The link up to other #DigiLit Sunday posts can be found at Margaret Simon’s Reflections On the Teche. Please check out what other bloggers are writing about today!
And today’s topic:
What does agency mean to me?
It means choice. Yesterday I chose #TheEdCollabGathering created by Chris Lehman (definition one below) and I made sure that I acted on that agency (definition two) by attending sessions live all day. Barely pausing for conversation, my brain on fire, I moved from one session to the next, each one carefully chosen as a tapestry of confirmation.
Topics I needed to revisit. Topics I needed to dig deeply into again. Topics I needed for inspiration and affirmation seven weeks into this new year. Welcoming learning with friends. Welcoming new friends in the Twitterverse. Welcoming a day of JOYFUL learning from my home on a Saturday. (Agenda for #TheEdCollabGathering here.) The sessions were free. The sessions will remain free and accessible. The sessions can be accessed at your leisure. The.sessions.are.well.worth.your.time! TRUST ME! Check them out!
Evidence of Agency for me yesterday?
- That I could choose the free sessions to attend from the comfort of my home.
- Attending the sessions, tweeting out and having conversations with fellow attendees, presenters, and colleagues from around the world . . . and then Blogging about my attendance and learning today!
No . . . er . . . I don’t know YET!
Kind of . . .
I have been working with Webb’s Depth of Knowledge lately. Those four levels that in some circles have replaced Bloom’s Taxonomy. I don’t think either one is exclusionary and in fact believe that there are some positives in each. Both invite thinking in order to move up the levels.
These Depth of Knowledge levels are available about writing at this Edutopia resource.
Level 1 (Recall) requires the student to write or recite simple facts. This writing or recitation does not include complex synthesis or analysis but is restricted to basic ideas. The students are engaged in listing ideas or words as in a brainstorming activity prior to written composition, are engaged in a simple spelling or vocabulary assessment or are asked to write simple sentences. Students are expected to write and speak using Standard English conventions. This includes using appropriate grammar, punctuation, capitalization and spelling.
Level 2 (Basic Application of Concepts & Skills) tasks require some mental processing. At this level students are engaged in tasks such as first draft writing for a limited number of purposes and audiences. At Level 2 students are beginning to connect ideas using a simple organizational structure. For example, students may be engaged in note-taking, outlining or simple summaries. Text may be limited to one paragraph. Students demonstrate a basic understanding and appropriate use of such reference materials as a dictionary, thesaurus, or web site.
Level 3 (Strategic Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks require higher-level mental processing. Students are engaged in developing compositions that include multiple paragraphs. These compositions may include complex sentence structure and may demonstrate some synthesis and analysis. Students show awareness of their audience and purpose through focus, organization and the use of appropriate compositional elements. The use of appropriate compositional elements includes such things as addressing chronological order in a narrative or including supporting facts and details in an informational report. At this stage students are engaged in editing and revising to improve the quality of the composition.
Level 4 (Extended Thinking & Complex Reasoning) tasks may incorporate a multi-paragraph composition that demonstrates synthesis and analysis of complex ideas or themes. Such tasks will require extended time and effort with evidence of a deep awareness of purpose and audience. For example, informational papers include hypotheses and supporting evidence. Students are expected to create compositions that demonstrate a distinct voice and that stimulate the reader or listener to consider new perspectives on the addressed ideas and themes.
As I reflect on my agency and my learning today, I am confident that most of my Tweets fall into the Level 1 category. I often try to capture exact words – the very essence of the speaker’s thoughts – and that is totally recall. No doubt. Level 1. And yet sometimes, I’m pulling in background knowledge or shortening the exact quotes when there are long hashtags and I must cut down the number of symbols. Is that always Level 1? Probably not. Is it sometimes Level 2? Perhaps yes.
And what of this blog post? Where would it rate? Ideas from the day are flowing through my brain. Some pictures are already uploaded. Others are paused. Too few? Too many? Which serve the meaning and the understanding of the reader? Which are examples of MY thinking?
Right now I think that I am approaching or possibly just peering over the ledge of DOK 3. Your thoughts?
As I consider all the meaning embedded in Level 4 (Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning), I believe this is where Katherine Bomer’s thinking lies when she said,
“Capital E, Essay equals thinking!”
A student or adult is agentive and completing that “extended thinking and complex reasoning” when totally engaged in a task of their own choice. When writing, it may be an essay, a poem, or some great work of literature. But it’s something the student knows and knows well due to their passionate study. It may be a study of their own thinking and problem solving as suggested by Burkins and Yaris in Who’s Doing the Work? when the students are actually working harder than the teachers as they problem solve and persevere in forging their own learning paths when “given the time to do so”.
Jan’s metaphor of shopping was played out in this chart and compared to choosing a just right book. Students choosing their own books . . . not being handed books by the teacher brings up a question: “Who SHOULD be choosing the books?”
Tara Smith tweeted out that “agency = knowing how to make choices.” How often do our students struggle with making decisions? When should they be “practicing” quality decision-making skills? Is that not a skill that should be part of the daily routines during the school day?
Consider how engagement and accessibility play into these four elements. Jan actually framed and labeled them for the viewers. But at any point there could be a mismatch. Clare and Tammy would also point out that the mismatches are opportunities for learning and even ownership of their learning. A celebration of learning. Every data point can also bring hope, joy and agentive power to the students.
And what if students were publishing regularly for real audiences? #TWT authors and bloggers, Beth Moore, Deb Frazier and Dana Murphy literally hit the game-winning touchdown with their sharing and feedback strategies! (It was a Saturday after all-so there was some collegiate football in the background.) Deb suggested feedback to young writers on day one, Dana said it could be ‘fancy like “Wow and Wonder”, “Glow and Grow”, or like “slicers” -1. feel, 2 notice, 3. connection’ and Beth Moore said that someday a student writer might tell friends about how special their teacher made them feel as a writer. Honoring students and their writing work doesn’t cost a lot of time or money. Celebrating student learning should be an every day constant.
After all this is “their” learning! Fewer behavior management systems might be needed if there was more emphasis on “student choice” and so much less emphasis on “compliance” and “silly tasks” but those are both topics for another day!
The intersection of agency, choice, engagement and learning seems to be a good fit for students who are “doing the work” and not passively watching others engaged in the work. Even kindergarten students want to share their thinking . . . not their fault that sometimes their symbols and/ or work needs translation for our adult brains to make better sense (Clare and Tammy’s story about Zachary) .
But what if the entry point for all students was simply choice?
What if the responsibility and accountability lies with students?
Lucy Calkins reminded us this summer that “To teach well, we do not need more techniques and strategies as much as we need a vision of what is essential.”
What if agency is essential? How does that change instruction and assessment?
(Did I make it to Level 4 -Extended Thinking and Complex Reasoning? You be the judge!)