Are you a designer of learning?

Friday 4 October 2019

"Educators need to think of themselves as designers of learning...We are convinced that we need to move rapidly to the place where all learners feel connected and all learners are able to self-regulate their own learning." (Judy Halbert & Linda Kaser, Spirals of Inquiry)

I have used this blog previously to write about how much I am learning from supporting my 13-year-old daughter through her learning at school - sitting beside her with tricky homework or helping her revise for examinations. It is a privilege and a great education. Primarily it allows to me to see learning and teaching close up from the perspective of a student. I recently read Halbert & Kaser's 'Spirals of Inquiry'. In it they frame questions that sees the learning process from the students' perspective.

The following four simple questions help move our thinking from a preoccupation with content coverage to a focus on what learners are actually experiencing with the learning we are designing for, or with, them. Note they could also be used with staff when we plan their professional development.

  • Can you name two people in this school who believe that you can be a success in life? Every student needs to have adults who believe in them and commit to them. Adults who believe that they can get better, they can learn and they can succeed if they put in the effort and have the appropriate support. They need to know that people understand their strengths, passions and talents and have faith in them to succeed.
  • Where are you going with your learning? Learners need to know not only what they are learning but also why it is important, and how it is connected to their lives outside of school. Regularly asking 'where are you going with your learning?' emphasizes a focus on the purpose and direction of learning. Each learner needs to understand the purpose of what they are learning. As Halbert and Kaser note, "there is a big difference between learners knowing what they are supposed to be doing and knowing why what they are learning is important." This is not a formulaic thing, such as posting learning intentions | objectives on the whiteboard. "Our experience is that learners are only able to answer this question when they are helped to find personal meaning in what they are learning. Without a clear sense of purpose, many learners become disengaged and lose their sense of curiosity even as they continue to jump through the hoops of schooling." In the context of each academic subjects teachers should scaffold the big ideas that drive their subject and convey them as learning intentions to students. (See Why | How | What of curriculum design | Questions that should be at the heart of each subject ).
  • How are you doing with your learning? Learners need to internalise clear criteria of what good work looks like. This means that teachers need to provide clear criteria. For this to happen teachers need to know their subject well and in depth. Teachers also need to provide models of what 'good' looks like.
  • Where are you going next with your learning? The learning power of providing clear feedback and showing next achievable steps. Feedback about the task, about whether answers were right or wrong and why | feedback about the processing of the task - strategies used or could use in the future | feedback about self-regulation, self-evaluation and confidence level | feedback about the learner as a person - how they are doing.

"We look forward to the day when an interested observer could walk into any classroom or learning setting and hear learners able to describe confidently in their own words what they are learning, where they are going with their learning, and why this learning is important to their lives outside of school. We also look forward to the day when all learners are keen to both provide and seek feedback - and then to use this feedback to take responsibility for ther own next steps. We can imagine the difference it would make if every learner felt truly respected, known, valued and emotionally secure in their learning setting. We may know the research and yet there is still a lot of work to be done before these practices are a system wide way of life nut just for the lucky few but for every learner in every setting." (Judy Halbert & Linda Kaser, Spirals of Inquiry)

I am very grateful to Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser for the ideas in this blog.  

Tags: Spirals of inquiry


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