Reading about New Pedagogies for Deep Learning this week was an affirming experience. Many of the ideas discussed in the videos and articles are what we have been talking about at my school. They align with the goals of our collaborative learning communities model that we have been developing.

Back in 2015, the administration proposed the establishment of a learning community. A team of teachers would share responsibility for an entire grade of students. Moving from single-celled classrooms to a shared learning community would hopefully allow us to better meet the learning needs of the students, and develop a program that included more student agency.

Learning Partnerships

One of the benefits that we didn’t necessarily anticipate was the development of stronger learning partnerships throughout the grade. As students had more opportunities to develop learning partnerships with a wider variety of their peers and a wider range of teachers, the quality of their relationships improved. As a team of teachers, we formed stronger learning partnerships, learning together about how best to meet the needs of our students. Since then the model has spread to other grades in the school, and partnerships have developed across the school.

Deep Learning

Teachers looking at student-created learning goals to develop workshops to support them.

Deep Learning was a new term for me, but the ideas of deep learning resonate with me in terms of student agency, and the ownership of learning that we strive to give our students. The revised PYP program emphasizes student agency, and the ability for students to have voice and choice in their learning. Our shifting role as adults in the classroom from teachers to facilitators and partners in learning means that we are focusing on developing students’ capacity to take part in defining their learning goals and success criteria. In grades 4 and 5 at our school, students develop their own daily schedules in order to meet their personal learning goals. They have the choice to take part in a variety of teacher-directed workshops that have been tailored to the goals set by the students, or to work independently or in groups towards their goal, with teachers present to support and guide them in their learning. 

Don’t Go Off The Deep End

In “A Rich Seam”, one line, in particular, jumped off the page at me:

“But at the same time, teachers cannot simply let go of the reins. Teachers risk erring by standing too far to the side, by being too ambiguous about learning goals or failing to define success”

– A Rich Seam, New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning

This is the worry of almost every stakeholder involved when a new model of this nature is presented. How much agency is too much agency? Through trial and error, and constant conversations between learning partners, our learning community teams have been working to find that sweet spot. Of course, the truth is that that sweet spot is different for every child, and every teacher, and every community, and it is a part of the learning journey to find it.