Going through the resources this week was a very validating experience. Many of my COETAIL posts have referred to the new model of learning that is developing at my school. As I explored the content for the week, I was able to make many connections to my own learning journey in education over the past few years.
Back in the Fall of 2015, the Leadership team at my school shared their vision for the future of learning. Teachers would work collaboratively in a flexible learning space to develop a new model of education. I was excited and intrigued, so I put my name forward and was selected to be a member of this new team of five teachers. That spring, we worked together as a team to develop a new teaching and learning model for the start of the 2016-17 school year.
Learning partnerships were a key focus of this new initiative. It was incredibly important that all stakeholders had an understanding of this initiative and buy-in in order for it to succeed. This was a huge challenge in our first year. While as a community of teachers and students we were quickly able to see the benefits for learning, it took time to inform and educate the parent community.
Throughout my career as an educator, I have recognized the importance of relationships – relationships with and among students and teachers. Going into this new, collaborative model of teaching and learning, one of my team’s biggest worries was that our relationships with students would be weaker. Though, the teacher-student ratio was improving, we worried that the move from a single-cell classroom to a larger learning community would lead to the development of weaker learning partnerships.
This has not been the case. If anything the learning partnerships that have been formed are even stronger. Students in our community have the opportunity to work with and learn from many more individuals (students and teachers) than what would exist in a traditional classroom setting.
Over the four years working in this model, the team I work with (3 out of 5 of us have remained in the model from the start) has been able to leverage these learning partnerships and our access to technology to develop a learning environment that promotes and supports deep learning.
As I read through Fullan’s description of new pedagogies for deep learning, I immediately made the connection between Deep Learning and the Enhanced PYP’s focus on Learner Agency.
According to the IB PYP, “When learners have agency, the role of the teacher and student changes; the relationship between a teacher and a student is viewed as a partnership.” (Unfortunately, this is only accessible if you have access to My IB.) This is consistent with Fullan’s description of new pedagogies. “The foundation of teacher quality is pedagogical capacity – teachers’ repertoire of teaching strategies and ability to form partnerships with students.” This is how deep learning occurs.
In his 2017 article, Philip Williams views align nicely with the work of Fullan. He states that student agency is a pedagogical stance that values student voice and choice and allows students the opportunities to see that their opinions and actions can have an impact.
He goes on to say that for a sense of agency to be developed, a sense of personal integrity and efficacy are vital. A strong partnership must exist in which students feel their “individual uniqueness” is appreciated and respected and in which students feel empowered and valued.
Teachers as Activators
I had never really thought of the difference between a teacher as an activator and a teacher as a facilitator. Fullan describes an activator as a teacher who pushes students to define their own learning goals, help them learn how to learn in order to reach these goals, and one who supports students in monitoring their own progress.
Within the Grade 5 teaching and learning model that I have worked to establish, we have strived to create a learning environment in which there are structures in place to allow students to make choices confidently and independently, and plan more of their own learning (what, when and how they learn). We work with students and emphasize the development of students’ approaches to learning. Together with teacher support, students set goals in their learning and take steps to achieve these goals.
My Learning Journey
In the past four years, I have learned a lot about my changing role as 21st century educator. During our first year establishing a collaborative model, my team was the focus of a video that was created. Rewatching that today, I am struck by the content of this video. Even this early in our learning journey, it was clear that the partnerships between and among students and teachers were really at the centre of our journey.
I would love to see if anything would change if this video was recreated today, 3 years later.
Click here for the extended version.