Agency and Ownership

Last week I attended uLearn15, an epic conference in Auckland with 1700 teachers and 250 sponsors and exhibitors. On the first day I ran a Breakout session called Agency and Ownership: Why the How? Initially planned as a smallish interactive workshop, it proved very popular as people chose their sessions so it grew into a large presentation to around 250 people with a lot more of me talking from the front.

Core Education filmed this presentation and streamed it live from their conference website. You can watch it here (jump to 11.50 where it actually starts):

Or, if you don’t have an hour and a half spare, this post will cover the highlights.

We have all heard the terms Learner Agency and Student Ownership of Learning. We all have the same vague understandings of what these are about. This presentation was focused on working out they actually look like in the classroom. What the practices are that we as teachers can implement to enable and empower students to truly own their learning.

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How Might We Reduce Scarcity?

This term I am teaching a module on Economic concepts called The Apprentice. Each week is a different challenge based upon a different concept or skill. So far we have investigated resource types, consumer rights and made an advertisement. Today our focus was on the concept of Scarcity and I decided to approach it as a 90 minute Design Thinking challenge.

As usual, we started the class with a What If question – today’s being: What if there were no chickens left in the world? With 5 minutes to write down as many ideas as possible and then sharing a few answers, 10 minutes of our precious 90 minutes a week was gone. We had, however, opened up into a divergent mindset ready to think creatively in our task at hand today (as well bemoan the loss of KFC and pancakes from our lives).

The only form of direct instruction in the lesson happened next as I led a whole class discussion on Scarcity. What does it mean, what are some examples etc. Students then chose a specific scarce resource and worked in groups for 10 minutes to generate a list of all the different things it is used for and what the issues are with it as a resource. After this the group had to come to a consensus as to what the key problem is for that resource.

We then discussed the challenge for today:

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Problem Finding and Student Ownership

This term I have been co-teaching a module with Pete McGhie that has had students focusing on our developing neighbourhood, Hobsonville Point, as a place. By investigating this place we have looked to find a need facing residents and then design a product that would improve their life here.

After initial lessons focusing on developing an understanding of how place, food and culture interact as concepts we went out to explore our surroundings:

After this exploration we focused on generating as many problems as possible that we saw in the neighbourhood.

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Once we had brainstormed, shared and discussed the possible problems it was time to start defining the core problem as each group saw it. Continue reading