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Enforced Independence – Rhonda Jessen.com

Enforced Independence

I have been thinking about ways to create a structure that acts more as support, scaffolding and launching pad than a prison. How can we create a learning environment that can help students learn about learning, their learning, while still meeting the administrivia requirements of the system?Last week in week in Rhizo14 we were exploring the topic of “Enforced Independence.”

We were challenged to:
“Explore a model of enforced independence. How do we create a learning environment where people must be responsible? How do we assure ourselves that learners will self-assess and self-remediate?”

One of the things that excited me about the Career and Technology Foundations (CTF) curriculum when I first heard about it (a few years before I was seconded to Alberta Education to actually work on CTF) was the emphasis on metacognition. When I did my Tech Ed training at Acadia University I learned to teach my students to use the Design Loop. Students would identify the problem, brainstorm potential solutions, select one or two ideas to refine, select the best idea and develop it. Then they would assess their solution to see if it solved the problem. It is a good system, one that is commonly used in industry, so I felt that I was teaching my students a system that would help them respond to challenges they encountered even after they had left the classroom. The model I followed in my media and computer classes, of using the Design Loop to frame student projects, did encourage students to think about their learning – what went well, what didn’t and even think about ways they might use things that they learned during the project in other ways or future projects; but just as a small part of their self assessment of the project after they had finished all of the steps of the Design Loop.

I didn’t even know the term metacongition when I encountered my first draft of the CTF program of studies. It was a little different then, it was a little longer, and the assessment was split into five levels instead of three, but it has always been focused on four processes: design, create appraise and communicate (or articulate as it was called in earlier drafts.) I had been teaching the first three processes, but the emphasis on the forth process was new to me. I was excited to think about what a difference it could make for my students if we got them thinking about their thinking throughout their work, instead of just at the end.

We have spent the last year ensuring that CTF aligns with Alberta Education’s Curriculum Redesign initiative and exploring how the Cross-Curricular Competencies and Numeracy and Literacy Benchmarks could be linked to CTF outcomes. One thing that has not changed is the importance of all four processes, and our commitment to ensuring that thinking about what and how they learned is an important part of teaching our students to be successful.

The current draft of CTF has 13 learner outcomes. One of them is:

“I communicate about my learning”

It is a very short outcome, especially when compared to some of the junior high Science outcomes, but we think that it has a lot of potential to change how students think about themselves as learners. Hopefully it will allow students to think about how they learn and to take more ownership of their own learning. Imagine what would happen if all grade 5-9 students were given the tools and the encouragement to think about how they learn best. It has the potential to change how they learn, and what they expect from their learning experiences for the rest of their lives.

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