HWEO/WWA in Studio4

#Studio4 at ISHCMC are currently beginning a long unit that will run until the end of March. There has been a lot of thought and planning into how this unit might run and it is already feeling VERY right!

Here is a sneak peek of our current week for our students (and this is only 2 periods per day!)Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 6.28.22 PM.png

Amazing, right?

I have begun to write a progressive blog post about the Studio 4 journey with this particular unit. Since it is progressive, I will not post it here, but it can be found on my blog: http://innovativeinquirers.weebly.com/blog/hweowwa-in-studio-4

I have written about the first two phases and our plans (which may change) for the rest of the unit. I will continue to add and edit it as we go along. Please follow us on our journey and share any thoughts, challenges, ideas, or similarities that you are experiencing with us. It is definitely an exciting time for education. I wish I could have had these opportunities at school when I was their age!

Advertisements

“Trans-Articulation”: What if our POI can create a future world that works for everyone?

I woke up feeling electric. My body simply can’t take any coffee, so I made a cup of Good Earth herbal tea. Its tea tag contained the message:

Tag Your It Winner:

Good ideas are laughed at in the beginning. 

-Katrucha Huork

I’m not sure if this is an omen.

As a disclaimer, I’m not in the habit of reposting from my personal blog on this website, but I’d like to share some musings that are slightly edited from my personal blog post, Future Thinking: Evolving as a Part of Enhancing A #PYP Programme Of Inquiry  in an effort to open a larger dialogue around what it means to be a PYP school. Thanks for indulging my ideas and responding to how we might “evolve” the PYP curriculum.


Not everyone wakes up on a Sunday morning and sketches out ideas for a Programme of Inquiry (POI), but I’ve been reflecting for a while on my experience from last spring when I went to the IB’s headquarters in the Hague to help design sample POIs for the Enhanced PYP initiative (see the Teacher Support Materials that can be accessed in the MyIB section of the main page for those samples in PYP resources). During that time, our teams sat down and began to create POIs that were structurally synergistic, organized so that there was more conceptual coherence and personalized to the uniqueness of that school reality and age group. In the blog post, #PYP: What is a Successful Programme of Inquiry?, I articulated the intention that was foundational in creating those sample POIs, but I’m starting to consider this definition of “success” as my “first thinking” when I consider what it might mean to “enhance” something.

Probably all you English scholars know that the word “enhance” is a transitive verb, meaning that this verb is relational and influential. enhanced pyp I find it an interesting word choice by the IB in its re-branding effort. So their call to “enhance” our Primary Years Programme has got me lingering on what it is that we want to elevate in the learning experience.  Visually, “Agency” has now become the symbolic heart of the PYP’s graphic. I think many educators are painting a picture of what that can look like on this blog, with a multitude of examples of how teachers are pivoting towards an agentic pedagogical approach. Currently, I am enamored with Rick Hanson’s definition of agency from his book, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength and Happiness , which I’d like to share with you:

Agency is the ability to look for ways to cause an effect. It’s a sense of internal freedom when you make something happen.

Hmm…..when I consider that interpretation, my eyes begin to widen its focus upon the outer ring’s message of this enhanced PYP graphic: “Building For the Future”.  Should we not, as PYP educators, be contemplating what sort of future we wish to build? We often undermine our influence of the big picture of how society and culture are developed over time through our educational paradigms. Educators have played a big role in creating the Millennial-generation, and we are helping to create the next generation of global citizens. We shouldn’t take these things lightly, and in fact, I think we should be much more intentional with our power and ability to transform our human experience and life on Earth. We should look for ways to cause an effect….because we have the freedom to make something happen. For example, it seems obvious to me that the intelligent and thoughtful people at the United Nation’s know this, which is why they have created a call to action with the #TeachSDGsmovement. Our schools should be seriously considering how we might achieve those 17 goals by 2030, because this is certainly one way to shape our schools’ POIs which is in alignment with the PYP curricular framework and values of the IB.

A Second Thought

As I reflect back to that Hague experience, I feel that this initial approach to considering what it means to “enhance” the design of the POI is still ongoing. If you look carefully at those Sample POIs, you would notice that they don’t really deviate much from each other. Because at the end of the day, whether we were using national curricular standards or the IB’s Scope and Sequence, the challenges with using either the standards-based vs. concept-based curriculum results in more similarities than exceptions when creating the units of inquiries. I think this a testimony to the strength of the PYP framework and transdisciplinary learning with how translatable it is to a variety of educational settings.  However, when I read books like Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly and  How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil, I begin to wonder if our current POIs are teaching towards the past or preparing for the imminent reality of our students. Are we, as schools, engaged in future-building, with meaningful and forward-thinking POIs, or clinging onto industrial-age ideas.

I’m not sure how familiar you are with those books, so I’d like to share a quote that persistently plagues me from Homo Deus:

As human fictions are translated into genetic and electronic codes, the intersubject reality will swallow up the objective reality and biology will merge with history. In the 21st century, fiction might thereby become the most potent force on Earth…hence, if we want to understand our future, cracking genomes and crunching numbers is hardly enough. We must also decipher the fictions that make meaning in our world……Fiction isn’t bad. It’s vital. Without commonly accepted stories about money, states or coorporations, no complex human society can function. We can’t play football unless everyone believes in the same made-up rules, and we can’t enjoy the benefits of the markets and courts without simliar make-believe stories. But the stories are just tools. They should not become our goals or our yardsticks. When we forget they are mere fiction, we lose touch with reality.

Yuval Noah Harari, from Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

I’ve been marinating in those words for over a year. Curious about what could be the “story” we are telling ourselves now about our future and how we can use it as a “tool”. I know that some feel that the book Future Shock is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. But what if we could choose another direction, one in which we meet the disruption that advancing technology will bring with creativity, grace, and intention. I believe wholeheartedly in that possibility, which is why I’ve been working on developing online courses for well-being in the digital age. I feel strongly that we should not resist technology but instead embrace it and use it to promote greater health and improve our relationships. That is the empowering “story” I wish to tell.

And today, I woke up, feeling alive, wanting to create a POI that was bathed in an over-reaching goal of developing well-being because I think that is the “fiction” I’d like to cultivate in the intersubjective (socially agreed upon) future reality of students. Here are the main 6 concepts that I feel need to be unpacked and gone into depth over the course of a student’s PYP experience within our 6 transdisciplinary themes.

  1. Sustainability (Production and Consumption):  because we need to shift from scarcity to ingenuity.
  2. Entrepreneurship: because we need to shift from profit-orientated goals to positive contributions in society.
  3. Computational Thinking: because we have to understand the algorithms of life and how we can co-evolve with exponential machine learning.
  4. Digital Citizenship: because online relationships and media are influencing us and our society. We need to navigate this reality skillfully.
  5. Social Emotional Learning: because attention and emotional awareness is vital to our health and is the new currency in our economy.
  6. Imagination (and Poetry): because creativity is the by-product of imagination, and we need to find more beautiful ways to express it.

I’ve started to create potential POIs that take these main concepts and build them out so that the overall force of the programme is one that develops well-bing: resilience, awareness, positive outlook and generosity. It’s really hard to translate these ideas into words without a fully fleshed out sample POI to show as a model but hopefully, the spirit of this quest has been communicated and I will have something completed soon that I can show as an example.

An Invitation

Now, whether you agree with me or not about what concepts need to be on a future-orientated whole-school POI isn’t the point but I do hope to open up a debate. I know in schools that are moving towards personalized learning culture, very broad and general central ideas are highly valued so that there is a lot of flexibility in the direction of a student’s inquiry. In my own experience, I am grappling with casting such a wide net with central ideas in the curriculum, uncertain if the overall outcome behooves the students and is manageable for teachers. But the purpose of this post is not to incite discussion around central ideas, but instead to provoke a re-examination of “the big picture” of your current school’s POI and reflect upon the future that you want to create through the curriculum.  Especially in schools that have authorized programmes, we need to be really challenging ourselves, moving beyond horizontal and vertical alignment and articulation. I’m beginning to have a new working definition of the Enhanced PYP: “trans-articulation”, which is less about ticking boxes and more about growing the future today, evolving consciously and actively within our curriculum approach.

As always, I hope you share your reflections, wonderings and concerns in the comments below.

Reflection, goal setting and TIM

This post was originally shared on my blog, Honor Learners.

We have been working towards helping our Kindergarten learners develop an understanding of who they are as learners.  A key element in supporting our learners to take ownership of their learning are the skills of reflection and goal setting.

As part of our writing workshop, we conference with our learners during and after writing.  We encourage them to identify their sunshine, things they did well, and their areas for growth, what they still need to learn. Initially, this required lots of modelling, and now most learners confidently engage in these reflections.

We decided to use the same model of sunshine and growth for our three way conferences. As teachers, we created a Seesaw activity (link) and decided the criteria. However, after being challenged to consider what choices we as teachers were making for our learners that they could make for themselves, our plans changed. I asked my collaborative team if I could lead a lesson that would result in the learners making the decision about the criteria.

With their support, I planned a three part lesson using the Torrance Incubation Method (TIM) and I incorporated some elements of Creative Problem Solving (CPS.) The TIM model is based around incorporating a creativity skill, or approach to creativity as I prefer to call them, into each part of your lesson: heightening anticipation, deepening expectations, and extending the learning. I found the following this resource useful when trying to understand the model myself.

The approach to creativity I chose to integrate into this lesson was ‘putting it into context.’ As we heightened anticipation, we explained the why behind the conference and asked learners for help to decide what learning they wanted to share. As we deepened expectations, we used the creativity tool ‘stick ’em up brainstorming’ to generate ideas of what learning we could share. Finally, in the extending learning, we converged our ideas because we had to take into consideration the length of each conference. We supported learners, by grouping ideas or creating clusters. Then we voted on some or rephrased a few more. We found that the criteria developed and selected by learners was very similar to that of the teachers. The difference was, that they seemed to expect more from themselves!

As a reflection of the conferences, I found that they were the most productive conferences I had been a part of. Most learners were honest with themselves and everyone had goals to work towards. As a teacher, we just need to ensure that we revisit these goals and use them to guide our learning.

To take this further, I decided to plan a series of TIM lessons to focus around goal setting in writing. I decided to work with a group of emergent + writers, who are demonstrating readiness by applying initial sounds and more to their writing.  using a variation of the the gradual increase of independence. The tool was introduced to us by Taryn BondClegg (@makingoodhumans) and designed by Suzzane Kitto (@OrenjiButa) who has shared her resources here.

My variation to the gradual increase of independence was to make it more visual for younger learners and link it to our sunshine and growth model.

I chose to turn the success criteria for writing that our learners have been generating into visual, movable cards. I was also able to personalize the process by the number and content of the cards.

You can get a copy here.

The learning outcome for the lesson was for learners to self assess themselves as writers. The creativity goal was to ’embrace the challenge.’  We heightened anticipation with a word hunt that we then had to puzzle together as a sentence. In the deepening expectation phase, I we explored the metaphor of seeds needing lots of help and sunshine being something that helps seeds grow. I then challenged learners to self assess their learning. The final part of the lesson, extending the learning, was the challenge to find evidence of the criteria in their writing books. This led to interesting discussions about what we were really doing well and things we needed to work on to improve our writing.

For the subsequent lesson, I decided to help learners narrow their focus, by choosing one goal to work on at a time. The creativity goal I chose to integrate was ‘making it swing, make it ring.’ First, I integrated a lot of kinesthetic whole body movement into our phonics lesson prior to writing. We also played a hand mirroring game to heighten anticipation. To deepen expectations, we referred back to our gradual increase of independence and took our discussions from the previous lesson further. Learners began to realize that they could keep doing the things they did well, and spend more attention on what they thought were shared or guided goals. I suggested working on one of those goals at a time might be more productive. Finally, to extend the learning, we came up with actions for each of the criteria we had chosen. The great thing was that each learner had ownership over the goal they chose.

I have begun to see that some learners are really supported by focusing on one goal at a time and are keen to prove it to me during our conferencing.  As I conference with learners, I ask if they want to share their goals with their family. As learners share their goals, they are adding an element of accountability to their learning.  Some have felt ready to do this, and I have embedded the creativity skill of ‘highlighting the essence,’ as I support learners to share both the process and their goals with their families. With permission, here is a link, to one learners’ goal sharing.

Through this series of lessons, I have been embedding approaches to creativity using TIM and I have been applying my own learning to promote learner agency. I found that identifying and embedding the creativity skills or approaches to learning, made lessons more engaging. My next step is to make these approaches to creativity more explicit in our teaching and learning.

I have moved from co-constructed success criteria with learners to learners have interactions with their success criteria and developing a much deeper understanding of how the success criteria supports learning. Learners have made choices and have begun to take action. For those who have not taken action yet, they are beginning to see the need to take ownership for their learning as we reflect and conference, and I am confident they will when they are ready. In addition to engaging in goal setting, learners have been learning about goal setting. With lots of opportunities to choose act and reflect upon goals, it is my hope that our young kindergarten learners will have the skills they need to make informed choices, take risks and continue to grow and learn.

As a final reflection about learner agency, I do not want to say that I am releasing control of the learning, as that is not something I ever had. I would say that am making a conscious effort to support learners to have ownership and accountability of their learning.

Where Do I Start????

Changing the way I approached the classroom environment last year completely changed the way I approached my teaching. Letting go of the control I had over where the students sat and how they worked was the first step to me recognizing the power in giving over some control to the students and allowing them to take responsibility for their own learning. By December 2017 I was teaching in an entirely new way that saw less structured scheduling and more voice and choice for my students. I became OBSESSED with reading other peoples ideas and trying them out in my room and I was a skipping record that only talked about the one topic with anyone who would listen to me.

Fast forward to August 2018 and I am STUCK! I have NO IDEA where to begin! I continue to read and see other peoples ideas and love all of them…but where do I start with this new class of students? How do I start the year in the way I closed the previous one? I have to admit I am struggling not to go back to my old ways. I am seeing blogs and tweets about amazing experiences teachers are having in their classrooms as they have their students start on their next learning journey. Disheveled classrooms being created and designed by the learners, tasks being written and undertaken, workshops being offered…the inspiration is endless and I find I have replaced my Facebook (I deactivated my Facebook account over the summer and haven’t looked back!) time suckage with Twitter and blogs…but instead of inspiring me on what I can be doing in my own classroom it is often causing PANIC! Why does it look and seem so easy for these incredible educators and why do I seem to be blocked in finding a way for it to work with my class? I would literally be failing at that point…myself and my new, enthusiastic class of students.

This blog post is not going to be a great one, in fact, I may not even post it…it is me trying to sort out where I am at and where I want to get to, and most importantly, HOW do I get there? On moving up day last school year I sold a great sell to my new class and they have come back raring to go on the student-directed learning journey! My struggle has been how to incorporate the student-directed approach into the community building sessions. How do I introduce the students to the different routines that we will be following and building our new class community while preparing them for a successful transition into a classroom structure that is entirely new to them?

I decided to place a greater focus on the students looking at themselves as learners and who they are as learners. Instead of talking about general aspects of their lives with each other they had a great focus on who they are in their role as a student. The students completed a MICUP (Multiple Intelligence Checklist for Upper Primary) and identified the different categories of intelligence that are their strengths and those that are more challenging. They interviewed each other about their learning preferences when working in the classroom (asking questions such as what time of the day do you feel more focused?). They then used the answers to create “Learner Profiles” of themselves.

IMG_6682

As a class, we brainstormed what we believe our roles are in creating a successful learning environment. We looked at the UN values and the school values and used our understandings in conjunction with what we brainstormed about the ideal classroom and we wrote our own list of values that we will strive to achieve (the students decided to use values rather than work agreements, rules or essential agreements).

 

IMG_6684 2

As we worked through all of these tasks and activities we continued to reflect on our key learning objective of “I can explain who I am as a learner and how I will work in my class community to achieve success in grade 4.” At the end of the second week of school, we did a class health check where we reflected on how we were feeling as a class. It was a great math lesson where we created criteria and then followed the data handling process of collecting data, recording data, analyzing data and drawing conclusions. The class thought we are doing a great job as 90% rated themselves as feeling between a 7 and 10 out of 10, however, we quickly agreed that it is not a success until everyone in the class are feeling this way. By looking at our class values they quickly came up with an area of focus for next week and possible ways we can help everyone feel emotionally safe in the classroom.

IMG_6819

As I sit here and procrastinate planning for the week ahead I am thinking of where to next…pre-assessments are 90% done, the classroom community is established and now just needs time…but what is the regular school week going to look like? What I am realizing is that I am needing to practice what I preach in my class…I need to be the open-minded one and I need to be balanced when I am preparing for the week ahead. Most importantly though I need to be the risk taker!

How are you going with your start to the year? What has worked and what have you learned to do differently next time?

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.

Screen Shot 2018-08-19 at 4.16.28 PM.png

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)

An ode to my rebel mentors

Ever since I heard Taryn’s story at the #IBSG2018, I have been reflecting deeply on my teaching and learning journey over the last two decades and more. Her talk was inspiring and it was almost like a coming out story that resonated with many of us who have earlier struggled to come out of the classroom closet! She had the courage to come out and share her humble yet powerful story… a simple act of human revolution I’d say, for lack of a better word (I find ‘rebel’ to have this popularly clichéd negative label and now through this blog, over-used). She had the courage to come out and confront constraints and challenges and turn them into opportunities… there was no more room for fear or worry. She had the courage to come out and review and reflect on her teaching practices, so that they ultimately contributed to making learning real and meaningful.

Over the last couple of months, each blog on this alliance has been such a lovely revelation into our own interpretations of Agency in the classroom. Whether through the glimpses into a learning journey, or through some personal reflections, each post has been like a jigsaw piece helping in co-constructing the IB rebels’ understanding of Agency. Interestingly, when I reflected back, I realised that my journey into teaching from Day 1 had been filled with Agency… just that it was not very explicitly talked about or consciously acknowledged by me. Agency had been like the oxygen I was breathing in and out in my classroom, but I had not been mindful of the same.

14183821_10154319950276578_2728070804486562157_n

With the original mentor… my mom

I take this opportunity to share some of those experiences, simultaneously acknowledging the contribution of some great educational visionaries and leaders, and in many ways educational rebels of their times, who have directly or indirectly mentored me on my own journey.

Where it all began…

I got into teaching by chance at the young age of 21, after a disillusioned year of work in the corporate world, which I was officially trained for. With a historian and author father and a mom who was a college professor, I had teaching in my genes, so to say… and hence, took to the world of education much like fish is in water.

One of my earliest mentors in education, apart from my parents, was Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore needs no introduction. He was the first Asian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 for his famous work ‘Gitanjali’. Being Bengali, I was also steeped in the works of Rabindranath Tagore, as a cultural mandate.

Rabindranath_Tagore_portrait_(4)

Don’t miss the rebellious look in Tagore’s eyes

Tagore advised, much before the IB era, “Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” His educational models of schooling and higher education at Shantiniketan are still matters of research interest, as people from across the world travel to study and learn from one of the earliest global universities of modern times. Reading, singing, acting and dancing to Tagore’s stories, poetry and plays, all through my childhood, I realised early on, that there are many artistic languages that can be used to express our thoughts and emotions and that aesthetics in whatever we do is something worth striving for.

His famous poem reads:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

This was my first immersion into real Learner Agency.

When students make you a teacher

My first teaching experience was in the most amazing Sahyadri School, founded on the philosophy of J. Krishnamurti. He was a noted philosopher and educator who talked greatly about the inquiry model and learning through observation. The Krishnamurti Foundation of India runs some of the oldest and most reputed schools in India and I was fortunate to join one of their newer establishments.

The environment was free, students did not have a uniform, the classes were structured flexibly through the day, and the learning spaces were accessible (especially the Art Room and the fields) through the day. Students were exposed to a wide range of arts and they organized an annual Art fair selling the products they designed and created through the year. The first two batches of students I taught there, walked me on the path of becoming a teacher. And Krishnamurti’s philosophy of education, helped me understand what it meant to be an educator.

j_krishnamurti

True inquirer

In his 1st talk to students at Rajghat School Banaras, on 4th January 1954, he posed the question “Don’t you ask yourself why you are being educated? Do you know why you are being educated, and what does that education mean?” and after discussions, summarized it as “Proper education is to help the student to meet this life, so that he understands it, he won’t succumb, he won’t be crushed under it as most of us are…. Your education must enable you to understand this pressure, not to yield to it but to understand it and to break through it, so that you, as an individual, as a human being are capable of a great deal of initiative, and not merely traditional thinking. That is real education.”*1

The air was filled with students and teachers having voice, choice and ownership in what they learnt and how they learnt… agency infused the learning environment and culture, so to say. This, being my first experience in teaching, became an anchor in forming my own educational beliefs.

A simple school with a visionary leader

 I was fortunate to thereafter work in a school, where the philosophy was simple… a school is a place for children, and hence, must be run by what children need and want. The students designed the uniform of the school (which included denim bottoms for comfort), the classes were broken down into large group and small group instructions, where students could go for specific lessons of their choice in the smaller groups. Jenny Mosley’s Golden Time and Circle Time were fundamentals of students’ behaviour management, as again the choice to behave in a certain way was placed in the hands of the students themselves. Classes could be held under the shade of a tree, on the field or in the computer lab. Learning could be expressed through the arts.

14212784_10154319947536578_2433203852283171653_n

With Madhavi Kapur and the core team at Aman Setu

It was a happy place where students and teachers felt empowered, important and inspired! A simple school that was led by a visionary leader, Ms. Madhavi Kapur… became the training grounds for me to not only acquire technical skills, but also to understand the emotional and psychological dynamics of learning. A balance of the head and the heart was guided by Ms. Kapur, and implemented by a great team of teachers and leaders. Today, the foundation in her memory continues to do active work in the field of making learning and education agentic and empowering through its own school called Aman Setu and its own curriculum and training centres!

When paths cross and merge

I had the good fortune of encountering a spiritual and humanistic life philosophy around this time in my journey, based on Nichiren’s Buddhism. As a member of Soka Gakkai International, I began exploring the principles of Soka Education founded by the founding President of the organisation, Mr. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, who himself was a reformist educator by profession in Japan in the early 1900s. The current honorary President Dr. Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Education must inspire the faith that each of us has both the power and the responsibility to effect positive change on a global scale.”

20130823005550_daisaku

The Soka schools and the Soka Universities (see full list here), follow this basic principle in teaching and learning through their efforts to spread peace, culture and education. Though, I have neither studied nor taught at any Soka institution, practicing this philosophy helped me absorb the tenets of Soka education.

Reminiscing on a teacher’s reflection, “The smallest failure can destroy a child’s confidence, and the smallest catalyst can trigger explosive growth. The challenge for the teacher is to believe in each child’s potential.”*2, I realised that truly believing in students is the best way to empower and inspire them. When we truly believe with our heart that children can become successful in what they wish to pursue on their own interest, we are already opening up the path towards their success! In a way, I realised that if I believed in my potential as an educator, my faith would manifest in my students in the same manner… what could be a more powerful expression of agency than this?

Encountering the IB way

 As my educational beliefs continued to strengthen and get rooted by my personal and professional experiences in life, I was headhunted to work in an IB school near Mumbai. The initial year at the start up got me some IB training and soon I landed myself into a new school, Pathways World School, where I spent close to a decade (Jan 2005 to June 2014). I grew from being a specialist teacher, to being a home room teacher, to becoming a Grade Level Coordinator, followed by leading as a PYP Coordinator and finally doubling the role of a Primary School Coordinator. More recently, I have been heading the Primary Division at my current school, which is Singapore International School, Mumbai. I was also lucky to make it to IBEN in 2011 and also was selected to lead workshops online. Before this begins to sound like my resume, let me explain why I am sharing all this. The IB allowed me to explore so many avenues as an educator thereby giving me so much ‘Agency’. I could play different roles, don different hats and yet at the end of the day, call myself a teacher first.

The IB Mission Statement itself talks about developing ‘inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect’ and creating programmes that ‘encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.’. From its inception, Agency has been latently embedded in the IB ethos. Whether it was working as an educator, or as a student, it allows every one to enjoy the process of learning. Everybody becomes a life-long learner.

If we are to promote true international mindedness, we will need to develop the attributes of the Learner Profile and the knowledge, the conceptual understanding, the skills and attitudes and eventually lead students to taking meaningful action. None of this is authentically possible without agency. The process, which reflects in the curriculum as well as the pedagogy, has to be an experiential one, wherein students and teachers together work together to construct meaning and reconstruct new ideas and innovations. Students, teachers and parents need to explore choices and share their voice on issues they feel close to, thereby, taking ownership of that learning.

Student action, as originally conceptualised, could not have happened without Agency. Agency too, has all the attributes of the Learner Profile embedded in itself and here is a correlation I did for the same, which is of course not the only way to represent it.

Slide1At the end of the day, agency as a concept is not new at all. We are becoming more conscious of education being a process of developing independent, life-long learners capable of taking meaningful action. Agency is thus, a journey of inspiring our learners in every possible way to take steps towards good. The culture of a school’s leaders, teachers and parents ultimately determine how authentic agency is at a school.

I end with a quote that seems to summarise it all:

“A school’s CULTURE resides in the hearts and souls of its leadership, teachers, staff and students. A true Culture of Learning will tend to transcend the physical walls of the school and flow out into the community.” Robert John Meehan, Educator, Author, Poet

 

*********************************************************************************

Sources (except for the ones which are hyperlinked):

*1: http://jiddu-krishnamurti.net/en/1954/1954-01-04-jiddu-krishnamurti-1st-talk-to-students

*2: http://www.daisakuikeda.org/main/educator/essays-on-education/treasuring-every-child.html

Image of Rabindranath Tagore: Wikimedia Commons

Image of J Krishnamurti: http://domainededieu.over-blog.com/article-krishnamurti-se-liberer-du-connu-74291562.html

Image of Dr. Daisaku Ikeda: http://www.sgipanama.com

The simplest moments are often the most valuable.

play in the in between

We open up and create, fully in the moment, not excluding anything, but fully focused on the unfolding crisis we are creating on the table top. First the building, then the fire, the rescue and the rebuilding. Themes of desperation, courage, fear, and hope.  Four boys and one adult are playing with magformer blocks, wooden blocks, lego figures and paper. Spontaneous, enjoyable, sustained and engaging. Imaginative improvisation. No rules, except those that support the safe classroom environment of Kindergarten free flow, play centres.

The previous description is what came to mind when asked to reflect on a time when I experienced, “playing in the in-between” at the workshop, Exploring International Mindedness through “Playing in the In-between,” during the IB Global Conference. I learned there that the “in-between” arises when adults and children play together in the way described by Cynthia à Beckett. Praglin defines “In-between” as “a meeting-ground of potentiality and authenticity, located neither within the self nor in the world of political and economic affairs. In this space, one finds the most authentic and creative aspects of our personal and communal existence. . .”  It as a focus upon relationships that resonated with me due to my previous work with nonviolent communication (NVC.)

This group of boys from my example, often complained about each other. They could be described as, “Frenemies.” Two of the boys often attempted to dominate the others to play to their individual ideas, scripts, and outcomes. This often led to periodic conflict, and complaints, like, “Why is he the boss?” and “I don’t want to go to school.”  I would say, “Can you make it so everyone has fun?” Easier said, than done.

When I truly join in the play, like the time I reflected upon, everything changes and it, seemingly effortlessly, becomes fun for everyone.  When I implore, counsel, and plead for fair play nothing much changes, at least not quickly.   When I truly play in the In-between then everything changes. I am grateful to Dr. Cynthia à Beckett  for reframing these sometimes, seemingly insignificant play times for the wonderful connecting moments that they truly are for children and adults.

What makes these moments of “playing in the In-between” really that important?  They feel significant and they leave a trace afterwards. They matter for the relationship. They matter for individual development of many attributes of the IB learner profile. They strengthen connection, gather polarities and hold opposition lovingly. In my example the children involved asked to play the scenario out again for the next four days.  It become more and more elaborate and involved a rotating cast of participants.

When have you experienced “playing in the In-between?”  I would love to hear your stories! And what about play in education?  Play is a big topic that needs more unpacking. What do you think?

References

à Beckett, C. (2010). Imaginative education explored through the concept of Playing in the In-Between, in Imagination in Educational Theory and Practice, a Many-sided Vision. Nielsen, T., Fitzgerald, R. & Fettes, M. (Eds). Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Praglin, L. (Fall 2006). The Nature of the “In-Between” in D.W. Winnicott’s Concept of Transitional Space and in Martin Buber’s das Zwischenmenschliche, in Universitas. V2#2