Student Led Learning- Part Two

So. After dreaming about this lesson (concerningly), part one of three took place on Friday.

My personal aim is to encourage responsibility for their learning; for the students to really get to grips with how they learn, and the different possible responses to a text. Rather than simply reacting to material within the classroom, I wanted to get them to have a pro-active approach in that they should be in a position to not only gather multiple interpretations to a text, but to be in a position to pass on that knowledge for their peers to react in perhaps a different way. Learning ping pong, ish.

With that in mind, I have created a three-part student led series of lessons that would test drive the process of students taking control of their own learning. The class is a y9 top set group, all girls, who are incredibly conscientious and driven within lessons on the whole, and so were my clear choice for this before extending it out to other groups at a later point. This is a group of students that are frequently driven to push themselves due to the competitive nature of the class, and G&T count is strong enough for me to have a large number of leaders working to micro-manage the collaborative groupings. The group are currently studying Much Ado About Nothing, and working on textual analysis and evaluation whilst working towards an assessment question that considers the themes of honour and pride within the play.

I asked the class to think about how they learn most effectively and to bring these ideas with them to the lesson or discussion. I offered suggestions linked to environment, stimulus and to perhaps recall a particular lesson in which they enjoyed but ultimately, that they took away a positive and enriched learning experience as a result.

The lesson opened with this discussion, using a learning styles visual aid to scaffold ideas. We discussed particular tasks such as role plays, step-by-step processes, examples and collaboration which were written up to use as support for the lesson.

I then outlined the agenda for the three lessons, explaining that each group would be presented with an extract from the play that they would analyse and interpret, before then creating a task/mini-teach for the rest of the class to complete to enable them to understand the language within the extract, and the significance of that extract to the assessment question that the class have had since the start of term. My only stipulation was that the task could be completed without the creating group being present; that way, the consolidation lesson could be set up as a carousel of tasks, with students selecting their particular focus. Each group would have a group director (student selected) that would have the task of delegating tasks out to the other members of their group, and compiling an essay-style question that could be answered using their particular extract. The question would provide a sense of direction for the tasks, and also act as evidence of learning at the end of the series of lessons.

Each group had an extract from a particular moment of significance within the play that could be used at a later point to respond to the assessment question, and a help sheet of questions to scaffold their analysis.

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I deliberately avoided providing any particular structure to the lesson; I simply outlined the intended (but subject to change) agenda for the week, and then stood back.

Observations showed that those that possessed strong leadership skills immediately took on the task at hand, and worked to understand the text in front of them. Individuals used the play script to indicate to them the context of the conversation, or used online reference tools to help them to understand the text. Admittedly, some students struggled without the guidance of a didactic lesson, but this was the minority; the groups that flourished and developed their own task prioritisation were the groups that had second-guessed my choice of leader.

Intervention was in place through visiting each group at a later point to oversee their initial plans, and to assist with the wording of their essay-style questions. For example, ‘how does Beatrice sounding like a man matter?’ was adapted to, ‘How does Beatrice’s masculinity present itself through her use of language?’

Each group focussed upon annotation and analysis of the extract before compiling their question and particular task. Naturally, each group had their own way of reaching the same end goal; selected groups collaboratively mindmapped, or discussed in turn the different ideas. I am pleased that each group seems to have created a completely different task for their re-teach, and the ideas are both simple but effective, without my input.

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As a plenary, each student was asked to select a way of demonstrating either their learning journey for the lesson, or what they predicted this journey to look like next lesson (preparation of their tasks). Some students chose to use the twitter wall to summarise their analysis, whilst others used the whiteboard to make a mini to-do for next lesson. Results were really pleasing overall, and the girls responded fantastically; it was almost a reflection of my own teaching over the last term, to see the plenary tasks that they felt were most effective put into practice without prompt which was incredibly useful.

Next lesson, the groups will create their own learning objective, finalise their re-teach, and trial their own task before the final lesson where students will select particular extract workstations to visit and select which essay question they wish to respond to to evidence their own learning. The class will then complete exit slips to document their feelings towards the experience overall, and help me to understand any tweaks before I give it a go with my other classes where independent learning isn’t quite a prevalent.

Gaps so far? Collaborative groups are key to this. The groups that required intervention were the ones where a natural leader did not surface. Beyond that, engagement was fantastic because of the element of choice, so I think that if this were to succeed with other classes, as with all great ideas, grouping is KEY!

Additionally, time. As always. The girls asked if they could prepare materials for their re-teach outside of the lesson, but clearly this would not always happen within a class. I cannot expect to have that reaction every time, so I think it is important to allocate sufficient time for effective preparation and time to respond to the final question through a piece of extended writing. The second (and possibly third) lesson will be observed, so I am looking forward to getting another set of eyes involved. Another colleague is teaching the same set of lessons to his group so I will be able to gauge success beyond my group as well. Pupils guiding their own development? Who’d have thunk it.

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