Mid-summer, I quietly observe the changes of a mobile world. My calm of summer days will soon be over and there will be new faces to match names with, new names to match talents, interests, and inspiration. There will also be other challenges, namely how to ensure that learning is taking place.
I have come to the simple decision in regard to building a learning environment – learners themselves will have to evaluate themselves and whether they are achieving goals or not. It is not sufficient to set goals at the end of a semester or term, only to look at them at the end of term/semester, like a supermarket check-list. Just as gardens which need tending to, goals need to be revised, perhaps clarified and definitely made more achievable, more visible as days go by. Weeds need to be plucked out, bushes pruned. So too the learning process needs to be adjusted on a weekly basis.
With this in mind, and thinking of one of my own goals which is to help students become more autonomous as learners and confident in their learning, I would rather focus on the learning instead of the teaching. It is through revising what is memorable, meaningful and motivating to each individual learner, that students may have a possible framework for self-reflection. Only the individual is able to reflect on their attitude and effort in contributing to a learning environment.
Yes, the teacher plots lessons and may help select activities, digital tools/apps according to context. However, it is the individual learner who needs to take responsibility. In order that a positive learning environment is nurtured, it is essential that students first share with each other and the teacher what makes a lesson memorable, meaningful and motivating. Sharing is important – not all students may be able to articulate what they really want to say but are able to recognize and build upon what another may express more easily.
The framework is simple - keeping a mini-log where every week students add what was memorable, meaningful and motivating to them. They may want to share or compare with a classmate, or keep it private. It is their decision. Lastly, I will also be asking them to reflect on how they themselves contributed to making lessons more memorable, more meaningful and motivating for themselves and for the whole class. After all, a classroom is not made up of teachers but of students; it is a space for them. Almost like mini incubators, classrooms are rehearsals for the world beyond the educational campus. Increasingly I feel that there needs to be certain degrees of accountability on the part of the student, both in terms of learning and contributing positively towards lessons and classrooms.
Becoming an autonomous learner, taking responsibility for one’s actions and learning, is not always a comfortable nor welcomed, feature in many cultures. Like all projects, it is one which requires time, practice and dedication. It is not an end in itself; it is not a race towards the perfect picture of perfection.
Rather, it is allowing students find their strengths as learners and building up skills for life.
How do you nurture learner autonomy?