My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

My Learning Agenda

With the new term beckoning, and a summer of pondering, I have finalised what my learning agenda for my classroom will contain. This will be the purpose of all the pedagogical decisions I make. this year. I have based it upon two things. Firstly, where I want my students to be at the end of the year in terms of them as learners, not as what they have learned but how they learn. Secondly, I have considered where my students currently are, I am fortunate enough to already know over half my classes for the next year.

I am Au courant that the agenda I set must be manageable and actually improve my teaching/ creation of learning opportunities and develop my students as learners. I am confident that I am not creating extra work for myself bur in fact making my job easier.

So here are my priorities, which may change over the discourse of the academic year. ( and so they should if need be!)

  1. Develop independence of students during enquiry based learning tasks.
  2. Develop quality work, through quality feedback using the SOLO taxonomy.
  3. Plan all new lessons and Enquiries based around Blooms Four learning dimensions.
  4. Increase reflection in Sixth from students.

So what strategies am I planning to use to achieve each one.

Developing independence

What I really mean by this is ownership. Ownership of the learning and ownership of the learning strategies employed in doing so. To do this I will make clear every time the class is using a strategy, giving it a name to aid the development of a shared learning vocabulary. Each strategy will be displayed, labelled, annotated and classified as part of the reflective and meta cognitive process.

So when we get to work in a more independent environment (such as during enquiries)the students will find it second nature to choose to use a tool or a strategy to help them, rather than being passive learners they will seek and organise knowledge. If this happens currently, its lineage invariably involves me. I want to be increasingly out of these decisions.

Isaac Newton provides suitable inspiration for this one. When asked who made his telescope and where he got his tools he responded by saying " If I had (..) other people to make my tools for me, I had never made anything of it." This is exactly what I want my students to appreciate.

Developing quality work

The SOLO Taxonomy is based upon how students use knowledge and encourages students to apply and link concepts. Consequently, students operating at the upper reaches of the taxonomy are producing high quality work that not only has breadth but depth too.

My day to day assessment and feedback will not only focus on the content but look to assess the use of their knowledge. I have constructed a large wall display to place these qualities at the heart of my classroom and assist in making the language of the taxonomy part of everyday dialogues. I have planned an introductory activity and a self assessment opportunity in the first week that utilises the taxonomy. I have also planned large assessment tasks for the second week back that is based on the SOLO taxonomy which has specific content attached to each level, so that the taxonomy will also be seen with a subject specific context. I am aiming to do this regularly, as I can see the quality of my feedback improving too.

Research into the impact of the SOLO taxonomy demonstrates that it not only affects academic success but also the meta cognitive too. Students are more aware of their learning and how to improve. I want this for my students.

Planning using Blooms Learning Dimensions

Nothing fancy here, just a statement of principle. The balance that the four learning dimensions of factual, conceptual, procedural and meta cognitive knowledge will give to the curriculum of my classroom is just irresistible. It just make sense. Hattie ranks meta cognitive strategies as the 13th most effective "strategy" relating to achievement. This is clearly something I can do something about by planning to teach how and when to do it and not just giving students meta cognitive tasks. This will not just happen, I need to plan the development of these skills.

Increasing Reflection

As far as I am concerned Sixth form students do not regularly sit back and reflect upon what they are doing and why. Our school also dedicates a lot of the Sixth form curriculum time to independent study, although difficult to set up, manage and to make effective it does have a hugely positive impact on student success. (Hattie quotes its at around d= +0.75.) So the pedagogical purpose of prioritising reflection is to indirectly improve the students ability to learn independently.

Now, as a self confessed and very proud and cognisant Luddite, I am embarrassed (a little) to admit that I am intending to use Blogging to encourage this reflection. Although lets make this clear, with all the Web 2.0 shenanigans going on in education at the moment, that Blogging is not in fact the tool being used here. It is merely a way of making the student thinking visible, it is presentational. It allows me, an educator, to make a decision on what support, guidance or task my students do next. So, with this in mind I have planned strategies such as PEELS reading log to actually develop and engage my students in meaningful reflection. It is essential that students do not blog in superficial way or just write what they think I want. They need to learn how to do this. This is why teacher knowledge of pedagogy and teachers having a purpose to their teaching is much more important that teachers knowledge of Web 2.0 applications.

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