Why OPEN SPACE?

CSLcamp36 is inspired by a need for professional learning to shift from stand-and-deliver and “drive-by pro-d” to real opportunities for meaningful connections, sharing, and ideating with all involved in our students’ learning. As a high school student in the 21st century, a teacher candidate in the 21st century, and now a helping teacher in the 21st century, I sat through classes, workshops, and sessions that focused, ultimately, on the individual “on stage” (be it teacher, professor, or workshop presenter).  Even the sessions I attended that talk about “learner-centred” environments were instructor-centric, information driven, and left no room for my own metacognition.

Just as personalized model meets the needs of today’s children, a personalized model for professional learning is also needed to meet the various needs of teachers.

– Thomas C. Murray & Jeffrey Zoul
Leading Professional Learning: Tools to Connect and Empower Teachers

As we start the shift towards a curriculum and assessment redesign using buzzwords like personalized, learning intentions, learning journeys, and meaningful collections, descriptions of communicating student learning, I question the real impact top-down, one-size-fits-all, and sit-and-get learning has on ALL learners. The impact is clear in the questions and comments that emerge as I work with my friends and colleagues with demystifying communicating student learning:

IMG_4654

“What does any of this look like?”

“How do I assess something that isn’t visible?”

“What are kids producing if we just focus on process?”

“I need examples and rubrics to bring back and use tomorrow”

“Does this mean I have to throw out everything I have?”

“So grades aren’t important?”

“What about the reporting order? What if I’m required to go back to the way I was doing things?”

“Tell me what to do.”

To be honest, these questions and comments too crossed my mind when I delved into BC’s curriculum drafts. For a split second I wanted someone to tell me what to do, where to get resources, how to assess and evaluate, and what to report. My 13 years of compulsory schooling had sent me a metamessage that in order to be successful (as a student and essentially a human being) I needed to know what to know and do right away, what (rubrics, reporting, lessons, classroom management) to “plug in” to the formula that is my teaching practice, and that there was always a right way and a right answer. Naturally, professional development became going to sessions with experts to be told what to do next, how to do it well, and why I needed to do.

Consider my short paragraph above – What does it seem to challenge? What are the parallels to what is happening in our classrooms? Whose responsibility is it to shift practice and own learning?

What I’m hinting at with my quick reflection about my recent experiences as a learner is not a criticism of my time in BC’s education system in the 21st century, but a way for me to express that the resources, funds, and time we have as learners together should not be taken for granted.  In turn, the time we have with our students together should also be used wisely. When we bring learners into the same space we need to honour their connections, collective expertise, and create conditions for sharing as equals. This is part of the guiding philosophy of the Open Space model we will explore on April 12 and May 24 – everyone is welcome, everyone is equal, everyone has a purpose.

—-

Posted March 8, 2016