Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Why are you learning this?

As previously blogged about here, underpinning our teaching and learning is Ako Orewa. This is the school vision, which aims to empower students, and promote learner agency. Within the department, we have been focussing this year on the learning process;

What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Where to next?

I have been attempting to include these key questions into my lessons, especially with my Juniors, to make greater meaning of the learning related to the wider world, as well as encouraging students to take ownership of their learning. I definitely feel this is something I am improving, but need to actively include in more lessons, to shift the locus of control and continue to question why we are learning, what we are learning. 

I am finding myself this year teaching new units, and as a result needing to get my head around new assessment tasks too. I have struggled not to teach to the assessment, being completely honest. So over the past few weeks I have tried to often ask myself why I have planned particular lessons, and if the answer is 'because they need to know it', I try to reshape the lesson to be more about what the students want to know (based off student voice collected both formally and informally). Then, the 'why' shifts slightly.

To assist with the implementation of Ako Orewa (a five year plan, which includes a huge curriculum shift over the next couple years), teachers are encouraged to complete 'Ako Orewa observations'. Instead of visiting classes to observe a teacher (even though teacher observations are great learning experiences), we are to visit classes and discuss some of the key questions alongside, with the students.

I completed two Ako Orewa observations in Term 1 - one in an 11PE class, and one in a 12PE class. I found the conversations with the students incredibly insightful, as they were really able to explain the importance of self management and being in responsible of your own learning. I was surprised how the students were able to articulate how their achievement is determined by what they put into their learning. However, many were also able to (guiltily) describe the lack of understanding they had related to their learning tasks (which they identified was due to what they had not put in). I was not surprised either, that some students were unable to explain why they were learning about what they were learning, as we were only at the beginning of this shift in mindset. 

A term later though, I visited the two classes again, and spoke to different students. Many more were now able to identify why they were learning about particular topics and relate them to their lives. Some students were also now able to explain how they use exemplars and marking criterias to determine their level of learning, and where to go next. Therefore, starting to shift the focus onto the learning process in our classes is supporting the Ako Orewa vision/pedagogy.

I really enjoyed completing these observations, and I am looking forward to someone popping into my class so I can gauge where I need to further question or ignite discussions. Having discussions with the students really made me reflect on the learning process in my own classrooms, and actively think about the three key questions. Next year my challenge will be to relate the learning process to the Ako Tools.

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