I cannot believe that I have just spent the last four hours learning a new skill, so engrossed that I was totally oblivious to the passage of time. My goal was to become familiar with a new (for me) digital tool to share with teachers. I saw its potential to increase the engagement of students in their learning, allowing them to easily demonstrate their learning, to deepen their learning in a wide range of curriculum areas and key competencies. As an extra bonus, the end product looked cool to boot! I had spent most of the day fully focussed, going off on tangents to add to my kete of skills, exploring, being curious, failing, succeeding, failing again, pushing myself to go beyond just a basic level of competency by asking myself, “What if I…”, “How can I…”, “Where can I find more out about…”. I ended up with a skill set I could apply in my role as a facilitator AND with a product that I had created of which I was very proud. I would be able to share my creation and my learning on a wider global platform as well as share it with others as part of my facilitator practices (Learn, Create, Share1).
I can almost hear you saying, “nice story, but what has this got to do with anything?” It led on to my wondering, what if more of the learning within schools could be like this? What would need to change?
I know many schools are moving towards, or already include this style of learning with extended periods of time via project/problem-based learning, genius hour, inquiry learning, etc., but what if all students at all levels could feel as engaged and as excited about their learning as I did about mine today? Today, I experienced being lost in the joy of learning that is too frequently denied many of our students.
The OECD report on The Nature of Learning2 (2010) may have come out a while ago, but we still need to be cognisant of its seven principles of learning (pg 6-7). On reflection, many of those principles applied to me today:
- Learners at the centre — I was motivated to construct my own learning pathways and was actively exploring as I had a clear and authentic purpose for this learning.
- The social nature of learning — I may not have been working collaboratively with others at the time, but my purpose was to share the outcomes of my learning with others so that they were then empowered to create learning opportunities for their students, in a tuakana/teina way.
- Emotions are integral to learning — throughout my learning I developed a sense of achievement, encouraging me to explore further via a feedback loop of failure and success, to be proud of my final product. I became increasingly motivated to be curious and to persevere.
- Recognising individual differences — I was able to direct and manage my own learning based on my learning needs, abilities, and motivation. I had the freedom along with the support to explore, and I had options to refer to when I encountered difficulties.
- Stretching all students — not being satisfied with a basic level of mastery and asking, “how can I make this better?” pushed me to stretch my skills as did the final expectation of having to share my learning with an audience.
- Assessment for learning — I was clear on the ‘why’ of this learning. Achieving mastery as various stages provided formative feedback — I can do this, so what can I do next? Summative assessment came when I was successfully able to teach others, who were then able to teach their students, who in turn … (a cascade effect of learning/teaching).
- Building horizontal connections — learning for an authentic purpose allowed others to make connections to a range of learning areas, especially when I asked them, “how can this tool be used to support the pedagogy and learning within your context?”
We often forget that, as a teacher, we should also be a learner, and it is important to remember that the principles of how we all learn, which are condensed within the OECD report The Nature of Learning, apply to all teachers/kaiāko as much as it does to our ākonga.
“Understanding the fundamentals of how we learn allows us to address more effectively the conditions in which successful learning can occur.” (OECD, 2010, p3)
My challenge to you, then, is to find ways that you can (re)discover the joy of learning for yourself and for your learners and to not underestimate the power of “What if?”
- Dumont, H., Istance, D. & Benavides, F. (eds). (2010). The nature of learning — using research to inspire practice. OECD. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/education/ceri/50300814.pdf
- Karen Boyes’ blog “What if…?”
1 “Learn, create, share — Manaiakalani.” http://www.manaiakalani.org/our-story/learn-create-share