Independent, life-long learners

The IB sets out Standards and Practices that all IB schools have to meet, with special requirements for every programme, the PYP, MYP and DP.

They recently changed, and the Educational Leadership Team at my school is reviewing the changes and adapting the school’s action plan accordingly. Some of the changes were quite significant, one whole standard has been integrated into the others and generally the new document reflects learning from the previous year, as some practices are more defined (for example it now states that the classroom teacher needs to be responsible for at least the language of instruction, math, science and social studies – something which I have seen not happening before).

The standard C3 deals with the Teaching and Learning at IB schools, and in the 2005 version used to state:

Teaching and learning at the school empowers and encourages students to become lifelong learners, to be responsible towards themselves, their learning, other people and the environment, and to take appropriate action.

And I remember that this standard had me thinking about HOW I can design my classroom and class time to ensure that students become life-long learners who take responsibility for their own learning. Because even though it sounds like common sense, I have always found that students don’t want to do so. Or, lets put it another way, that students have learned it can be comfortable to just get by, and as a teacher is it quite a challenge to make them become more active and involved.

The new standard C3 definition is simpler:

Teaching and learning reflects IB philosophy.

A good look at the practices reveals the following two as the most important for the idea of “independent, life-long learning”:

  • Teaching and learning engages students as inquirers and thinkers.
  • Teaching and learning supports students to become actively responsible for their own learning.

What do we do to make sure our students become actively responsible for their own learning? Here are some things that I already do that I believe support and encourage the practice:

  • Students regularly reflect on their learning (on the HOW, on the WHAT and also on the WHY of their learning)
  • Students set themselves goals (and review them regularly)
  • Students take shared responsibility for their portfolio as a way to document their learning
  • Students are encouraged to follow their own curiosities: I try make time to let them follow and investigate their own questions and wonderings even when they are not related to our “set-out classroom learning”
  • Students are actively engaged in setting criteria for assessment or at least informed about the criteria
  • Students are regularly involved in self- and peer assessment

Recently, I have been taking some more risks when it comes to taking responsibility and making choices. It relates back to practices that we used at my school in Berlin, but unfortunately I wasn’t at the same stage then as I am now, and struggled with the implementation of such a progressive and amazing programme. However, now I am taking the elements I find useful back on board.

The idea of sharing learning goals and letting students work on them in their own time, is no rocket science. But still, a lot of teachers have timetables that make all students work on Math from 8.20 to 9.15 and then a quick switch to Art, then Language Arts, etc.
What I have tried recently, is letting the students choose what they want to work on. Surely, this could be better, in terms of more freedom, but lets look at yesterday:

I was doing a Math pre-assessment, so students could work on that independently. We had started to think about our central idea, and the word diversity was hard to understand for some students. So I encouraged them to find out what it really means, and what others think it means. They visualized their findings, some made mind-maps, others just wrote down quotes.
The third option was to reply to an email from Grade 1 at the ISZL in Switzerland.
The kids were engaged, busy and I had time to help those who needed it. But sometimes I was not needed at all.

What else can we do to make students more independent and actively responsible for their own learning?



One thought on “Independent, life-long learners

  1. I enjoy hearing about the changes that the IB is making but more than that I love to take a peak inside your classroom and look at how you are putting it into practice. It is wonderful when students can take charge of their own learning and investigate ideas for themselves.

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