This post was originally published on https://learnercenteredleadership.blogspot.com/ on March 29, 2020.
While we continue this mass effort to provide at-home, 100% remote learning options for now more than 50 million students in the US, our instructional models must adapt to the circumstances. While we can mourn the many, many hardships and disadvantages of school closures, there are also opportunities to lean into new possibilities. For example, in a physical classroom with 25-35 students, individual conferencing with every student is impractical and an inefficient use of time. In the current context, the prevalence of asynchronous options now makes individual (or small group) conferencing a very practical and meaningful way to promote connectedness and ongoing learning.
Given this possibility, how might we frame these conversations to empower students to increasingly see, own, and drive their own learning? I would offer the following framework which helps to scaffold a process anchored on a learning cycle which includes understanding, planning, engaging, and evaluating and which moves from teacher-led to co-led and then to learner-led. In many ways it is a representation of the classic “I do, we do, you do” process that helps to develop capacity over time. In the context of individual or small-group conferencing – which I’ll also refer to in this post as a check in – this same process is relevant and applicable.
In addition to anchoring on this learning cycle, use of learner-centered principles in the check in process can cultivate the development of student agency. Agency is generally defined as the power to act. From a student perspective, it manifests as “I know myself and I see myself as full of possibility.” When we overlay the intention to develop agency with the learning cycle, we see why goal-setting is one of the fundamental practices of a learner-centered experiences. This is why goals are such an important element of the check in conversations.
Finally, while the industrial/mechanistic view of education often holds the perspective that academic learning is disassociated from our social and emotional processing, the modern learner-centered perspective recognizes that our emotional wellbeing is deeply integrated with all of our experiences, especially in the sense that we must feel a level of safety and security to engage our prefrontal cortex for meaningful academic achievement. At all times, and especially in our present circumstances, we must connect with students, understand their current realities, and demonstrate empathy and compassion in order to promote vulnerability and engagement.
With this context in mind, I offer the following questions as a starter list for learner-centered conferencing, or what I’m here calling the “Check In Checklist.”
With the learning cycle referenced above and the shift from teacher-led to co-led to learner-led, educators should anticipate that students will have difficulty at first identifying their own goals, reflecting on their progress, and developing their own learning plans. Educators will likely need to model this process for students and gradually shift responsibility to the students over time. This will naturally vary by the developmental level of the students. In addition, as waves of this Coronavirus crisis ebb and flow we can anticipate that progress will very likely be nonlinear for many of our students. This is why the first couple of questions are foundational and teachers may find that sometimes the best that we can do is to provide a caring, compassionate connection.
Relationships have always been at the heart of education. Check Ins create the space to cultivate strong relationships and also create a surface for students to better understand themselves and to take ownership over their own learning. Let’s do our best in this current crisis to find ways to connect with each of our learners and help them to see that they are full of possibility.
For more information on how to create system-wide schedule to promote check-ins, please see this blog post.
Please use #LCLeadership to share your experience and suggestions related to check ins.