Independent learning in the Classroom

Revolutions and civil uprisings occur because an individual’s right to freedom of choice, to determine their own path and express who they want to be is being prevented. The history of state education in the UK, as correctly summarised by Ken Robinson, began with the state trying to manufacture students who where identical replicates of each other. At no point had anyone tried to give the power to the individual to decide on how they should be educated. But, what does this look like?

I have recently completed a series of blogs, Cultural capital in education, focusing on the lack of non-cognitive skills being developed in the classroom. I was left wondering, well how in the classroom do we support the development of non-cognitive skills. To do this, like many practitioners will recommend, identify what you want the students to be able to do in the end and go from there. After speaking to a colleague we both decided that the ability to be independent, motivated and self-reflective were very important to developing student autonomy. So, here is our non-cognitive goal, students are to be independent and self-reflective.

The academic side

The extraction and removal of metal from its rock ore is a global multi-billion pound industry. During this unit of work L1+ will be taking their first steps to understanding this industry and investigating the basic principles that underpin it.

Here is a list of basic academic criterium.

    The Techniques being investigated:
  1. Displacement reactions
  2. Electrolysis
  3. Phytomining and Bioleaching
    The scientific skills being developed:
  1. Writing word equations
  2. Writing symbol equations
  3. Balancing symbol equations
  4. Writing balanced half-equations
    Non-cognitive skills attained:
  1. Independence (Choosing to attend lectures)
  2. Self-regulated learning(WINK activities)
  3. Presentations (Leading to the production of a final podcast)
How did it all come together?
Its easy to see how pupils will make progress with respect to the academic lines, but progress in non-cognitive skills is difficult to measure, let alone the difficulty associated with equating a definition (Jeffery et al, 2010).
At the start of any journey we need to know where we are going and how we are going to get there to feel comfortable whilst in transition. The first part should be to generate a learning map or guide that allows pupils to see exactly what they will be expected to do.  Using real smart (computer program), learning objects, success criteria, activities, resources etc. were all supplied to the students. See below:
Tasks and activities on real smart are structured to get students to immediately apply the knowledge they are being exposed to,  this develops an intrinsic awareness of what the student does and does not know. Pupils are then given the option to access online resources, in class resources or a series of masterclasses (teacher led talk). This process reinforces the meta-cognitive process of learning. A student’s academic self-concept (the belief in themselves to complete an activity) is constantly supported, they are aware that there are many opportunities for them to be successful and the support they require is always present and optional.
Finally, bring meaning to the work they are doing in the lesson into the present not 6 weeks later (ref blog on the wink activity). Students should understand that their work every lesson will inform their progress grade.
But how did I monitor progress with respect to these key attributes? This process is proving very difficult to defined, however there is a light at the end of the tunnel, some work with colleagues has UCL Academy might have the answer. Have a look at this google doc to see a character matrix that has been develop. What this space for future developments!
As an educator, I had students wanting to attend masterclasses, proactively engaging and asking questions about the topic, turn in high quality work and have 70% of a class make outstanding progress. The best part is, the focus was on them not me!