Empowering Self-Efficacious Learners

As COETAIL wraps up course four’s inquiry into “New Pedagogies for Deep Learning”, the premise or focus of this week was thinking about how to transfer theory into practice.

Again, a common thread that continues to stand out is that of developing self-efficacy in our learners. Essentially, empowering our learners to be in the driver’s seat of their own learning, or, as Hattie suggests, “the ultimate goal of students becoming their own teachers” (2012; in Fullan & Langworthy, 2014, p. 45).

A focus on learning dispositions

As we move away from more rote, 20th-century practices, the role of the teacher is less sage on the stage and more guide on the side. Relationships first, knowing our learners, listening to their interests and needs, then being responsive in our craft. Maslow before Bloom.

“It’s about letting go.”

Letting go of “how we learnt” or “did things” and also letting go of the 20th-century philosophies on pedagogy that still pervade schools around the world today. Philosophies like compliance and submission.

It’s about trusting and listening to our learners. Developing skills of learning how to learn, rather than ticking boxes toward task accomplishment. More time on formative feedback and less time on the summative.

I could rant on forever here, but visuals do speak more than words.

What could “letting go” look like?

One person who always provokes my thinking, and many others around the globe, is Edna Sackson. Her blog is an excellent resource to frequent regularly when thinking about “unleashing deep learning”. Like most of her posts, they are generally short but sweet provocations to spark curiosity on various topics of modern pedagogy, particularly relating to inquiry teaching.

In the visual above, which appears in this post, Edna summarizes a more modern view of “release of responsibility”. In a way, it’s a design thinking approach. Observing and empathizing, then responding. Moving away from previous models of teaching that may look like this.

Nothing sums up the message of Edna’s first visual above more beautifully, than this Thai pineapple ice cream commercial:

After you watch this video, think of how the mother (i.e. the child’s teacher) is empowering her child …

  • to be self-efficacious (i.e. in the driver’s seat of her own learning)?
  • with 21st-century skills of learning how to learn by inquiring, taking risks, seeking feedback and using design thinking?
  • to learn in an authentic context, in a way that is transdisciplinary (ie not isolated to one subject)?

One personal example to share

For many of us educators around the globe, it’s reporting time. What a wonderful opportunity to honour the voices of your learners, empower them to develop skills of goal setting, metacognition through reflection and more.

How? Well here is something simple that I do.

Starting with a conversation, I let my students know that reports are coming up soon and that I’d rather honour their voices, than my sole voice in their reports.

Next, I shared with my learners my thinking and ask for their feedback. Then, we came up with a solution. To be more specific, we thought about the sections of the report and how to make things as simple as possible.

To simplify this example, let’s just look at what we came up with for the reading section. In the reports, this section calls for a star and a next step for the child. No grades. After this discussion, my learners and I reviewed and brainstormed all the reading skills we practiced throughout the semester (which come from our reading curriculum). Once we had the skills listed, I constructed a Google Form with them. Basically, the Form had the skills listed. In the “star” question, students select the skill they grew the most in this year, with a follow-up question asking them to ground their argument with a specific example.Β  The second “step” question was the same as the first, but it was about a skill that they needed to develop further and explain why.

In sum, I put full trust in my learners, “let go”, and honoured their voices. In return, they made my heart full with their honest and detailed responses.

Their responses demonstrated that truly knew themselves as learners πŸ™‚

Here are visuals of a student response for each of the two questions:

Starting your next teaching day!

As I bid you farewell, dear reader, I implore you to ask this question below as frequently, as I do. Trevor MacKenzie and Dr. John Spencer both are known for saying this quote. May it resonate with you as deeply as it does for me!

3 Replies to “Empowering Self-Efficacious Learners”

  1. Hello Justin, one more week and we have reached the end of course 4. I can’t believe how time went by.

    I think it’s nice how you address the common thread. And so you create more than one connection to different and equally important topics (Hattie, children, teaching and learning).

    I think you are right that we should move away from the stage and accompany the children from the side. I think, besides applying new technologies and opportunities, that’s the biggest challenge for most teachers.
    I work in kindergarten and every day I see how the children are able to learn independently. But when they get to school, it’s still very old school. Because of this, I like reading your words. β€œβ€¦ To trust our learners and to listen to them. Developing learning skills to learn learning skills rather than ticking boxes for task completion. … ”

    A very nice and sad video at the same time. I have seen it and am disappointed with the huge differences in this world. I myself was a volunteer in Thailand and Vietnam a long time ago. I know it shaped me a lot and brought me back down to earth. Our society is too much shaped by consumption.

    In another week, I commented on a post from Megan. I think she shared a very nice ppt with us. Words like diversity, wonder, community and purpose have been used. The descriptions and explanations given are great.

    I do as much as is necessary for my children. With an individual regular reflection. With an associated self-reflection by the children. Always according to age. There are differences. The emotional situation is also very important to me. And it always has to be in line with our educational mandate. I like to challenge the children, to inspire them, to give them freedom.

    Dear Justin, thank you very much for your contribution.

    Michael πŸ™‚

  2. I always leave with so many resources and thinking after I read your posts. I appreciate the questions that seem targeted to push reflection and practice.

    Though it was just one line in your post, the reality of how the philosophy of compliance and submission is pervasive in our schools is ringing in my head. I feel like our educational system was right on the brink of diving away from this and into a system of student agency and advocacy. I know that these past two years seem to have education racing back to the “devil we know.” As a coach, I’m struggling to figure out how to support moving back out into the land of letting go. The visual resource you shared from Edna Sackson seems like a good place for me to start. I think that if I can bring that framework to my coaching conversations, it might helps us spark some possible ideas and next steps into breaking the compliance environment that we have been sucked back into. I appreciate how it is focused on the students and what they already can do, than how we can be responsive to them in order to determine our teaching steps.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go binge read (is that a thing?) What Ed Said.

  3. A great post Justin as always. The combination of the Thai Pineapple Ice Cream commercial (a great find and I appreciate the connection you made to it) along with the visuals you shared really help to frame the next steps we are encouraged to take for course 5.

    Your comments on knowing students first and including more formative feedback really resonated with me as it has been what I have been attempting to do. I think most teachers would agree that finding ways to give more feedback usually comes face to face with a lack of time. I have been using Mote, hyperlinked rubrics, and including ‘Next steps’ in each rubric band to try and help students move forward on their own.

    I agree with Danielle, it is time to binge on some of the posts you have shared. Thanks for sharing.

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