Scott thinks it is unacceptable that some students have no say in the shape or methods of learning they’re asked to engage in at school. He believes in a school where students are partners in two-way conversations about learning, support and engagement, where staff actively skill students in the ability to direct their own learning. However, at the start of the year, the data at Scott’s school showed that students didn’t have the skills they needed to take advantage of authentic voice practices, and as a result, teachers often reduced these opportunities as they took too long or didn’t work out.
Scott set about to develop a shared language of learning in these classrooms, co-created by staff and students and matched to general capability skills that support student agency and student voice. A way of giving students a scaffold within which to have their say.
First, Scott conducted some data collection to inform his school and confirm his suspicions about student engagement and student voice. Using this data, he was able to pitch the problem and his idea to the leadership team and to teachers.
After the pitch, Scott recruited a group of engaged teachers who were keen to trial his idea. The original focus of this group was on including students in a common language of learning. Quickly, the team identified the need for a more rigorous structure to the trial, and they used the structure of the General Capabilities in the Australian Curriculum as a way of focussing on skilling staff and students to develop skills that would support them to speak up, learn about learning and make change in their community. Together they created a continuum of skills for developing a shared learning language between teachers and students. This was not to be a proscribed language from the top down, but rather each class would generate their own language as suited the needs of the group, in negotiation with their teachers.
The continuum was trialled in classes, focussing on one single skill from the continuum that teachers felt would improve student voice and agency in their classrooms. The students in these classes co-developed (alongside their teachers) visuals and codewords that could support them to speak up, own their learning, and make change in their classrooms. Each class was different, but they were working on the same skills.
So far 4 classes (about 120 students) have engaged with this trial, with plans to incubate even more ideas and to have the trial team mentor more staff and students into 2018.
“A Year 1 student with multiple learning challenges has developed a list of strategies and some visuals with his class that will support him and his peers when learning gets hard. He refers to this chart constantly.”
“Our Year 6 and 7 teacher has taken on the General Capabilities continuum and is looking at what makes effective feedback between students and staff, and how to ask for it as a planning tool for other lessons. Her focus has changed from teaching content alone to teaching skills and content. The teacher’s engagement with these identified forms of feedback from students is changing both her teaching and her students’ learning.”
Like the idea?
Scott would love your support for The Language of Learning, or for you to start a similar program in your school, and he’d love to hear about any ideas you have or lend a hand where he can. Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get in touch with Scott and we can connect you. Feel free to cheer him on in the comments below as well.
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