Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Promoting a collaborative supportive learning environment with understanding of how ākonga learn

This reflection related to criteria 7 and 8 of the Registered Teaching Criteria. 

Criteria 7.i. To promote a collaborative inclusive and supportive learning environment, demonstrating effective management of the learning setting which incorporates successful strategies to engage and motivate ākonga. 

Criteria 8.iii. To encourage ākonga to take responsibility for their own learning and behaviour. 

Criteria 8.iv. To assist ākonga to think critically about information and ideas and to reflect on their own learning. 

Recently, in an attempt to make students more aware of their learning outcomes and my expectations I have begun to use a variety of rubrics to aid my learners in producing quality work. Research shows me that learners are more engaged and motivated to complete a task when they believe in their capabilities (Vosniadou, 2001). I believe that engagement also occurs when students have autonomy over how and what they are learning. Moreover, Vosniadou also states that social, rather than ability grouping, has a more positive impact on learner motivation. 

Therefore during our current 'Making Waves' topic, and reading of After the Spill By Maria Gill students were given the choice from several activities to complete. 
Initially, learners read the text in their ability reading groups, scaffolding for comprehension, vocabulary and linking text with diagrams. The following day the tasks were introduced [Figure.1]

Learners then decided what task they wanted to participate in. I was pleased to note that majority went with what they were interested in, not just what their friends were doing. This showed me that they had an intrinsic thirst for knowledge on that, or were motivated by the type of task. Engagement & Motivation! 

Next, and this is where the fun really started to happen, in our social groups we worked with me, to develop our own success criteria in the form of a rubric. 
This allowed me to really get a grasp on what they were interested in, while coaxing the specific terminology words from them: identify, cause, explain, resources, describe... From here we not only created a rubric, but co-constructed what the outcome might look like. A plan! 

Following this, using their thinking and words I was able to determine the staggered levels of achievement for the rubric, under the categories that they prescribed. Throughout the development of the instructional rubric learners were contributing, excited and talking about their understandings. As I progress with these activities I aim to have my learners develop more of the levels of achievement for themselves. 

One of the key parts of this lesson which struck me, was one of my learners who was very engaged and contributing, was holding her head in her hands in despair at the end. "What is wrong?" I asked. She told me "See this is the problem, I have all these great ideas, and I get it, but then when I leave you, I forget it all!" I told her and I hope my hypothesis is correct, that the use of our co-constructed rubric will help her achieve the plan and goals she has helped to construct. 

The construction of this rubric is aiding my students to take responsibility for their learning, and reflect on it when they use it to self assess. Moreover, many of the criteria are around thinking centred criteria, things which Andrade's (2000) research recommends. 

Andrade, H. G. (February, 2000). Using Rubrics to Promote Thinking and LearningEducational Leadership. 57(5) pp.13-18 

Vosniadou, S. (2001). How Children Learn. Bellegarde, France: SADAG. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001254/125456e.pdf

Observation notes received from Anne Sinclair as evidence to meeting Registered Teacher Criteria 8: 
"Relating to the akonga’s experiences so they can make connections within subject areas. By using their experiences eg. Making Waves - all can bring their own experiences to the learning and share their knowledge in a meaningful and productive way. You are constantly thinking of ways to connect the learners to the learning and you realise how important it is to provide concrete experiences to your teaching in order to demystify the learning for the class. You can see how difficult it is to move from abstract ideas without ‘seeing’ what the example looks like in real terms so the connections can be made. By using money in your Maths example you created a bridge to prior knowledge rather than just using written examples. Good to use concrete materials with these learners to give them images and more confidence to have a try at new problems. Also good to hear them talking about strategies they used and why they used them"

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