Increase learner agency by teaching students how to be self-sufficient through lessons on growth mindset, metacognitive strategies, and what it means to have agency in and out of the classroom
Jamie is working with UPark’s personalized learning coach, Sarah Holdeman, to lay the foundations for building learner agency in her classroom. Through a series of “focus lessons”, they have been teaching Jamie’s second grade class about growth mindset, metacognition, and learner agency. These lessons are then extended throughout the week into other subjects that the class is working on. Jamie hopes to help students become agents of their own learning by providing them with the tools to independently problem solve and advocate for themselves.
Jamie discusses her focus lessons on metacognition and mindset and explains why she wanted to create lessons around these concepts.
Students define metacognition and walk us through their thinking during several activities.
Students define learner agency and reflect on how it felt to have unlimited learner agency. Some students felt confused or frustrated while others enjoyed the freedom and liked having the opportunity to work how they wanted.
Jamie shares how the changes she has made in her classroom have impacted her students.
Jamie discusses the challenges that have emerged along the way and the lessons she has learned. She shares her advice for how other teachers can implement something similar in their own classrooms.
Collaborate! Jamie worked with other teachers as well as the school counselor to create lessons and mentioned that it was an important part of the brainstorming and implementation processes
Expect it to take time. While resources are available for some of the lessons she did, there wasn’t much support for lessons related to learner agency so it required her to build some of her materials.
Vary your lessons. Make sure you’re creating varied lessons that provide students with the opportunity to draw upon their learning preferences.
Take it “tiny piece by tiny piece”. It will take time for students to grasp some of these concepts, so give them time and repeated practice to be able to do so. Don’t move on until understanding is reached, as this will confuse students further.
Adapt lessons based on where students are. Most of Jamie’s lessons were created after checking in on student understanding, as she adapted what she was teaching based on how students were feeling.
Step back. One of the observations that Jamie made about her classroom was that students were checking on each other and reminding each other to stay on task. Give students the opportunity to help each other before stepping in.
Extend lessons into everyday subjects. Although the focus lessons seem to exist on their own, they can be brought into other lessons to help students practice these new concepts.
Use reminders. If students seem to be forgetting the lessons they learned, remind them with short statements like “is that growth mindset?” to guide them.
Jamie was coached by Personalized Learning coach Sarah Holdeman, who also helped in teaching many of the lessons. We asked Sarah for her thoughts on Jamie's work.
What was Jamie's goal and why did you select mindset/metacognition to meet it?
"Jamie began by analyzing her group of learners this year and she noticed that a lot of students were 'floating' above their learning. What she meant by that is that they were not fully engaged in the learning process She noticed that they gave up easily, didn’t have many tools to solve complex problems, and generally did not know how they were a part of their own educational experience. So she set a goal to support students becoming a more active part in their own learning. Mindset/Metacognition was chosen as a way to solve this issue. These paths promote independent use of metacognitive strategies. We were hoping students would be exposed to several strategies so they could practice when and how to use them and be able to make decisions about which strategy to use."
What did you see as Jamie’s main strengths coming into this work?
"Jamie has so many strengths that allow her success with innovative practices. First, and foremost, she is open to change, always searching for a better method of reaching and engaging learners. She does not worry if lessons don’t go as planned; she reacts to challenging situations with calm and ease. Secondly, she maintains high expectations for learners. Kids know they are in school to learn, to explain their thinking, to collaborate, and she asks kids to reflect continually throughout the process. Thirdly, she has put time and energy into designing her classroom so learners have voice/choice throughout the day. She has several areas for learning- sling back chairs for working on the rug, low tables, desks, standing desks, etc. Learners have agency in the classroom, being able to make choices for their learning and being able to verbalize how a choice makes them a better learner."
What went well for Jamie?
"Jamie seemed very happy with how the lessons turned out. She reported liking having another adult to brainstorm and plan lessons with. She always knew what she wanted to do next and she knew what she wanted her learners to be able to do. The 2nd Graders were able to experiment in a lot of different ways about mindset and metacognition. They studied themselves like scientists. In one lesson they were able to choose two ways to learn about growth mindset from a playlist. Some kids chose to get information from a website. Some chose to watch a wordless video about growth mindset. Some ventured into the hallway to do physical endurance tests. During our reflection one student said, 'I liked this work. I felt like an adult going to a job'."
UPark staff Jamie Archambault, Sarah Holdeman, Steve Nederveld, and principal Grant Varveris, Imaginarium staff Sophie Gullett, Laura Mitchell, Lynn Hawthorne, and Signe Hawley, and the students becoming agents of their own learning.
A huge thank you to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation whose Next Generation Systems Intiative (NGSI) grant has been instrumental in helping Denver Public Schools design, study and scale personalized learning.