John Spencer's and A.J Juliani's book, "Empower. What happens when students own their learning" has come at the right time for me.
With Chapter headings like;
- Our job as teachers, parents and leaders is not to prepare kids for 'something;' our job is to help kids prepare themselves for 'anything'.
- Assessment should be fun. No, really, we're serious.
- The system should fit the student instead of the student fitting the system.
The book itself empowers the reader.
What decisions am I making that students could make for themselves?
It's a shift from a compliance mindset to a self-directed mindset.
So, how to get active learning? It doesn't happen by accident. It isn't about guiding from the side, it's guiding on the ride. Spencer and Juliani quote guides like Gandalf, Yoda and Ms Frizzle as examples of guides on the ride.
Remembering that when a student doesn't know what to do in Maths we show them, when they don't know what to do in writing, we show them, then the same needs to apply when a student doesn't know how to self-start or self-manage - we need to show them. We teach them along the way, when they signal they need help. (This might not come from the student actually asking for help)
We're sometimes fearful to "release" ourselves enough from what we think we need to do as teachers and that students who have choice in their learning can end up doing nothing meaningful, and I've seen this happen. (Think of the student who looks very busy on their device but achieves nothing).
A recent post called, "Swim a bit Deeper" offers some great ideas about how we can ensure students are involved in worthwhile self-directed projects of work.
So, where to from here for me? I'm thinking ahead to our next step in Inquiry learning at Winchester School and how we might move from Inquiry time to Inquiring classrooms. What will be involved in making this transition?
- Teachers will need to have a similar mindset to mine.
- Get copies of the Empower book for others to read
- A 6 year journey at our school might need to have stages: Ignite, Launch, Explore.
- Map what needs to happen at each stage to develop students who truly can own their learning
- Work with staff to develop "smorgasbords" for independent learning activities
- Model this approach through the professional learning programme for teachers
- How might I give choice and ownership to teachers of their professional learning?
This self-starter is under way.
(Read the book and you'll get it)