Enabling constraints?


Sally often reminds us of the importance of ‘enabling constraints’ for all learners at HPSS. I agree with her wholeheartedly; we need to provide structures for all learners to allow for them to develop and work towards meeting the vision of the school.  I am having a little moment of crisis; I am overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of what want to achieve for our learners (students and staff) and the constraining constraints of 6 1/2 weeks left this term. I feel that we need to devise sufficiently sturdy constraints to enable learners to personalise their learning, empower them to become autonomous yet still support them in doing so.

So it is very early in the morning, and I am trying to nut out some constraints which will enable learning in the hubs. I am excited about what the LTL team (Lea, Sally, Yasmin and I) have created around the learner profile and the tools which will allow for co-construction, learner self-regulation and academic rigour in this process. However, I am still aware of the many structures and enabling constraints yet to be developed over the next week weeks. Personally, I feel that there is a tension between supporting learners and telling learners – some exemplification is key yet too much is limiting. This is what is constantly knocking around in my head as I try to imagine a way forward.

So I currently carry my planning book like a crazed person clinging to the one thing that could bring sanity. This morning the AfL model and structures to support it have been my challenge. Today I am leading two sessions with the staff which draws on the principles and practices of AfL – specifically focusing on self-regulation, learning goals and feedback (my passion!)  With that in mind, and Hattie and Timpeley’s three questions around feedback (where am I going? how am I going? where to next?), I have been devising enabling constraints around learner self-reflection.  Or trying to. I am trying to align supported reflection prompts on learning to the SOLO taxonomy by providing clear scaffolding to delve into deeper thinking. And then our quadrants loosely based on Hermann’s Brain and Claxton’s Learning Power (metacognitive, strategic, relational, innovative) are also jumping around in my head – should these be used as an enabling constraint? Another approach could be to use the SLL (specialist learning leaders) devised/expanded inquiry model based on the NZC to support students when reflecting on their own learning? Whatever structures are devised, I do think that there needs to be sufficient flexibility around allowing for choice in what is there. Yet I cannot help but draw on my practice when encouraging learning journals and reflection on learning with junior secondary students especially and be consistently reminded (often at 4.30 a.m.) of the importance of supporting them to become empowered.

Part of this learning journey at HPSS for me is also about reflecting on my practice, my approach to challenge and how I muddle through. I think that I have always been, and will always be, a muck on through the mire and get stuff done kind of person. I am not sure how congruent this is with all of the LTL team at all times. The fact that I am sitting here, well before the sun is up with a pen in my hand, 6 tabs open on chrome and three textbooks on my bed, should be a reminder to myself of how I choose to cope with pressured situations. I need to plan out different approaches, to consider at least one or two right (or close enough) courses of action, then methodically approach the process until it is done – or close enough.  My approach is reflects one of my favourite mantras from Dory, the erratic fish in the highly acclaimed film Finding Nemo, ‘just keep swimming’.   Right now I am a little miffed whether I am swimming forwards or simply circumnavigating the fishbowl with a vague sense of deja vu.



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