Building student learning focused relationships – critical friendships

Working in a learning hub is a great way to get to know students individually – to know their strengths, passions, aspirations, their learning, their whanau.

However, the challenge is how to get them to build learning focused relationships with each other. Teenagers tend to have some difficulty in providing peer feedback which is deep, honest and useful. In order to keep social relationships strong, they may not be truthful or as truthful as necessary when supporting each other in learning.

In Orakei hub, I tried (unsuccessfully) to set up the concept of tuakana-teina within my hub. Some struggled to articulate where they could support others; interestingly, they were all able to state where others in the hub could help them.

So back into a new term, I have a new plan. Rather than pushing some students towards a tuakana-teina model (this may be on the cards for the future), we are using a critical friendship model.

I introduced the concept on Monday and asked them to select (via google form) some students that they would like to work with and a justification why, as well as any student that they would prefer not to work with. Not surprisingly, many of the students picked their close friends. I looked at their selections and paired them up with their second or third choices.

Today we started off our extended hub class with:

  1. listing characteristics that they wanted to see in their (yet unnamed) critical friend
  2. listing characteristics that they individually would bring to the critical friendship – strengths. Then they followed up with areas where they felt that they may struggle being a critical friend
  3. Then they found out who their critical friends were
  4. Next step was to compare their lists to establish their agreed ‘rules of engagement’

    Students sharing their expectations of the critical friendship

    Students sharing their expectations of the critical friendship

  5. Then review their critical friend’s “learner story” and give feedback on the quality of their reflections (we had already co-constructed the success criteria for this).
Working with critical friends

Orakei hub students: Working with critical friends

Collaboration is important not just because it’s a better way to learn. The spirit of collaboration is penetrating every institution and all of our lives. So learning to collaborate is part of equipping yourself for effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning in an ever-changing networked economy.” – Don Tapscott

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/dontapscot564023.html#0IYxafpIQOGSAvsj.99

 

 

No grades classrooms: a TEDx presentation

Browsing through my Pinterest page this morning, I stumbled upon this video (pinned by Starr Sackstein) from Mark Barnes. I am a big fan of not “marking” kids work or prescribing grades to them. Four simple words rally do summarise how we could rethink assessing – focusing on learning rather than performance.

Video here

S.E.2R = simplicity. However, the challenge here is still to ensure that there is quality feedback going on. Dialogic feedback is key but it needs to push to the self-regulating level (as described by Hattie and Timperley) rather than more surface feedback about a task or process.

I’m looking froward to exploring this more in the 2015 school year.

Links:
Mark Barnes page on SE2R as narrative feedback
Hattie and Timperley’s seminal work on The Power of Feedback

Knowing where you are going – Setting meaningful goals

Clearly articulated learning goals are the key to maximising learning by allowing for more purposeful learning to occur. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School, learning goals allow for greater personalisation of learning across the three strands of our school curriculum – Big Projects, Learning Hubs, and Specialist Learning Modules.

Term one ended with student led individual education meetings (IEMs). During these meetings, students led their coach and their parents/whanau through their learning this term and used evidence of their learning to set new goals.

Prior to these meetings, I had led our learning community through some goal setting exercises. We started with the differences between learning goals and performance goals, based on Zimmerman’s research, and then collectively set learning goals. Setting a goal is in itself not enough – it is important to know the success criteria of the goal and the strategies needed to get there. The activity that I ran with the students is here.

Once the students were familiar with the learning goals, success criteria and strategies of goals, they worked in their hubs on a mix and match activity. Once they were happy with how they matched up the goals, they discussed the merits of each. Then it was onto business. They each set a goal based on their learning needs, established the success criteria for their goals, and devised some strategies. We used peer critiquing during this exercise – on the one hand, it gave the goal setter an extra perspective, particularly around the validity of the goals and/or strategies, and on the other hand the open discussions gave extra support for students who were struggling to set their goals. Once the goals were set, with clear success criteria and strategies, the students added them to their IEM summary document that they would be sharing during their meeting. Students in my learning hub mainly set two meaningful learning goals for term 2.

During the IEM, the student, coach and whanau all revisited the goals and looked at them in light of the learning conversation. Some goals were adjusted slightly, many had new strategies added to them in light of the assessment narratives derived by both the students and the teachers on the learning modules, some goals stayed the same. Each student’s goals are personalised and relevant. The final part of the IEM document that was shared with the student, coach and whanau was a set of agreed responsibilities in order for the goals to be met – the whanau, coach and student all stated what they needed to do to help in meeting the learning goals.

Examples of students’ goals:
To manage my learning so I am not rushed
To understand the full concept of place and space (key concept for T2)
To generate written reflections which are more detailed
To focus during the generating phase so I don’t end up being weary.
To take more risks in learning
To focus by identifying and planning to find more than one strategy or approach

Where to next?
It is one thing to set goals and another to have them as central to the student’s personalised learning path. The first step was to use these goals to help the students select appropriate modules for term 2. Module selection had to be completed the day following IEMs. As a learning coach, I was able to guide them in making module selections that would allow them to meet their goals and use the strategies that we had agreed upon as their goals were so clearly articulated and relevant to their needs.

The problem with goal setting in secondary school is how to communicate the information to all teaching staff – for HPSS that is going beyond the learning coach and sharing with big project guides, module teachers and extra-curricular leaders. My responsibility as a coach in many of the IEMs was to share the goals with all teaching staff. I am planning on using KAMAR to do this so that any teacher can see the goals of the students. I love the idea of empowering our teachers to know our learners and their learning needs, and for teachers to plan accordingly. I see KAMAR as being a tool for all teachers to provide feedback on students and how much more meaningful will that feedback be if they are aware of the learning goals.

However, that is not enough. I think that goals need to be visible so I am planning on displaying each students goals in our hub area – inspired by the wonderful teachers at HPPS – and using visual means to track progress towards the goal (watch this space!). Our student-coach conferencing in term 2 will focus around progress of learning, in light of these goals, and figuring out where to next.