Thursday, August 28, 2014

Students need to learn how to learn. Teachers need to teach students how to learn.

"Students need to learn how to learn. Teachers need to teach students how to learn." 

This was a quote discussed at a recent PLG . I had to agree. But what is it that students need to learn in order to know how to learn? And in some cases, what is it that teachers might need to learn so they know how to teach students how to learn?

One answer to that second question is that a teacher might need to learn how to change their practice, step aside a little and observe rather than lead what is happening. Sometimes it's scary taking a step back and seeing what happens when you're not quite so helpful and not controlling everything that is going on. Sometimes students show you that they clearly have no idea of what to do, what they're really learning or how to progress. Isn't that wonderful? How powerful it is to find out what a student can and can't do without you leading them all the way. You now know more about that learner and gain clarity on their learning.

I wonder if all students already know how to learn? They spent 5 years learning before they came to school, they're obviously capable of learning a number of things. I wonder if sometimes that some students simply feel they have to hand over their learning and simply become passive rather than active learners. It's those students who need to re-learn how to learn and how to be active participants in their learning journey.

Fortunately, most students I encounter are active life long learners. My job is to get out of their way and let them guide their own learning.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Self guided learning...for everyone.

What I have realised about my own professional learning over the past 5 years as a Principal is that I have had the opportunity to be self-guiding. I have become a life long learner through this opportunity. No-one delivers my professional learning on a plate. I design my own learning based on what I see and hear happening at our school. It covers a wide range of areas from responding to student achievement information through to developing my leadership practice. I have to read widely and talk with others to develop my knowledge and my learning. I seek it. I find it.

This is what I want for my staff and I'm trying to "unbundle" existing practice. (Thanks Rachel Bolstad et al for that term) My take on this is one where the Principal decides what staff need and a plan is developed that will see all staff participate in a professional development programme over 12 months. Teaching as Inquiry has a strong emphasis on teachers developing knowledge and practice based on the learning needs of their learners. Even though a school wide need might be identified, because teachers all have different previous experiences and knowledge, they start in different places and therefore will finish in different places.Is it a bit naive to think that school wide PD is going to meet all these needs? I'm not a big fan of the "sheep drench" approach to PD. At best, these types of sessions are a 'spark' or a catalyst for them to experience and perhaps further persue. Expecting automatic pick up of a "one size fits all" approach is unrealistic at best and frustrating at worst.

I'm giving opportunities for staff to develop their own professional learning by making funds available that they can use for texts, for study, for travel, for what they need for their own learning. I'm encouraging them to get out there and see what's happening and what's possible. I want the teachers at our school to have a personalised experience. I want them to have choices about their professional learning so that their needs are better met. I want to provide them with the same opportunity I have had. To be self-guiding. I want to take this further. I'm considering optional meetings/workshops - come along if this interests you or if it might complement your current learning. I'm not sure if that approach would work or not. It's a big shift from our current set up.

I'm not exactly sure that I know how to proceed. I've asked staff for their ideas and input into how they like to learn and there certainly seems that opportunities for self-guiding professional learning is desirable. I'm considering how teaching as inquiry can guide us to personalise professional learning further. I'm reading a lot of material that relates to professional learning and creating "teacher agency" and clarifying my thoughts through this post. Your thoughts and ideas are welcome.

Is school just preparation for life?