Monday, 10 November 2014

Giving the Kids a Voice:Impacting on Learning Design

Recently, I have been reflecting on the place that student voice has within the context of our school and how we can best leverage it to help create a challenging, meaningful and authentic learning experiences for the children.  I believe that their voices should be shaping our systems and structures from the 'top' down and as a school we value personalisation of schools and placing the student at the centre of their learning.  The process shouldn't just be about listening to students but empowering the students to seek out problems and action solutions.  

At a recent PLN, our group of school leaders discussed the role of student councils and leadership opportunities within schools in general. We reflected on the role of a school council and how the students are designated organisation and/or fundraising type activities to run.  We talked about the possibilities from organising councils made up of a cross section of school and how we could create more meaningful projects for the students to develop their skills.   We reflected that in some school's there is a desire to give students a voice but there isn't necessarily the freedoms/opportunities for them to fully realise the impact that student voice can have on shaping an engaging, purposeful curriculum and experiences.  In summary, there is a varied understanding and value placed on student voice across school.

Something that we are prototyping at H.P.P.S, is engaging our students in the learning design right from the get-go.  Usually staff would plan our 'immersion' phase together using future focussed skill sets as a framework for creating 'taster' or provocative sessions for the students to explore new interests, passions and develop curiosities.  As a trial, leading up to our next immersion in our senior learning common, we have asked a focus group to help us to co-create what that immersion would look like.  Below is a reflection by a student on his involvement in the process so far.

Feedback from other students involved in the focus group has been positive too.  they've thanked us for allowing them to be involved and made connections with the bigger picture of learning design at the school.  Most of all, they are seeing how we value their thinking, ideas and interests and are committed in making exciting learning happen for them.

The process that we are following is using an adapted 'Learning Design Process' (NoTosh) that was introduced to me at #GTASyd.  The process is assisting us in guiding the students in identifying a problem, creating ideas to fix the problem, prototyping and creating solutions.  


To help the student understand the bigger picture of learning deign they were given research that as teachers we would use to spark our thinking of ideas for immersion.  Basically, they received a crash course on curriculum development.   The actual research was pitched at an adult level however lots of the students took it home, made notes, had it read to them in bed by parents and some highlighted a few bullet points or simply didn't have time to read it.  All of those responses were fine.  I had the students who had read and had a good grasp of the research summarise for the others.  That in itself was a good learning experience.  it was so important that they fully understood but were able to see a potential problem from a range of perspectives.

From there, we immersed ourselves in seeking out to explore what the last immersion felt like and reflect on what the students experienced at the time.  They talked a lot during this phase sharing openly and honestly. They asked us (learning advisors) questions about why we designed immersion the way we did  to try and seek a better understanding.  The conversations we deep around the essence of what we wanted to achieve.

This part of the design process was all about gathering stories, information, data and different perspectives to get an overall idea of what the issue is. (NoTosh)


We then went into the SYNTHESIS, stage of the process.  We connected what we had learned and tried to formulate into words the problem that was worth solving.

The H.P.P.S students discovered that the immersion went far too long and they didn't feel they got to experience the wide range of tasters on offer as they were locked into workshops with the one learning advisor.  They also felt that too many of our immersion workshops lacked handson, real-life learning and authentic contexts.

The students were then given 5minutes to IDEATION.  That is where they think of as many ideas as possible that may help solve the problem.  The sticky notes above show some of there ideas.  Our next step, is to go back to these ideas, filter them and then make the learning happen.

As learning advisors, we were surprised by some of their ideas as they were outside of the square and things we hadn't predicted they'd suggest.  We are also feeling more closely connected to our learners and what may engage them in their learning.  The students have given us the framework from which to design our immersion and will help to teach it as well.  One of the aspects they reflected they'd like to increase is the use of experts, students as teachers and experiences.  

We will honour their voice, what they'd like to learn and experience.  This immersion design and implementation will become our PROTOTYPE for future planning and as we share across our learning commons may impact on how others are planning and leveraging student voice.  We will seek feedback from other Learning Advisors to see if this process (or parts of) could influence planning for the full range of ages in the school.

My #GTA moonshot is all about utilising student voice to impact on schools beginning in my own school context.  The next part of the puzzle is sharing with others to seek feedback and hopefully inspire.  With frequent foot traffic from visiting groups of teachers and school leaders through Hobsonville Point Primary this part is relatively easy but my next wondering is how can we can get the students sharing their learning to inspire other students beyond the focus the modern learning environment physical spaces.  I feel that this will become my actual moonshot in action.