Learner Agency and Infinity Learning Maps

“How do we move from doing things TO people to doing things WITH them?” – Brian Annan, Infinity Learn

This was the provocation that Brian presented to the Upper Hutt Schools Cluster at their TOD on Monday.

 

The Upper Hutt Schools are working on a cluster wide collaborative inquiry into using Infinity Learning Maps with their learners.  In preparation for attending the TOD with them on Monday I did some reading about the Infinity Learning Maps and had a go at creating my own Infinity Learning Map.

Learning Map

(During the TOD I gained a much better understanding of the Infinity Learning Maps, and so my map would look slightly different if I were to go back and do it again.)

 

The keynote address from Dr Brian Annan helped us to build our knowledge about student agency.

What is Student Agency?

The NZC has a vision for our learners to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.  Confidence is one of the most important parts of agency.

“Every student has agency.  Activation of agency is a negotiation between the people and environment surrounding the student.” (Klemičič , 2015)

At one stage during the day a participant said that a couple of teachers at a school in Nelson have been ‘doing student agency’ for a few years now.  This struck me as an interesting choice of words – can we really ‘do’ student agency?  I believe our role as teachers is to enable, or as in the definition above, activate student agency.  Student agency requires a positive learning relationship and a partnership between student and teacher, and is further enable when that partnership is also with home.

What struck me most during the day was that student agency requires an awareness.  And for some of our young people (and not so young people) this is a really difficult concept.  How often are our young people really given the opportunity to, and encouraged to reflect on themselves as learners?

The schools are trialling, recording and refining the process as they go, but essentially the steps for the Infinity Learning Maps are as follows:

  • Students draw a map: It should include people, tools, places/environments that help them to learn, it should also include the interactions (arrows) – does the learning go both ways? How much?  Some common feedback from schools was that the fewer prompts given to students the better, don’t show them a map before they start, accept that it is the Learners map and don’t try and impose your own ideas onto their drawing.  Some schools found it useful to do it in two stages – complete the people, tools, environment first and then add in the interactions second.
  • Students have conversations in pairs, and then in fours to explain what they have drawn.  This step is critical as it helps them to analyse and builds confidence for subsequent conversations.
  • Students have conversations with teachers and with parents.  The students are in the drivers seat – it is important that the teachers and parents support and not take over.
  • Students identify a change priority.  There was a lot of feedback from schools about the need for more support for teachers in how to facilitate this process.
  • Students make a video, speaking to what they have drawn on their learning map, and identifying their change priority.
  • Students make the change with support.
  • Students move on with confidence.

 

At the end of the day Jo Grant, Principal at Upper Hutt Primary School, encouraged us to use a ‘3, 2, 1’ reflection.  This is mine:

3 Key messages:

  • The Infinity learning map is a powerful tool for engaging learners in a learning conversation.
  • That there is a tension between control and agency.
  • Activating agency
  • There is a link between the Infinity learning maps and confidence and wellbeing – confidence grows when children know they can, and do improve how they learn.

2 Questions I still have…

  • Today we have talked about student agency and how we define it, I wonder, what might ‘parent agency’ look like?
  • Parent agency
  • Do the Infinity Learning Maps evolve?  (Do they get added to? Are new maps created? How are the change priorities recorded? How is the journey of making the change made evident on the Infinity learning map?)

1 Action that I will commit to…

  • How might I apply today’s learning to our work with Play.Sport?  Might the Infinity Learning Maps be a useful tool for supporting teachers in their journey to improving knowledge and confidence in implementing quality physical education?  Can we use the Infinity Learning Maps with young people to help their teachers understand how their students see themselves as learners with regard to physical activity?  Might this enable us to identify ‘priority learners’ in Physical Education?

 

Many thanks to the principal’s and staff of the Upper Hutt Schools who allowed me to participate in this Teacher Only Day.

Reference:

Infinity Learning Maps, Brian Annan and Mary Wootton, Infinity Learn Limited 

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