientific evidence and importance of being mindful of time as it relates to our cognitive abilities, and decision making. He reminds us of the importance of self-awareness. I thought about nature, the life cycle of a flower, the shortness of a blooming beauty and its purpose. Why are these moments so short? What makes one memory stronger than another? The brain’s ability to collect, create, and connect are essential to who we are. Every sensory experience triggers change in our neurons, reshaping how they connect. Millions of interactions  are tied to events happening in a single moment; like hormones being released because of our emotions, photons signalling your visual cortex from what was seen, and our auditory cortex transforming sound waves into electrical signals. The infinite number of inputs cascade across the human brain and the neuroplastic properties of the brain grow and connect that memory to a moment of time. Memories linger, gathering in our amygdala and allow the taste of spring, family, travel to return to our thoughts as our mind explores. I wondered what was knowledge compared to a memory?

My childhood created so many questions and, as like many children, my questions began with why? We are naturally born with curiosity which is then fostered by our surroundings and the expansion of how our world is defined. Yet within the bouquet of flowers; my community, my family, and siblings, I was the “black sheep” or the rebel child. I was tokened with this name and role because I questioned, I wondered, I pushed the cover story of our lives searching for answers to who I was, who we were in Canada where I felt I didn’t belong. Where did we come from? Why did we act the way we did? How is it possible for Indian, Chinese, British and Canadian cultures to live in harmony? What happens to that delicate curiosity when it isn’t nurtured? Has this made me the rebel leader I am today? Why did I feel so ashamed to be a rebel as a child?

At school was a different story, I was definitely a robot. Compliant, followed the rules, did exactly what I was told. I grew up not knowing how to think for myself, the purpose of questions was lost, and critical thinking wasn’t happening. I excelled, top of my class, my parents knew I would become a doctor!! My journey had a different plan.

In Nudge by Thaler and Sunstein, they provoked my thinking about free choice, and how our behaviour is dependent upon how options are presented to us. Who, then, is the design architect? Who nudged you and me to where we are now? What caused one nudge to be more profound than another? As the PYP Coordinator at GSIS I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with an amazing leadership team, inspiring teachers and a community of learners ready to grow. #KnightsRok was created by our Director of Curriculum, Liz Cho, who has inspired GSIS to push boundaries and connect! We are a team ready to shine, collaborate, learn, have fun and be rebels together!

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Photo credit to Studio 5

We are designers, creators, and leaders who have the freedom and honour of bringing all the science and fascinating research together to build a community that is safe and thought provoking; requiring patience, kindness and flexibility to nurture curiosity. Sir Ken Robinson has been a rebel in education circles for many years, since I began my journey as a parent he continues to inspire my thinking. Reading Creative Schools by Robinson pushes the way we think about the traditional system in innovative ways. Many schools are taking action and creating phenomenal environments for children to thrive, like Studio 5 at ISHCMC in Vietnam.  Agency was the big idea within the Primary Years Programme (PYP) sessions at the IB Global Conference and provoked thinking for ways to bring voice, choice and ownership into our daily practice for students, teachers, and parents to partner in education. We celebrated 50 years with IB, and I felt honoured to be part of a community who are “Shaping the future” of education. The conference inspired the rebel within me to take action and share my learning. My eyes were opened to a refreshing perspective, full of creativity, inspiration and drive.

Often we comply to the role we play, as defined by others, we are sitting in the passenger seat, and living in comfort. Why? Let’s challenge ourselves to be rebels and push boundaries, push our thinking, be creative, and shine!

Are you leading like a robot or a rebel? I’d love to hear your story.

This has been reposted from my original post Leading like a rebel or a robot? 

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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.