This year, my students and I have been focusing on self-regulation in the technology lounge. It is one of six learning skills on the Ontario report card, which defines it as:
- Sets own individual goals and monitors progress towards achieving them.
- Seeks clarification or assistance when needed.
- Assesses and reflects critically on own strengths, needs, and interests.
- Identifies learning opportunities, choices, and strategies to meet personal needs and achieve goals.
- Perseveres and makes an effort when responding to challenges.
I’m really passionate about getting students to drive their own learning. I think learning is really powerful when we teach ourselves things we want to know. My feeling was that by using a learning skill as the focus, it would continue to free students to follow their own interests and passions to connect to any curriculum subject area.
Most teachers see their students more in the first two weeks of school than I see my students all year long, so it can be really hard for me to get to know everyone to the depth that I’d like to or to really take notice of the details of a student’s progress. Knowing my limitations, combined with the fact that a big piece of self-regulation is reflection and goal-setting, I decided to get the students to help prepare their own documentation of self-regulation.
I had each of my 400-ish students fill out a Google Form which prompted them to reflect on the year so far and set a goal for the rest of the year. For grades 1 and 2, I conferenced with each student and typed their answers for them to help guide and expedite the process. For students in grades 3-5, they filled out the form independently. I was really impressed with many students’ answers. Here is a sample of responses from grade 3 students:
I loved their insightfulness! I love how ambitious they are!
Even though they are permitted to find their own activities, at this age very few of the students have begun to stray from the learning opportunities I have demonstrated for them (code.org, Duolingo, and Mind Snacks French seem to be the popular ones with this group though some are wandering off to Scratch). I continue to debate with myself about the value of open-ended activities vs teacher-guided/provocations/demonstrations. My hypothesis is that students haven’t yet had enough time to bore of the tools I showed them at the beginning of the year since they come to my class so infrequently and that they would start to explore more off on their own if given more time. The older grades do tend to “wander” more into their own ideas.
These girls were working on creating and programming a model with Lego WeDo. They moved locations so that they could mirror their laptop to the TV so that all three of them could see the software clearly. I loved this because, while students love to mirror their devices to the screen, very few students have used the TV as a purposeful tool so far this year. They recognized the opportunity the tool brought them and used it well.
During my last class of the day, I noticed a pair of students who had a notebook with them during our French conversation time. (I see these students daily for Core French, vs the Immersion students I only see once per week, so they have a greater opportunity to explore self-regulation and it shows.) I go over and quietly observe what was happening: they had used the French Mind Snacks app to learn the pronunciation of a new set of vocabulary, had written the words down for reference, and were now actively talking to each other with questions using these new words! I was so impressed. I have word wall words that many students use but for these students to recognize they wanted to talk about something different and to know how they could use tools in the classroom to set themselves up for success – now that’s self-regulation!
I really believe that students having the opportunity to guide their own learning is necessary to developing self-regulation at school. If a student is consistently told exactly what to do, where to go to find information, how to learn, etc., they won’t have the opportunity to practice this valuable skill. Student-driven learning also brings out so many of the other learning skills: they’re taking initiative, sometimes working independently, sometimes collaborating, keeping organized and showing responsibility. While the majority of my students really thrive, I do have some that struggle. I keep telling myself that the opportunity to fail and try again is just as important as being successful immediately. I know self-regulation is key to life-long learning and I want to continue to do all I can to give students the conditions to practice it.