1 Apr 2016

Self Directed Learning Pilot - Social Studies

I have just finished the first two period Self Directed Learning (SDL) session with my year 9 Social Studies classes. My goal is to teach citizenship and the skills that go along with this.  I aim to increase motivation and engagement in the classroom and with the learning content.

I wrote a post explaining my overall plan for social studies throughout this year with SDL as a part of it.  You can read that here - What Would Students Do If They Could Learn Anything?

SDL is an opportunity of freedom in their learning.  To find what they are passionate about and interested in and to pursue that down whatever path they choose.
It is be restricted by the resources and time allowances of the classroom.  Once they have latched onto something they want to learn more about then it is up to them.

The must haves are a short plan, and a rubric to assess a citizenship skill they have chosen, with a self assessment and reflection at the end.  You can read my post on how I do reflection here - Teaching Self Reflection.

I decided early on in my planning that I couldn't just throw these students into this environment and expect success so I planned what they would need to learn before they could tackle this challenge.

I led workshop/teaching sessions on the following topics throughout Term 1

What is Citizenship, a citizen and a community?
What is learning?
Recording learning through reflections.
Measuring Learning through rubrics.
Growth mindset - Challenges and failures are when we learn the most
Hacker mindset - Take what you have (you class time) make it do something more for you.

So How Did They Go?

Overall engagement and motivation are high.  Most worked in small groups between 2 and 5 people with a few on their own and several larger groups.  The larger groups were harder for themselves to manage and the single people would benefit in the future from developing their skills of working with others.

There were several small groups that didn't really get off the ground, the hardest and most critical aspect of this is the planning phase.  If the plan is not practical, they are not excited about it, or they can't think of or decide on something then they get stuck.  A good reflection on the SDL process with a growth mindset for next time is prescribed.

The sorts of things that the students chose to do are:

  • Various Minecraft challenges with citizenships skills of Cooperation and Teamwork, Creativity
  • A coding game, Code Cracker - Patience
  • Sports, mostly basketball - Self Improvement and Teamwork
  • Learning a magic trick - Self Improvement
  • Learning a new drum song - Patience
  • Short filming making - Time Management
  • Studying Ancient Japanese Culture - Internet Research
  • Gardening within the community - Cooperation

I see lots of opportunity as they get their heads around these skills of taking control of their learning, Such as:

  • Getting deeper into their own interests.
  • For working with different people and developing their emotional intelligence and relationship skills.
  • Developing authentic purpose
The feedback from the students has been positive and they seem to enjoy the freedom and ownership they have given, and for the most part respect it.  This sort of learning relies on making a good plan at the start.  If it is something that they truly feel they ownership over and are excited about that is great.  I expect they more we do this the better they will get at creating plans that fit within the resources we have available and start being more creative within this space as their confidence in directing their learning grows.

A big challenge for this process for me is letting go of control.  It is similar to the Community Simulator in Minecraft I have been developing.  There is too much going on for me to be able to keep a tab on everything that is happening in every group.  I can accept this on the following assumptions 
  1. That the students do want to learn and will be focused and on task when following what excites them.
  2. That they will come to me when they need help.
  3. That I can provide enough structure to ensure learning is recorded and evidenced.
  4. I do not know everything.
  5. They know how they learn best.
  6. They can work out what contexts they like to learn in.
  7. Taking ownership of this learning will promote the skills of a life long learner.
The proof will be in the pudding so to speak so taking the time to really look through their reflections and see what they write about their learning will be essential to informing future development of the SDL process.

What I am excited about is the possibility of 25  minds (24 students and me) creating a learning programme that is robust. fun, motivating and engaging rather than just my one mind.  

1 comment:

  1. Inspiring as always, I look forward to reading more about their SDL over the following months.