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.

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Learner Agency through Teacher Agency

Originally posted on my blog Honor Learners.

Student agency has been a buzzword with educators for the last few years. As I look through definitions of the term I have found some commonalities:

  • giving students voice
  • giving students choice 
  • making learning relevant
  • students having an active role in learning
  • student have ownership

When I look at that last term of ownership, my focus shifts to learning. Therefore, I make a conscious effort to use the terms learner, not student and learning not student work.

Over the past two days I have had the amazing opportunity to learn about learner agency with Taryn BondClegg (@makingoodhumans), and have had many opportunities to reflect on my practice as an educator.  She structured our workshop learn about agency, by giving us agency. She has also ensured that she gives us the opportunity to unpick the why? how? and what? Taryn began by giving us time to connect and then self assess our understanding. We also generated our own success criteria for the session, because as long as we understood the why, the choice of how and what we learnt was ours.  As we were generating our success criteria for the two day, we were asked to share them as we were reminded that:

Learners should have accountability to themselves and their learning community.

After we developed our success criteria, we unpicked the why, how and what of documentation. Again, as long as we were clear on the purpose of documentation, the how and what we documented was our choice.

Before we chose our learning for the day we were asked to consider the following questions:

What do you need to learn about?

How best do you learn?

How much time do you need?

When do you need to take breaks?

How can you learn from one another?

This process supported us to reflect upon ourselves as learners, so that we could control and direct our own learning using the CAR model – choose, act, and reflect. Taryn has blogged about this process and you can find this post here.

Over the two days, I was reminded what it was like to be a learner. This was not a PD session where the vibe was ‘do as I say, not as I model.’ I felt engaged and energized throughout the learning. There were some issues I grappled with, and the conclusions I came to were my own, not answers given to me. I had to push myself outside of my comfort zone and my new learning was earned. I will say that as energized as I was, it was also intense and was very grateful that we did not have homework at the end of the day!

So, what were my big takeaways from learning about learner agency through agency?

The first idea isn’t new, it was just a great reminder. We can support our learners by building positive relationships with our families within our learning community by keeping them informed!

Agency will look different in each circumstance. We need to do what works for us in our situation. Learner agency builds up over time, so be wary of transplanting what works at another school. By all means, learn from others, share ideas and adapt them to make them workable for you.

The foundation for learner agency is learners developing self awareness of who they are as learners. Therefore, taking time to connect each morning and reflect at the end of each day is vital to supporting learners to move from one place to the next on their continuum of learning.

We can give learners agency through a cycle of risk and reflect. We should continually ask ourselves what we can do to give our learners voice, choice and ownership of their learning.

And finally, it is okay to start small, and so I did.

The next day was International Day at our school. We were exploring the theme of peace  and our team had planned to have learners do the same learning activity. Our plans changed. We began by exploring why we need peace. Then we generated ideas of how we could be peaceful. Finally, we developed a list of ideas to show what we could do to show our understanding of peace.  Some learners chose to play with peaceful intentions, other chose to build collaboratively.

Some chose to paint.

Others chose to write.

And some chose to use the app Draw and Tell to explain their thinking.

Before I finish today, I would like to thank Taryn, our administration and all the experts who took their time to share with us.

Finally, I ask you, what will you do to honor your learners to give them voice, choice and ownership over their learning?