Thursday, October 26, 2017

Creating our own education: voice, choice and ownership

I have been reading on in George's Couros's book The Innovator's Mindset, and at the start of Chapter 2 I have come across a quote from Stephen Downes:
We need to move beyond the idea that an education is something that is provided for us and towards the idea that an education is something that we create for ourselves.
The reason this struck me as being so important is because I've recently finished Cognitive Coaching Days 5-8 (again) where I was able to again think about the concept of efficacy and the belief in the ability to succeed or to make a difference, and more recently I've been considering the changes that will come to the PYP with greater emphasis on learner agency.  As Downes alludes to, people with agency take responsibility and ownership of their own education/learning.  Dispositions that we want to promote in both students and adults who have agency include critical and creative thinking, perseverance, independence and confidence.  This idea of perseverence is built upon by George Couros in Chapter 2 of his book when he writes:
Having the freedom to fail is important to innovation.  But even more important to the process are the traits of resilience and grit.  Resiliency is the ability to come back after a defeat or unsuccessful attempt.  Grit is resolve or strength of character.  These two characteristics need to be continuously developed as we look for new and better ways to serve our students.
I think the word "serve" is important here.  I've come across this again recently in my reading around coaching - a coach is there to serve the coachee, to help the coachee tap into his or her inner resources, to help convey a person to where he or she wants to go.   In the same way that a coach needs to give up his or her own agenda, teachers need to be mindful of the diverse needs and interests of the students they serve.  George suggests some questions that will help teachers focus on the students (as opposed to the curriculum, standards etc), for example
  • What is best for this student?
  • What is this student's passion?
He is a real advocate of developing empathy for our students and of pursuing our desire as educators of giving our students the best that we can.  An innovator's mindset, therefore, is focused on the desire to create something better - and to do that we need to continually ask the question "is there a better way of doing this?"

Back to the quote at the start of this post, if education is something that we create then both teachers and students are partners in the process.  As teachers we need to work alongside the students, to monitor their learning and to provide feedback and feedforward to help the learning process.  We need to listen to their wonderings, and help them to explore their interests through open-ended tasks and we need to involve students in making decisions about what and how they learn - which means as teachers we often need to co-learn with our students.  In these inquiry-based classrooms, our teaching should be "just in time" and not "just in case".

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