Page 17 - FIS World June 2021
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were signposted as red for mandatory attendance and green for optional attendance. The results proved interesting. Students who were previously above average in ”normal” lessons achieved the same or slightly better when working outside of the classroom, while students with lower class averages did the same or slightly worse. This was not the case for all students, however, as some benefitted from smaller class sizes and more individualized attention. Additionally, a few students decided to attend classes after realizing they did not yet have the skills to work independently outside the classroom. This showed an increase in their metacognition, or“thinking about their thinking.”
Student feedback on having a choice over location included words like: increased focus, working with friends, comfort, reduced disturbances and freedom. By giving students autonomy over the self- management of the course content and location, they also had autonomy over pacing. For example, while most students worked through the video tutorials during scheduled lessons, others chose to work after school, or ‘binge-watched’ a month’s work and did it all in a few days. This meant that students could, and did, prioritize other subject work in class or chat with friends, but they still hit deadlines with the same or better success rate than if they had been in class. “You can manage your own time and do the screencasts at your own pace and whenever you like,” said one Grade 12 student. “It makes me feel that I can work in peace without the stress of when I need to finish it or keep up with everybody else,” a Grade 6 student added.
Teachers were also able to help individual students through check-ins, one- on-one tutoring and personalized coaching.
Covid-19 forced us both to change, and our teaching has changed forever. We are experimenting with our teaching and attempting to leverage student learning in this new education landscape. Giving more autonomy to students will not work straight away for everyone. Some students will initially fail to prioritize work or think they have stronger self- management skills than they do, but they can build toward autonomy in a scaffolded approach.
Overall, we believe we are helping make students more responsible for their learning, boosting achievement and teaching the skills needed to learn. The reason it is working seems to be grounded in what psychologist Richard M. Ryan calls Self-Determination Theory[1]. As he states, the “best teaching is high autonomy and high structure.” If we as teachers provide more autonomy within a structure, students will feel more
competent, and competency is motivating. While it may seem like an oxymoron, maybe for our students to achieve more, we just need to step away.
Tim Johnson and Tony Winch FIS Upper School teachers
[1] Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. Self-determination Theory: Basic Psychological Needs in Motivation, Development, and Wellness. New York, New York ; London, [England]: Guilford, 2017.
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