Monday, December 14, 2015

Building Learner Agency in the Personalized Learning Environment

A key principle of personalizing learning is facilitating learner agency.  How do we best invite our students to become active learners?  Can students of all ages make good decisions about their learning?  How do we bring together curriculum parameters with student driven learning and calendars?  Those of you interested in personalized learning will grapple with these questions and more.

I start at the beginning of the year by inviting my students to become active participants in their learning.  This year I started the year by reading Dr. Suess's Oh The Places You Will Go followed by a class discussion of hopes and dreams for 5th grade.  I then move students to answering the following questions in a gallery walk or 'chalk talk':

  • What is my role in the learning process?
  • What do I need from my classroom, peers and teachers to learn?
  • What are my expectations from Mrs. Buhner?
  • What do I bring to this classroom (think strengths, talents, skills, etc.)?
  • What do I hope won't happen this year?
We lay these posters side by side and look for patterns in the responses.  We create a list of strengths, talents, skills, wants, needs, hopes and dreams.  We then create a classroom constitution (and in some years the students have created a Bill of Rights).  I further survey the students individually to learn about their learning styles, interests, and goals.  

Together, we create a purpose for being together, in the space given to us.  Together we define our parameters.  Together we define how we wish for our year to unfold.  This is my time to introduce students to habits of mind, learning objectives, SMART goals, and growth mindset.  It turns out inviting the students into learning how their brains work motivates most to actually use their brains!  

In the next post I will discuss how we move from co-creating a learning environment to re-organizing units of study into problem-based learning activities in which students drive their own learning and monitor their growth goals.  How do you facilitate learner agency?  What has resulted from co-crafting a learning environment?