What does Student Centred look like?

Student Centred is one of those vague buzzwords that is used regularly but never really defined in practical terms. This post (based on an Ignite talk I gave last week) attempts to paint a picture of what student centred practices actually look like, both in the classroom and from a leadership perspective.

For me, the key to student centred practices is empathy. Truly seeking to understand how students are experiencing their learning, where each student is at and what their individual needs are, so you can help improve their learning. Student centred practice is focused on doing what is needed to help each student understand and excel in their learning.

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As I have written about previously, data is a great place to start in getting to know your learners, but there is a whole lot more to do if you want to understand them. Achievement data, personal data, surveys, observations and good old fashioned conversations should all work together to help you empathise with your students.

Student centred teaching is not just about what they like but about thinking how what they like/are interested in links with what they need to understand in class. How can their interests be used to help them understand the key concepts and skills from the curriculum. Continue reading

Does Design Thinking Work For Students?

Over the last couple of years there has been an explosion of teachers talking about Design Thinking. Previously unheard of, it is now fairly commonplace to hear the term used in online conversations and at education conferences. For my eFellowship research this year, I investigated whether the student experience of Design Thinking matched up to why teachers were implementing this approach in their classes.

Over the last 2 years I have read about Design Thinking, applied it to creating structures for our new school and then used a teaching approach within my classes. It has felt like a more powerful version of inquiry through it’s focus on developing empathy, students iterating their understanding and then having to use their knowledge rather than just remembering information. Many of the teachers starting to use Design Thinking in New Zealand, Australia and the US have experienced a similar feeling or hunch of Design Thinking’s effectiveness. As a relatively new approach to teaching there has been very little research done on how effective it is as a practice.

The hunch of many is that Design Thinking is effective, but is it actually working for our students? source: Wikipedia

I set out to see whether this hunch of effectiveness was actually right. Whether the teacher aims for starting to use Design Thinking are matching how the students actually experience it in class. Continue reading

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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Student Echo Chambers

Yesterday I wrote about breaking out of my echo chamber, so of course my thoughts then turned to my students. Are our students operating in echo chambers and should this be something we worry about?

Well yes, I believe this is something to be concerned about and here’s why. Deeper understanding is developed through:

  • encountering multiple perspectives
  • confronting cognitive dissonance
  • empathising with situations different to our own

If students are constantly interacting with people with similar opinions to themselves, how are they going to do any of the above? Continue reading

All is well, or is it?

I was worried how last week would go. How could I possibly keep up the excited puppy heights of hosting the Geography Awareness Week TeachMeetNZ and being at the inaugural EdChatNZ conference?

The Monday following EdchatNZ conference saw me spend the day in the Take Action big module I am co-teaching with Bryce and Martin. I spent 2 of our blocks helping Martin in the workshop as students constructed marble runs while their groups were affected by changes in government policies.

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Students also had similar experiences with Bryce as they played Volleyball with Government policies affecting the rules for each team. The final block focused in on actions we can take as citizens other than voting and brainstorming issues of interest to the students. Continue reading

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

HPSS Modules Iteration 2

We are currently completing the second iteration of our module development and selection process. Personally, I believe that our great Term 1 Modules have been given far more relevance and rigour this time round through the introduction of small refinements to our process.

The concept for Term 2 is Place and Space and each Learning Area, when planning over the 2 year framework, had already designated their threshold concepts and skills for this:

Term 2 Threshold Concepts and Core Skills

Term 2 Threshold Concepts and Core Skills

The module design process this time started with student voice. Representatives from each Hub met to say what they had learned previously about Space and Place and to provide ideas of what students would like to learn about. Their ideas poured out and a 4 page document was then shared with staff to provide a 2nd launching pad to the designated concepts and skills.

Each Learning Area then met together to discuss the possibilities this term when focusing on their specific aims and how the student voice ideas matched. This would allow the focus skills and concepts to be presented in a way that was relevant to our students. Continue reading