At the beginning of this academic year, I attended a fabulous workshop on Personalisation and Learner Agency with Bek Galloway. It has had a profound impact on my classroom practise and I’m working slowly and steadily to implement many of her ideas and pedagogies with my Year 2 learners. The key words there are ‘slowly and steadily’. I have learned from previous experience that learners can’t be thrown into the deep end here, and it takes time to establish routines where learners can make reflective choices about how to move their learning forward independently.
The particular activity I am going to speak about here is one I designed to help learners see the steps they need to work through to manage a project independently successfully. Of course, this is not fully agentic learning, as I controlled many different aspects of the task. However, it did introduce the idea of choice over how to move towards a learning intention. And it helped me work on the notion that we should not be doing things for the learners that they could be doing for themselves!
We had been looking at Time for a few weeks, and after considering how we measured time and why this was important, we were starting to look at clocks in detail. At this point in the past, I had always trawled Pinterest for a fun clock that the learners could make. And we would all make it, in accordance with my instructions. This year I did it a little differently.
We started by establishing the purpose of the activity. We wanted to think about what the face of a clock looks like – how numbers were spaced, the length of the hands, and where the hands were placed. We used this to establish our success criteria.Then we looked at Pinterest together:, thinking about which of the crafts would lead us towards our learning intention.
Then we made a Google doc of the pictures that we thought would best help us achieve the objective…and that we would enjoy creating!
Once the learners had selected the clock they wanted to make, they gathered with other learners who had selected the same clock and planned what they would need to accomplish the task. There was rich discussion about the different materials, where they would gather them from, and how they would assemble them.
Once their list of resources was complete, they got to work:
They worked earnestly. Painstaking effort was put into ensuring numbers were in the right place. Clock hands were discarded and re-made for being either too short or too long. They consulted with other learners making similar clocks to them, asking for advice. They kept returning to the success criteria – had they done a good job?
The motivation and engagement was so much more palpable than if I’d made the decision of which clock we would all make, and prepared the resources for them. They developed a multitude of skills besides the original learning intention of understanding the structure of a clock face: the importance of planning, the location of different resources, and how to make a choice about their learning that works for them. Some learners needed no support, while others needed constant reassurance about the process, and this helped me to see where they are on the road to agency and what measures I need to have in place in the future to support this. For this is definitely just the beginning for all of us!