“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing…and the main thing is learning.” (Student Centered Leadership, 2011)
Each of us are in the process of committing our school and board improvement actions to paper; data has been and continues to be analyzed, and needs assessments are emerging, theories of action, learning goals and related criteria for success (diagnostic criteria) are being co-constructed, and structures to allow time to think and learn together are being put into place.
The deep thinking that our educators are engaged in during this process is encouraging. As the School Effectiveness Lead, I have had the privilege of engaging in reflective conversations that have allowed me insights into the needs of the learners and the passion and commitment of our educators. The overwhelming message is that our district is filled with educators who are committed to continuous growth both for themselves and for the learners who they influence. This is the culture of learning being realized. It is overwhelming.
I knew we could get to this place (okay, some nights I worried…but those nights have become fewer and father between in the past months!). I have been thinking a great deal about the power of self-efficacy…the belief that we can produce the desired or intended results – that we can reach our goals – and how vital efficacy is to actually realizing our goals. When we look at our standardized assessment results, it is easy to lose efficacy. However, when we actually drill down into those results, I see some growth. I see few students achieving level one, most students participating in the assessment, and MANY students approaching provincial standard. There is celebration here (and areas of need for sure – that is our work!). As I monitor and support ongoing focus and growth in learning with you, I am seeing the impact of our work and beginning to feel optimistic. I am realizing that we are exemplifying a growth mindset and learning from our experiences; as we do, we are collectively making a difference for our students. I am beginning to understand the relationship between efficacy, success in goal achievement and well-being.
Adult efficacy, of course, leads me to student efficacy – and my wondering if students actually believe that they can reach their goals. Can students articulate their goals, measure their own progress on the journey to achieve those goals, and thus see some growth and success…which may lead them to possess self-efficacy? Is this not what helps students to actualize a growth mindset? I challenge you to link student’s feeling of success to their academic well-being; when students are feeling successful, do they, like me, want to keep learning? Does success inspire and lead to positive well-being (if their basis needs are being met as well)?
I hope that you immediately began thinking about district’s Conditions for Learning – especially the section entitled, Foundational Principles to be Developed in the Learner. Here is our thinking from that section so far:
- Mindset/positive attitude
- Open to learning Stance
- Learner sees themselves in the process (relevant) Learner Centered – Learner choice/learner voice – learner autonomy
- Seeing a purpose – meaningful, real-world connections
- Feels in control (learner)
- Foster positive beliefs
- Intrinsic motivation of learners
- Learners have to see the relevancy in the work they are doing and have a voice in their learning
- Demonstrating Respect
- Open Communication (to build trust)
- Knowing self as a learner (metacognition)
- Problem Solving abilities (embedding higher order thinking skills)
- A sense of wonder and inquiry
Do you believe that if we explicitly foster a learner centered environment, that we will increase learners’ sense of efficacy? Can you see the relationship with our theory of action “If we foster learner centered environments and pedagogy, then learners will possess an increased sense of belonging and be motivated to learn.”?
We are beginning to understand that Our Conditions for Learning are in service of the academic goals that we have identified; thus we are collectively moving towards building our understanding of how to foster these conditions in the entire district (for EVERY learner). This focus is being championed by the Ministry of Education as well; the recognition that we are educating the whole child. We are cautious with messaging as we know that some might begin to think that we are moving away from our academic agenda. Please remember that, as educational institutions, our role is to give students the capacities to survive in the world and to be productive and contributing members of society; this means that our academic goals of reading, writing and math must remain at the forefront. However, we must remember that the environment in which students spend much of their lives must exemplify one that enables them to learn. Learners must believe that learning is a process that they are capable of engaging in.
What are your thoughts?
Until next week!