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Adding to your Tool Kit

Autonomously Mastered Purposeful education (AMPed) is in its second year of implementation at Shekou International School (SIS). The premise of the program is to have students learn what they want to learn, an approach to self-directed learning, or a Genius hour variant. This type of learning typically happens once a week for 45 minutes for students to show progress of their own learning project. There is room for maturity in the program but we are happy to see that it has made some lasting impressions on students and staff at SIS.

I recently attend a workshop at 21st Century Learning Hong Kong (21CLHK) titled “Self Directed Learning Projects” by Dr. Bernard Bull. Dr. Bull has done extensive research on contemporary approaches to teaching and learning. His investigation into student directed learning organizations as well as democratic schools has allowed him to formulate many opinions on this approach to learning. He still recognizes that there is much to learn and that there isn’t enough research around this practice.

I found myself identifying with a lot of key concepts that Dr. Bull presented, but as the session unravelled, it was apparent that I still had much to learn and apply to the AMPed program at SIS. There were many pieces that stuck with me during his session. I want to share two pieces that one could implement into their practice, regardless if they are thinking of etching out time to have their students experience self-directed learning.

The first insight is something that we should all have students doing, with our without the implementation of Genius Hour, iTime, or Twenty Percent time, and that is to have students develop their own personal learning network. Dr. Bull points out that in schools whose pedagogical focus is practicing self-directed learning, students need to develop a personalized learning network (PLN) which they can rely on, including both peers and adults. This PLN helps guide learning and provides feedback. I recently teamed up with a co-worker to help explain to students what a PLN is and why they need one to help with their learning. We both feel it’s essential for the growth and development of students as it has been for the development of educators for the past decade or more. For more details on how to get students to create their own PLNs, view the clip below.

The second insight, which complements students building their own PLNs, is to have students complete a three hundred and sixty degree analysis of themselves. Dr. Bull mentioned this, but I also saw this on hack education. It’s important to get a complete view of the student so teachers or advisors can support their students and understand the child from all angles. The three hundred sixty degree analysis allows for teachers to be an intelligence agent. A teacher who doesn’t know the student very well can now enter into a conversation with that student, actually knowing something that learner. Using this self-analysis, counselor are no longer the only ones privy to important information about the whole child.

These are two practices that I will have ready for next year, and will have students and staff revisit. Having a better picture of who our students are and where their interests lie, then helping students develop a network that supports those interests, is key to improving the AMPed initiative.

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