Tag Archives: learneragency

Sabbatical – Part 7

What have we been working on at school? Vision & Values

The purpose of this sabbatical was to compliment and support where we were already headed as a school.

Significant work was already planned or had taken place leading up to my time of learning and reflection. This sabbatical was to reflect on how the assessment and reporting arms would contribute to and compliment (or not) our work.

So what have we been up to and why? Here is an overview and some background.

1. Pre-ERO conversations…

As part of our preparation leading up to our last ERO visit, I posed a question to the rest of the leadership team: How can we show ERO that we know how are learners are progressing in what we really believe is important? (I was also new to the school having been in the principal’s hot seat for about a term).

We knew that we could show this in reading, writing and maths but we couldn’t in the areas that made up our school vision at that time: agency, creativity, excellence.

But it was not all doom and gloom! There was a massive light at the end of the tunnel. Throughout 2016/17 the school lead a Teacher Led Innovation Fund (TLIF) project that focused on learner agency. One of the last acts of this project was to develop a tool to support learners in self assessing themselves against the key elements of agency.

The Agency Wheel as this was known, was a solution the very question I had posed the team. I knew they would be on to it!

2. The Agency Wheel, Maths Dispositions and the Key Competencies

The emergence of the Agency Wheel kick started a whole lot of other conversations. These came about from a range of noticings in our learners and a desire to pull into the wheel our school values, the NZC through the Key Competencies, and a maths dispositions framework which was gaining momentum through involvement in the Maths Specialist Teacher (MST) programme.

What is shown below is when a few of the leadership team sat down and started trying to map out all of these threads and align them to the Agency Wheel.

So what happening next… not much; summer holidays and 2 key members of the leadership left for higher honours.

The Wheel got parked, but not forgotten.

3. Our Vision & Values

At the same time as the Agency Wheel emerged, the school was also wrapping up significant community consultation regarding our school vision, values and strategic direction.

This resulted in 2 changes:

  1. The vision changed from Inspiring agency, creativity & excellence both within and outside the four walls of the classroom to Empowering agency, innovation and leadership. There is so much more to the why of these changes – if you want to hear it, please just get in touch.
  2. Our values changed to the 10 shown below. Yes – there is another story behind this…

4. Beliefs around Learning and Assessment

As a staff we took a day to explore the following concepts:

  • Learning – what are our core beliefs?
  • Assessment – Perform and audit of what we do & why.
  • Our Context – Identify our learners and explore global impacts on learning?
  • Assessments – What do we need to keep/develop?
  • People – What type of learner, teacher, parent will make it all happen?

We made the following realisations:

  • That we needed to get the balance right between the front end (vision, values & competencies) and back end (curriculum area achievement objectives) of the curriculum.
  • That we needed to reframe our approach to assessment and the tools we use in order to align these to our core beliefs.
  • That we needed to clarify and develop our understanding further about these things called dispositions.

5. Learner Behaviour

(Not learning behaviour, in old speak this is about behaviour management…)

As far back as 2017 it was clear that the way we managed inappropriate behaviour required a bit of a refresh. Not a huge refresh but to align documentation with practices and to make it consistent and consistently understood across out school and community. Initial conversations centred around maintaining our positive approach strong in the pastoral care of children and how we can better use our values as the foundation of a positive behaviour programme.

Coming together as a staff we focused our discussions around the following 5 areas to help us review our practice and start designing a refreshed way forward.

  1. Summarise our thinking so far
  2. Complete self-assessment & summarise
  3. What do we know works in other schools?
  4. What innovative ideas do we have?
  5. Agreed actions moving forward

Through unpacking and sharing these areas we recognised needs in the following 4 ways

  • Our school values underpin our expectations for behaviour
  • Our values need to be broken down into observable behaviours
  • Our current systems and documentation are outdated
  • We need to explore other approaches eg Restorative practice

The first 2 points became very apparent. Our values outlined the types of expectations and behaviours we want in our children BUT they currently were not deliberatly incliuded in our approach and more importantly, were not brokenm down with clear descriptors to enable staff and learners to compare their behaviour to.

Creating these descriptors was clearly a priority moving forward for our school.

6. Exploring Dispositions

The purpose of these discussion and work was to follow up and act on our previous need; to clarify and develop our understanding further about these things called dispositions.

This started with an activity designed to bring out what dispositions our learners need, prompted by the following questions:

What is it about your students that makes you think they need to learn how to think? 

What do you see them doing, hear them saying, and what are they feeling?

How would you like them to be?

Take a group of teachers and ask them to contemplate these questiosn and record their thoughts in their section of the template. Then they discuss, debate, compare, contrast and agree on a set of areas their learners need to grow in. Shown below.

Now take that set and list them on the left, now try and align this on the right to the disposition/competency/thinking/attitude that may need to support them overcoming the problem identified. Shown below.

What did we learn from this process?

  1. There is a very strong link between what our learners need and our school values
  2. There is also a very strong link between the underpinnings of the agency wheel and what our learners need.

So what does all of this mean?

Well, there is a plan of how we can bring this altogether. Read on for Sabbatical Part 8…

Time to decide: Personalised PLD

Now the the 2018 school year is underway it is time to put the theory into practice and get the personalised PLD up and running.

Step 1 was to invite staff to present their ideas about what our inquiry streams would be. This took place at our staff retreat prior to the school year starting up. Ideas were presented in a ‘smackdown’ style (those of you who have attended an Educamp will be pretty familiar with this approach). If not, it is all outlined further in the slide show embedded below.

There were guidelines that presenters had to follow and some key reminders for their inquiry stream concept;

  1. Your inquiry stream concept needs to relate directly back to the school vision and values.
  2. It is an active inquiry, inquiring into an area of need that will result in improved outcomes for our learners.
  3. You don’t need to have all the answers! If you share an idea it is not expected that you are the leader/member of the stream.
  4. A little hunch could be all that is required for some great professional learning…

Staff embraced the opportunity to share their thoughts on what the professional learning context/s could be with 20 slides created and shared.

The next phase of the process took the next couple of days of the retreat to process and ended at the last session where staff had to make an indiction of which stream they wanted to be part of.  This length of time was crucially important where everyone took the opportunity to consider the themes presented and reflect on which one they would like to be a part of. There were further conversations between the presenters and interested staff as they probed, questions and clarified the idea further and where it may potentially head.

Perhaps the biggest voice over this time were the comments related to;

  1. how hard it was going to be to choose between the streams;
  2. the similarities between some of the streams and the potential for some of them to be blended into one; e.g. the ones related to agency;
  3. that some of the streams would happen anyway as part of the charter/annual plan goals and outcomes e.g. reviewing the reporting to parents approach so didn’t need to be there.

As such when it came to the last session, where everyone had to choose an option the list had gone from 20 to ???.

My observations/reflections so far…

  • Asking staff a question a simple as “What would you like to learn?” provides such a richness to the potential learning and an extra level of engagement. Effective teachers are always learning and embrace the opportunity for any PLD but I think that when they are in the driver’s seat, the engagement steps up another level. Maybe kind of related to this this…
Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning by John Spencer & A.J. Juliani
  • The more I think about it the more pleased I am of how this approach is so in tune with out vision of Empowering Agency, Innovation and Leadership. I really do think it ticks them all.
  • As I consider the next step, I am wondering how prescribed it needs to be. Do I let the reigns go or do I put in place some guidelines. Firstly I know that whatever the next step looks like, it will be differentiated for different streams, just like a classroom. As i ponder this I refer back to a post by Katie Martin:

When professional learning is too standardized:

  1. Learning is designed for one size to fit all
  2. Focus on fidelity to programs, not learners
  3. Designed for the “average”, meets the needs of few
  4. Externally designed path and pace
  5. Lack opportunities to for voice and choice of the learners

When professional learning is too open-ended:

  1. Lack of clear learning goals
  2. Passion runs high for some and others become paralysed by too many choices
  3. No one is really sure what is expected of them
  4. Many left to figure it out on their own
  5. Little follow through and lack of cohesion on a team or staff.

My professional curiosity is running high. I am so interested to see where this approach goes and how;

  1. staff react to/embrace etc the process once it’s underway;
  2. the impact on learning
  3. how each stream manage their own PLD and use theri resourcing
  4. ahhh so much to look forward to!

#empowering #smackdown #agency #personalised #innovation #learneragency #leadership

More on Student/Learner Agency

In a follow up to a previous post, my old colleagues at CORE Education via their 2014 10 Trends and their EdTalks portal, have shared two valuable resources re learner agency.

The first features Derek Wenmoth giving a great overview of learner agency. This extended my thinking and made me reconsider the scope of learner agency beyond just the student and their self-regulated ‘power to act’.

Ten Trends 2014: Agency from EDtalks on Vimeo.

In particular, that agency is interdependent and has a dimension of social connectedness. i.e. It is:

…not just about a learner in isolation doing their own thing and what suits them. Learners must develop an awareness that there are consequences for the decisions they make and actions they take, and will take account of that in the way(s) they exercise their agency in learning.
Every decision a learner makes, and action she or he takes, will impact on the thinking, behaviour or decisions of others – and vice versa. You can’t just act selfishly and call that acting with agency.

I had not considered these areas within the domain of agency. I had only really considered agency from the learner as an individual – thanks for prompting me to make these connections! Thanks for the new word too – agentic.

A second resource via the 10 Trends site is Motivation, Engagement, and Student Voice, with the Executive Summary being a quick and easy read. The graphic on page 3 captured simply the degrees of student voice in school activities – an easy starting point for professional discussion and review. Where would you place our school on this continuum? Where would you place your classroom? What changes would you need to make in your practice to move from Expression to Partnership? From Participation to Leadership?

A challenge for me from this report was the discussion based around students having the ability to disengage with digital distractions.

Recent research has shown that the “noise” of myriad digital distractions threatens productivity and cognitive complexity in learning.
Recent brain research reveals that our brains are indeed capable of doing many things simultaneously as long as those things do not require much complexity and the costs for making errors is low… …In short, multitasking hinders the deepest forms of engagement our brains need to learn complex things.

Challenging because of my firm beliefs around the effective use of technologies in teaching and learning. It would seem as though technology is taking the blame here for students being unable to develop their own self-regulatory competencies. Surely though, students have been distracted from their learning long before the prevalent use of technology in schools? The key for me is that there is still a need for the deliberate teaching and/or supporting of students to develop these skills and awarenesses but not, I would suggest through strategies such as “…outside restrictions via teacher (and parent) monitoring”.

I think that a read of the full report may shed some more light on this area.

A good connection though was the the discussion around “…helping students to experience their own minds in this way is one of the most powerful contributions we can make to their development and learning.”I can see some parallel threads of thinking here from another current read, Quiet Leadership by David Rock, who asks, “How can I best help you with your thinking?”

So what/now what? Currently as a staff and community we are heading into some deep thinking about our core beliefs and approaches to teaching and learners i.e. those foundation principals that drive a school’s curriculum design and approaches to making our students develop the knowledge, skills and competencies for life-long learning. To me, learner agency, and everything that is required to scaffold students to get there, is one core belief/approach that will enable our students. These resources will be a great starting point for discussion and direction.

#learneragency #studentagency #studentvoice