I feel I am at crossroads and at the core of several things. Positive pedagogy, mindfulness, teamwork, individualized learning, phenomenon-based learning, cross-disciplinary learning modules, and extensive learning, of which especially ownership of learning is close to my heart.
Empowered by positive pedagogy, I have talked to my groups a lot this week about the ownership of learning – how I would want my students to learn for themselves and with their hearts, and how I feel like I am a facilitator and their mentor. When they ask me for an answer to something, I reply by asking them, “How would you solve this matter on June 10th (after summer vacation has started), when you are not in school and I am no longer by your side?” At first their looks are confused, but on the third time around most of them already trust themselves and tell me how they would act in the situation in question. Demonstrating trust in someone works wonders.
I let students decide what they want to study and the order in which they want to proceed in with the module we are working on. I may set parameters for, for example, what the topic of the day is, but the students, together with their team, get to decide what they do. My students follow the paths they have chosen according to their goals, but for the work in class I always hope the teams work together as much as possible. Collaboration and conversation, talking about both hard and easy things, explaining them to others and teaching something that has been learned together to someone else. I believe in the power of cooperation and my students, too, begin to see this and trust in it. I change teams depending on the group, but most often I listen to the students. When they begin to ask for changing teams, I may do it immediately or at the end of the module.
We began creating teams only after the group had established a set of rules, as per taught by Pekka Peura, since after creating the team rules, the student can begin to perceive the bigger picture and how she or he can influence the team and thereby her or his own learning. Understanding one’s own influence in learning provides for some fantastic opportunities in developing self-directing, enabling ownership of learning, and in helping others, which in turn always adds content to the helper’s own ability. Learning this can take time and I feel I am in a key role to assist this process. The students are surprisingly quick in taking these tasks on, though, once things are clarified to them through discussion and by going things over with them.
Especially students about to finish middle school are more conservative with this, precisely because they have had less experience with the new curriculum. That’s why seventh and eighth graders come along in the project more enthusiastically, because they have already been exposed to this type of learning in elementary school, where they have been prepared for the new curriculum for several years. The methods of working are already more familiar to them.
I’d like to create modules, where the grammar can be learned at one’s own level and together with the team. “Testing” would be done when the learner her/himself feels like she or he masters the topic, after which the team could together decide which of the modules to study next, based on one’s own interests – like an “I choose” -theme.
Today I had an interesting discussion with the students about opening up learning, ownership of learning and the meaningfulness of studying. At our school we have opened several subjects up for extensive, interdisciplinary skills, and it is beginning to bear fruit. Today my lovely, witty students questioned the “easy and boring” assignments in their English textbook, wishing they could get some more challenging ones that would be more motivating to work with. We got to talking about the national core curriculum requirements, all in a friendly atmosphere, and I told them I feel their pain.
My students follow the learning paths I have, following Pekka Peura’s teachings, created. They do this based on their own level of knowledge, but I wish I had even more freedom of choice with the paths and could minimize the mandatory things and concentrate more on getting the student to participate – a method which I believe gets the student to take more ownership, “Voice and Choice” -style. When a student gets more responsibility and feels that she or he is trusted, she will take more responsibility of her own learning and understand that the work she does is for her own good. This shift also means better learning results, more self-direction and more ownership of one’s learning.
English teacher Maria Dean, Tapiola school in Espoo