“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” By Walt Disney

I am so excited to have Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda be guest bloggers this week! I met Allison a few years ago at an ASCD conference and we instantly bounded over trying to figure out what Personalized Learning meant for schools and classrooms, while on the floor waiting for the keynote doors to open! This encounter turned into a partnership and friendship and I am so glad to have met her not only because she is an amazing thought partner but she has introduced me to so many amazing educators including Bena.

Guest Post by Bena Kallick and Allison Zmuda

How can we encourage student reflection and growth in each of the four attributes? We have found that it is helpful to pay attention to key Habits of Mind associated with voice, co-creation, social construction, and self-discovery. If you want to take a look back at each habit, take a look at Bena and Art Costa’s page on Learning Personalized.

This post explores how modeling and growing certain habits in conjunction with the attributes nurtures the learning partnership between teacher and student: one grounded on trust, increased autonomy, shared responsibility, and thoughtful actions.

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Voice

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: listening with understanding and empathy; thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, questioning and problem posing.

Typically, students are driven by the school’s curriculum agenda. They become passengers in the journey adults have mapped out. As a result, students have grown accustomed to being told what to do; what to read, what to think, etc.

In personalized learning, every student is seen as a respected and valued participant. Empowerment comes from an environment in which students recognize the power of their own ideas and recognize the shift that can happen by being exposed to others’ ideas.

When developing voice, it is as important to listen to what others have to say as it is to learn how to voice your own thoughts. Often, when we are listening closely to another, we begin to seek greater clarity about what the other is trying to express.

We raise questions that help to clarify our understanding and we pay attention to what the other person is thinking and feeling. At the same time, as we establish our own voice, we try hard to choose words that help express our thoughts with specificity. So, for example, instead of saying “everyone thinks that is the case,” we might say, “when I was at the meeting the other day, I heard at least three people say that this is the case.”

Growing student voice through building the habits that focus on both expressing yourself and thinking clearly about what it is you really are trying to say is an essential key to the sense of empowerment we want all students to experience as they engage with the world.

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Co-Creation

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: creating, imagining and innovating; thinking flexibly; persisting.

Students assume a significant design role in the development of the idea, challenge, problem, or inquiry. They are being invited to the design table to co-create a personalized plan using “backward design” principles.

The student works with the teacher to:

  • develop a challenge, problem, or idea
  • clarify what is being measured (learning goals)
  • envision the product or performance (assessment)
  • outline an action plan to be successful on that performance to achieve the desired results (learning actions)

When we invite students to become co-creators of their own learning, we want them to persist as they consider many new and innovative possibilities for learning. We want students to realize that the first idea may not be the best idea.

They need to be willing to let go of ideas that they predict may not work and to come up with another idea that leads them in a new direction. They must open their minds to what others think and say as they shape the actions they might take. They need to learn that creativity is often an interactive process of thinking collaboratively as well as individually.

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Social Construction

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: thinking interdependently, taking responsible risks, gathering data.

Students build ideas through relationships with others as they theorize, investigate, and develop in pursuit of a common goal. There is real power in feeling that you are not alone, a sense of camaraderie when you are working to cause a change, create a performance, or build a prototype.

As Riley indicated based on his own observations of many schools:

“The experiences that have most inspired me have shared one singular feature: They have involved rich conversations among a community of scholars. The most compelling classrooms are ones in which learning goals are shared, and knowledge is fostered through social interactions.”

When students are in a conversation with others, they need to be open to the influence of other people’s thinking. They must be able to hear what others are saying and remain open to the continuous refinement of ideas as they deepen their understanding of what is at hand. They might need to reach out to experts in the field they are studying.

Although this is taking a risk, it also often leads to enormous rewards. Students learn which risks are most likely to give them greater clarity in their thinking. Developing the habits for social construction broaden the students’ experiences beyond the walls of the classroom or school.

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Self Discovery

Habits of Mind to Pay Attention To: thinking about your thinking, responding with wonderment and awe, applying past knowledge to new situations.

Students need to know enough about themselves to be able to make wise decisions as they navigate through the turbulence of a rapidly changing environment. Being educated is more than being knowledgeable about a series of topics and fluent in key skills; it also is having students come to understand themselves as learners and know more about what they want to do both in the world as well as in future learning.

Our ultimate aim is for students to become self-directed learners who know how to manage themselves in a variety of situations.

When students build the habit of reflecting on their learning, they are becoming more self-directed. They are able to consider what they learned from a given study and celebrate their successes as well as paying attention to what did not work. They are able to distinguish what is important so that they can transfer that learning to new situations.

They begin to discover their passions, interests, dreams as they experience the adrenaline that flows from what they have accomplished. They stand back and gaze with wonderment and awe!

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