Tag Archives: Pedagogy

Student Agency – What is it and why should teachers/parents care?

What Is It?

In the social sciences, agency is defined as ‘the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices’ or ‘an individual’s will and capacity to act’. Therefore, student agency can be most simply defined as “learners having the power to learn independently and make their own free choices about their learning”.

Core education suggests that there are three features to understanding learner agency. I think that the three features that Core education outline are useful to consider and reflect upon. The three features are as follows:

Agency involves the initiative or self-regulation of the learner. The notion of agency isn’t simply about handing control over to the learner – a sort of abdication model – it involves a far greater tapestry of intentionality on the part of schools and teachers to create that context and environment where the learners are actively involved in the learning.  Second, agency is interdependent. It’s 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 thirdly, agency includes an awareness of the responsibility of ones own actions on the environment and on others. 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.

Agency fits naturally with school specific curricula. One way schools can encourage learners to exercise agency is by focusing learning on local environmental and community-based problems. For example, Schools located near farm land learning about the nitrogen cycle and its impact on plant and grass growth as part of the Science curriculum. Through school specific curricula, personalised and self directed learning can begin to truly occur. As learners see areas of interest around them, in their own world, they are naturally drawn to find out more about the particular phenomena.

JESS3_Blackboard_EngagingtheActiveLearner

 Why Should Teachers/Parents Care?

What impact does agency have on learning/learners? Why is schooling/the education system heading this way? Is it just another passing fad?

Think about when you learnt how to ride a bike. Did you learn to ride your bike because someone sat you down and told you that it was time for you to learn to ride? Or did you learn to ride your bike because you were excited and really wanted to do it yourself? What was your motivation like? I bet you tried and tried, pestering someone more experienced than you to help, until you finally left those training wheels behind and could feel the wind in your hair, well helmet depending on how old you are.

Learning is learning, it doesn’t matter if you are learning how to ride a bike or how the hydrological cycle works. If one has interest and autonomy of what and when one learns the experience is going to be more meaningful and rewarding. The implication here is that if we want students to become more engaged and excited about what they are learning they should have a part to play in the content they learn.

The Learning Pit – James Nottingham

I shared this video about the Learning Pit with my team last week as the professional development part of our meeting as I was very impressed with the positive responses from the teachers. I absolutely love the concept and want to promote it further within our team and the wider school.

The video generated a great deal of discussion and as a result, I am wanting to have a look at how we could implement this question everything type approach in to our final two ‘theme’ units.

Zone of Proximal Development and The Vygotskian Framework

I can hear my lecturer from the 300 level Human Development paper I took, from over a decade ago, rejoicing at the fact that I am about to write about Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky was well before his time and had, in his day, unique ideas about the way individuals learn.

Vygotsky’s four principles around how individuals learn, known also as the Vygotskian Framework are as follows:

1 Individuals construct their knowledge.

2 Development can not be separated from its social context.

3 Learning can lead development.

4 Language plays a central role in mental development.

How is the Vygotskian Framework applied in classrooms today?

Lev Vygotsky believed 4 basic principles underlie learning. Principles that wouldn’t sound to out of place in a classroom today where educators encourage agency, autonomy, contextualised and authentic learning. Fortunately, Vygotsky taught in a classroom setting. (Wertsch, J.V, 1991). This expereience undoubtably gave Vygotsky an insight into how to connect his theories with practical application in the classroom. To better understand Vygotsky’s theories we must think about principles that underpin many educators philosophy towards teaching toady – agency, autonomy, contextualised and authentic learning.

Student Agency – Students live, learn and play in a media saturated world. Often students are told what to think, how to act by the media. As educators, surely we are wanting students to have the a clear understanding of what they know and how they can construct knowledge for themselves – moving themselves forward as learners (Briceño, E, 2013).

imgresLev Vygotsky (1896-1934)

Briceño, E (2013) Mindsets and Student Agency. Unboxed online. A Journey of Adult Learning in Schools.

Wertsch, J.V. (1991) Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

 

 

MLEs – A change in mindset, not necessarily buildings

As Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) are reasonably recent, it is difficult to find quantifiable research that suggests MLEs lead to raised student achievement. Mark Osborne from CORE Education suggests that “this is one of the drawbacks of working in a relatively recent area of education.” So, although robust research isn’t readily available into the effects of MLE’s it is easier to identify what won’t change student achievement.

Changing classroom environments – knocking down walls, creating ‘break out’ spaces, adding bean bags and funky furniture and introducing devices is all relatively straightforward. However, MLEs are pointless if the teacher still leads from the front of classroom and doesn’t change his or her practice. The challenge will be to explore how MLEs can be used to genuinely change how and what we have been doing. In this respect, there is plenty of research available. The following is taking from the Virtual Learning Network and sums up the type of change and pedagogy we should be aiming to implement.

“When looking at how a learning environment might be used well, we should look to the research around pedagogy. Attention should be paid to work such as the Best Evidence Synthesis on pedagogy (Quality Teaching for Diverse Learners), Te Kotahitanga and John Hattie’s Visible Learning to identify teaching strategies that are most likely to make a difference for our learners. Providing an environment that offers as many learning settings as possible to promote these kinds of powerful pedagogies (peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching, mastery learning, student agency over learning etc.) is crucial and for many schools this variety is offered through modern learning environments. To summarise the thinking in this area: MLEs make a difference because they give teachers more opportunities to use pedagogies that make a difference.”

Mark Osborne, CORE Education.

e-learning and effective pedagogy

e-learning is clearly identified as a powerful means of supporting effective pedagogy in and beyond the classroom. As the NZC states:

Information and communication technology (ICT) has a major impact on the world in which young people live. Similarly, e-learning (that is, learning supported by or facilitated by ICT) has considerable potential to support teaching.

For instance, e-learning may:

  • assist the making of connections by enabling students to enter and explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time
  • facilitate shared learning by enabling students to join or create communities of learners that extend well beyond the classroom
  • assist in the creation of supportive learning environments by offering resources that take account of individual, cultural, or developmental differences
  • enhance opportunities to learn by offering students virtual experiences and tools that save them time, allowing them to take their learning further.

Schools should explore not only how ICT can supplement traditional ways of teaching but also how it can open up new and different ways of learning.

My Vision

We live in an ever-changing world where the majority of students now use devices outside of school to communicate and learn on a daily basis. I would like to see devices being used more prominently within schools to further enhance teaching and learning.

My vision for schools is that they begin to  innovatively blend the use of technology into current programmes, as well as adapting current practice to include the use of devices. By doing this, we will develop connected, life-long learners, who are actively involved in the global community.

Many educators would argue that the term e-learning is twee or outdated, as it should be about learning full stop. Some educators prefer the term ‘blended learning’ to ‘e-learning’.

Hopefully the term blended learning allays the fear that schools are trying to replace pen and paper, traditional modes and methods of teaching, and instead suggests that we simply want to ‘blend’ the pen and paper with electronic modes and methods.

While blended learning is the ultimate goal for teaching and learning in schools, we are clearly in a period of transition and it is timely and important that the “e” is highlighted to remind us that we are wanting to see a greater and more effective use of electronic devices in classrooms.

Given this reason, it is appropriate, that both terms are used with the ultimate goal of having a blended approach to teaching and learning embedded in every teacher’s daily practice.

Robots to take take control in the future

Robots to take over. The New Zealand Herald recently ran a headline that wouldn’t be out of place in a bad Sci-fi movie. The headline did; however, remind me of a presentation I once heard about the different jobs that experts predict will be automated in the future.

Mark Osborne presented at the L@S Roadshow in Palmerston North about jobs that are likely to be automated in the future. The below graph makes for interesting reading.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 11.12.29 AM

With this idea in mind, I believe it is long over due that schools begin to challenge the traditional paradigm that many have been following. We need to equip our students for a future of change. The key to student’s success in the future will be around their EQ Emotional Intelligence – things that robots and automated programmes can’t do. Along with this students will also need to be able to apply, analyse, evaluate, create and collaborate on a level where machines cannot. As students change how they learn, we, as educators, mustn’t be afraid to change the way we teach.

iPad Pedagogy

The danger, when thinking about iPad pedagogy, is to fall into the trap of looking at a range of apps and consider how they might be used in the classroom. While this is very important I think it is important for schools to get their ‘Why’ right. Why use iPads? Why not use another device?

Fundamentally, I believe that iPad pedagogy stems from your pedagogy about education and where you think it is heading. I believe that we need to prepare how students for a future where everything will be changing rapidly. People will no longer worry how much information you can contain but what you can do with the information that is available to you.

I believe that Education 3.0 is where we are heading.

3.0

With this in mind, as educators, we need to ask ourselves which device is going to best meet the needs of this type of environment. An environment where students will be required to create, evaluate, analyse, apply, remember and understand. I believe that the iPad best suits this approach to education.

The biggest benefit to using iPads, that I see, is the ability to be able to create and construct more effectively and easily than you can on other devices. Students can also connect with others more easily as they have two cameras instead of just one, like many other devices.

Once you have a clear vision about ‘Why’ iPads you can then begin to look through this Education 3.0 lens at the plethora of apps that are available to meet your teaching and learning needs. Below is an excellent ‘pedagogy wheel’ to help you decide which apps most effectively meet your requirements.

padagogy-wheel-450x450