Mentoring of the creation of learning elements is the subject of this Learning by Design project:
2009 I found myself in my first year as Executive Teacher in the Arts and Technology Area. Early in the year, we identified as a staff that the curriculum ‘ideas’ and ‘things that were being taught’ were already good. We had expert teachers mentoring both beginning teachers as well as teachers teaching new subject areas without formal training in the specific areas. The problem was, each semester/term the great pedagogy and curriculum sometimes went undocumented, was sometimes packed away and other times forgotten. To combat this issue and in order to support other teachers, as well to ensure accountability we decided to target the curriculum. This meant new Learning Elements needed to be written.
An opportunity to participate in an action research arose for the teachers in our cluster of schools – the Access Asia project. I suggested to one of my teachers to volunteer, which she did. She was in her forth year of teaching and this was her first opportunity to engage with the Learning by Design framework. It was also one of my first opportunities to mentor a teacher through the process of understanding and working with the knowledge processes.
THE BEGINNING OF WRITING THE LEARNING ELEMENT
Mentoring the teacher was challenging (in a positive way) and as she explored how to write a Learning Element, I deepened my understanding of LbD. We began with a brainstorm of ideas and refined these on a Placemat. The process of recording ideas on the placemat required a large amount of energy and time – however, because the time and energy was spent here (discussing each knowledge process and the links between each to achieve deep knowledge and understanding to gain learner transformation) this actually made the documentation of the Learning Element easier.
PROCESSING THE KNOWLEDGE PROCESSES
Knowledge processes to the virgin LbD’er can seem daunting. Until the realisation that analysing, conceptualising, applying and experiencing all rolled in to one neatly presented document = quality learning. The key – as I explained to my teacher is ‘designed learning’ – ensuring that each activity, each order and each concept is planed in a manner that will produce learner transformation and improvement. (Sounds so easy!)
The fun part was picking apart activities – re designing and discussing their worth and purpose. As the teacher travelled through this journey she gained a confidence that allowed her to become more creative and confident.
Her Learning Element, Japanese Textiles was a great first Learning Element. It was used at a National Conference to highlight learner transformation and as an example of quality curriculum.
Evaluation of the unit, both ongoing and summative encouraged the teacher to renew and redesign the learning based on student engagement. This year, this teacher is going to be a part of the 2010 Access Asia project, mentoring a beginning teacher to write a Learning Element.
Learning by Design has surely started to spread in our staffroom and teachers are sharing their Learning Elements with each other. The feedback has been positive and the support enhanced.