What if…. we redesign our approach towards Professional Learning?

I once had the pleasure of joining an online author workshop with Grade 3 students and the author, Mo O’Hara. One of the many perks to being a school principal! During her talk with students, she inspired us all to pause, look around and constantly ask the question ‘What if..?‘ to fire up our imaginations as writers.

Since then, I have found myself using this simple phrase ‘What if..’ as a means to help expand my thinking. So much so that I found I had created a kind of ‘What if-erfall’ of thoughts and wonderings. So here is the first cluster of – ‘What if’s...’ that I am going to delve into.

Learning Growth

What if we radically rethink professional growth and student learning growth – not viewing these in isolation of each other but as an interconnected part of a learning ecosystem?
What if we valued all learning (personal and professional) as contributing to our own, and our learners’, growth and development?
What if the journey of learning growth for students and teachers was embedded in the school day with personalised learning time – space to exchange projects and ideas, share research?

Schools recognise the relationship between professional learning and student learning. When we talk about, and plan, professional learning opportunities it is always within the frame and goal that it will improve and elevate student learning. However, I wonder if we are missing an opportunity to really honour the interconnected nature of student and teacher learning growth? Could we design systems that truly leverage this interconnectedness and make it visible? How could we cultivate a learning culture that enables teachers and students to feed into each other’s learning and growth?

So, imagine with me – A Learner Growth Model, one that is relevant and engages everyone in the community to focus on learning growth.

As with everything, starting with the why is crucial.

Why consider a school-wide Learner Growth model?

Learning as Community

Community is a place for thriving conversations, building connections and supporting each other in working towards different shared goals whilst being aligned in our beliefs and values. If we truly, honestly, viewed learning growth as all of our individual and collective responsibility and made this visible imagine how we could….

  • increase shared belief in capacities
  • create an authentic, meaningful space to develop and practice skills
  • nurture dispositions that help us thrive as learners
  • encourage a deeply embedded practice of conferring about learning.

Learning as Future Focused

I was reading this recently published e-book, One Foot in the Future by The Big Questions Institute – a truly fascinating read and I recommend taking a look!

This e-book highlights many important points and raises crucial questions for us about the future of learning. In it, the authors talk about the term, Permacrisis, which describes “an extended period of instability and insecurity, especially one resulting from a series of catastrophic events.” The world may be entering such a phase with change becoming ever more rapid. This concept of ‘prefigurative culture’ is explained below.

“We’re living in a “prefigurative culture,” a term the anthropologist Margaret Mead used in the 1970s to predict a time when children in large measure know more than their elders about how the world actually works.”

‘One Foot in the Future’ The Big Questions Institute

I let this sink in. Our learners are quickly gaining a deeper and more current/future focused understanding of how the world works than we have. They have access to so much more than ever before at their fingertips. The systems and practices of the past are being challenged. So the question rather becomes why would we not tap into our younger learners to ideate with, learn from, learn together? If we are to navigate change and harness it best then we must listen to our young people and engage with purpose and an open-mind.

Learning as Joyful

Learning brings us joy. It sparks ideas, grows more questions and fulfils us. Why not share this experience of joy across ages? If we could encourage a more expansive view could this joy be further magnified? Observing others grow as learners is inspiring. Making visible our actions to help others learn better is crucial to promoting equity, removing barriers and harnessing opportunities for deeper learning.

Learning as Mentorship

We all benefit from being mentored and we all benefit from mentoring others. If we think of this in the context of the inter-relationship between the learning growth of adults and children then facilitating an environment when these learning conversations and relationships could be nurtured makes sense. Learning is reciprocal.

Learning as Process

We all know that learning is a process, not a finite destination but a never ending one that builds layer on layer. Making the process of learning come to life as a cycle of growth, one that is interconnected can support us all to strengthen our capacity as learners. Learning growth conversations that are embedded in that process challenge, support and spur us further. The learning process also continually calls for us to readjust, seek out perspectives and build on our questions. Why not do this as part of a community based approach? Create systems that encourage engagement between young learners and adults.

What next?

What if….we design a Learner Growth Model for our learning communities that becomes embedded in our own personalized learning pathways. What if….we embrace our interconnectedness across the ages and create environments and systems that allow dialogue and learning to flourish?

Time to design….

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