If you could choose 5 principles of learning that would be the hallmark and ethos of a quality school what would they be? What is the common definition of learning in your school? How do we make kids owners of their own learning?
I had the pleasure of attending a short ISAT conference this weekend, where key note speaker Kevin Bartlett extolled about his experience and philosophy on creating learner focussed schools. Bartlett’s charismatic presentation was very inspiring for those of us who see too much fluff and busy work going on in schools. After all if it is not improving student learning – why bother doing it “stop making a to do list and start making a not to do list” was one of Bartlett’s pieces of advice.
As the audience grappled with constructing a core definition of learning through their own personal connections, one thing became very clear – learning is personal, it is about igniting and nurturing passions. A large part of our role as teachers is helping children anchor important understanding around these passions. Bartlett made reference to (Wiggins & McTighe’s) facets of understanding and underlined that in addition to the cognitive, understanding is both emotional and personal. It is incremental, and as we progress we refine our connections. Understanding is therefore instrumental in defining who we are.
Ultimately, by scaffolding the learning journey through the process of inquiry; understanding becomes the final destination. However, like any good “road trip” you need supplies along the way – in the learner focussed school these supplies come in the form of feedback and the setting of challenging goals. To assist students on their journey to understanding, Bartlett talked about ideas like a metacognitive toolkit to help students evaluate their own progress and develop greater self awareness.
So what does a leaner focused school look like? – Conceptual learning, language for learning, visible learning, learning relationships, learning for innovation. It was reassuring to hear Bartlett validate the need for a whole school community to live and breath this vision of learning. These values must be the common denominator that guides all our practices, not just what we do when we are in front of the the students.
Bartlett concluded his presentation with a number of amusing personal anecdotes of how to close the gap toward becoming a more learner focussed school. In summary these were:
- Define learning.
- Decide what makes it happen.
- Make that the core of everything you do?
- Close the knowledge – doing gap.
- Do it with passion.
Would you choose the same 5 principles to define your learning focussed school?