After long discussions about what action is, and what action isn't, with different teachers who all work in similar or the same PYP setting as me, I have come to some conclusions ... for now anyway!
Action isn't always something big.
Sometimes it is small, like changing how you think, or making subtle changes in behavior, or telling someone else something we've learned that we think is really important.
Sometimes it is a bit bigger, like making a poster, or creating a survey to find out peoples opinions or arranging a bake sale to raise funds to help an identified cause.
Of course there is always the action that is BIG, noticeable and WOW!
The IB believes that a “successful inquiry will lead to responsible action, initiated by the students as a result of the learning process. This action will extend the student’s learning, or it may have a wider social impact, and will clearly look different within each age range.” Resource: Making the PYP Happen'
There is a lot to think about in those two sentences.
'action should be initiated by the student' AND 'action should come as a result of the learning process'
If action is a part of who we are and if we want to change the world we need to start with changing ourselves. But sometimes change can be hard.
How do we make changes to the way we think, so we can help our students, to make changes to the way they think, so they can change the world?
Personalising action and understanding that action is not a mandate from a teacher, is a mindset that our students develop when they have ownership of learning. Supporting students as they begin their journey to become 'agents of change' is what we strive to do in our classrooms everyday.
Action can be powerful when students have motivation, knowledge, skills and understanding to undertake sustained challenges. Authentic action doesn't just happen, students need time, time to think, to imagine, to talk, to share, to create and to think some more.
Does action have to be seen by a teacher for it to be valuable?... Does it need to directly connect to the unit of inquiry to be considered relevant?
The challenge remains . . . How do we recognise student initiated action and understand the motivation that drives the student while at the same time acknowledge the connection to the learning process, without turning into a 'teacher pleasing' event.
Knowing what motivates you to do do something is a key to achievement.
It seemed to be a good idea to look at the connection between what motivates us and the way people reflect on learning and actions.
Reflection is such an important part of my teaching because it is through reflection that I move forward and can identify the why? and the what? Taking time to talk to colleagues and listen to different perspectives that challenge my practises motivates me to think about the real nature of inquiry and how we are continually looking for authentic teaching and learning opportunities.
My students reflect through the questions they ask and in the way they are making meaning of the big ideas that are challenging them. However reflection is more than that, there is power in reflection, we need to give students time, tools and if needed guidance through questioning and provocations so they build their understanding and skills while feeling empowered to take action on their thoughts and questions.
As a teacher learning to remember to pause and empower students to take time to stop and process their learning is always a challenge, we need to remember by giving students the opportunity to pause we are really empowering them to be able to separate themselves from their work and related performance, to think about how they respond to challenges and to see the effects their response.
When thinking about how to support students and how to build a reflective learning culture in my classroom. I believe conferencing with students leads to powerful student reflection and modelling opportunities.
Making suggestions and asking questions during conferencing encourages students to review their work and promotes reflection. By asking students to take ownership of conferences they can discuss areas where they feel they have a problem, or they can talk through a problem, and discuss progress towards achieving the goals they have set for themselves, this helps to build a culture of ownership and power over learning where individual students can personalise their learning.
Over the years hearing teachers say 'they need to listen more' or 'he/she just doesn't listen' has really made me think about the whole notion of 'active listening'. What are we doing for our students? Are we providing high quality modelling? Are we teaching them how to listen? Or do we just expect them to 'do' it.
I have seen groups teachers faced with issues, or a problem that needs 'solving' turn the situation into a 'talk fest' and of course passion and multiple agendas fuel this in many cases. However when our ability to talk outweighs our ability to listen we need to assess if we are really thinking clearly?
Thinking about this made me reflect on the fact that we teach our students, to read, to write, to speak and to present, but do we actually teach them to listen? Are we more concerned about literacy focus areas that have measurable outcomes, reading levels and writing samples?
If we don't teach listening then how do we expect them to listen.
Is listening actually just the time we spend waiting to talk or is it something more?
Hearing and listening are two very different things, hearing refers to the sound that you hear but listening requires focus and attention. Listening involves being aware of tone and voice, of the way language is being used, of body language, the verbal and non verbal messages. Understanding what is being said will directly affect someones ability to listen.
We need to ensure that our students learn to think about what they have heard before they feel like they have to respond. They need time to think, to ask questions to clarify their understanding. Time to talk to someone, using simple strategies like 'Turn and Talk' or 'Elbow Partners' give students the opportunity to ask questions and clarify understanding without feeling judged, the strategy 'He/She said...' to report back to the group/class is also a way to build a safe environment and encourages students to take risks when speaking as they are giving voice to someone else's opinion.
Self awareness and motivation to want to listen, delaying the desire to speak and allowing ourselves time to think and understand are key concepts or big ideas that require students to consciously decide to listen. Effective listening takes concentration and can be hard, I think we under estimate just how difficult it can be to listen effectively.
Learning to listen is a skill that needs development and refinement in the same way learning to read or write does. We need to listen for ideas not just words, understanding the whole picture or the big idea of what is being said. Making connections between the bits and pieces and being to build the connections to develop understanding underpins successful listening.
So what can we do to teach students to listen? Show them what listening is!
1. No Repeats
Give instructions once .... don't go from repeating instruction 3 or 4 times in one day, but be aware of reducing the number of times you say the same thing. Encourage students to 'Ask two before me..' to clarify understanding, this encourages students to keep attentive, they expect you to repeat yourself... so why listen the first or even second time?
2. Using Hand Signals
Decided on an agreed hand signal so that students can show you they don't understand what is being said. A simple thumbs up, on the side our turned down is easy and works well.
3. Value Listening
Make it known that you value listening, encourage students to think about what is being said, let them talk to a buddy, encourage clarifying questions, paraphrase and use images to support language to increase opportunities for understanding.
4. Ask questions
Provide question starters to support students, model questioning by asking clarifying questions. Pause and give students time to think about their questions, to make links between prior knowledge, new ideas and possibilities.
Think about effective listening ... is it that they can't or don't listen... or is it that we haven't taught them to listen? Do we give them authentic opportunities to demonstrate that they are effective listeners?
Teaching in an IBPYP school; interests: student agency, technology integration, growth mindset & the continuous cycle of improvement that is the world of education, learning and being!