One of the biggest challenges in implementing this concept of "life long learners" is not just changing the mindset of the teachers in our classrooms but the students as well. Many of them have well established expectations of how school should play out and for many of them, being a "good kid" and following instructions was the recipe for learning success. What progressive educators see as steps to empower the learning process, some students see as a huge threat to their perceived version of the status quo. In our upper primary classrooms at my school, we are trying to keep that shift going with the way we structure our learning program.
The shift is subtle but our students are feeling it.
Generally, they are pretty good. The students enjoy the freedoms in their personal blogs, the tasks that give them opportunity to be creative and make choices to demonstrate their understanding of the concepts and knowledge covered and most are enthused about the opportunity to be the leaders in the student community of the school. Things aren't quite as bad as over at ken's school:
Don't tell me to create. How about you create something? Instead, you're dumping your own lack of preparation on me and every other student in this classroom. I show up, I do my job. That's what it's been about. That's what it's all about. Honestly, I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish.
But our new High Flyer program has thrown a few of them into a tizzy. This is our Year Seven high achievement recognition program for the kids in their final year of primary school. The actual High Flyer certificates pre-date my involvement at the school but was essentially a teacher-driven award system - the criteria was drawn up by the teachers who then made judgement calls about how the students measured up to them. The teachers were doing the heavy lifting - while the students benefitted by playing the role of "good student" in order to gain recognition. A very traditional approach but one that was definitely in a major need of re-alignment to our school focus of inquiry and collaborative learning. Maria, Kim and I decided to turn things around by grabbing the 18 Qualities of a Lockleys North Graduate and have the students provide evidence of their achievment of these Qualities. Here's a sample of our new approach as lifted directly from our private planning wiki.
The 2009 High Flyer is based on the 18 Qualities of an LNPS Graduate. As students are encouraged and supported to take charge of their own learning, the High Flyer Award is designed for students to take ownership of their own achievements. The students will collate and present evidence of these Qualities. (instigated by students, book time with their teachers, onus on the student to self manage)
The self managing part is the part that some students immediately found difficultly in grappling with. For example, one quality calls for students to "Participate in and support activities as reliable team members, encouraging spectators, and ‘good sports’". We gave the kids four possible options for evidence (they had to choose two or create their own) including this one - Written supportive statement of involvement from PE teacher.
The students with initiative, the ones who we really want to be winning these awards, created their own statement, putting their own performance under the perspective microscope of Mr. G, our PE teacher, typed it up and approached him for a signature if he agreed with their statement. Into the folder of evidence it went.
But others were more literal and fell back into the "teacher needs to do it for me" mode. Maria and I had an interesting but frustrating conversation with a student from her class (whom I had taught in 2007 and 2008, so I may have been part of the problem) where she just couldn't get past the fact that she was responsible for ensuring that the evidence was there for us to assess.
"But I've emailed Mr. G twice and asked him to write me a statement."
"Imagine if he has to do that for all 51 Year Sevens. You need to show some initiative like Pavlo over here who wrote his own statement."
"Oh ... maybe I should write Mr. G a reminder note and put it in his pigeonhole."
"No, you're missing the point! You can write it yourself and Mr. G can sign off on it."
"But how can I do that? How do I know how I've been in PE lessons?"
You get the picture. Hopefully, this will also eliminate the visit from the one irate parent who is upset that their darling child has not gotten the High Flyer certificate because they are a "good kid". Enough with the good kids - we want motivated, self-improving students - otherwise, the life long learning will never happen unless a teacher is holding their hands.