In a similar vein, having returned from EduTECHAU I was impressed with the performance and effort put in by my class in their latest flipped assignment. 5-6 students asked to stay back at lunchtime in order to work on their wevideo or screencastify assignment. When I inquired why as I knew that they had already submitted a response to the assignment in question, the consistent response was that they wanted to submit a better one. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my Year 11 English class as not only is the whole class very collegial and collaborative, we also have have very high expectations of one another in terms of conduct and academic achievement.
When we think of passion, I instantly think of the heart over the head and as such, I think I might be on to something. The above class mentioned is a joy to teach as they are very honest about the quality of the learning and the quality of the learning space and my facilitation within the space. In all honesty I have rarely seen a class so into their assessments as this one. It may well have a lot to do with the fact that the students had a great deal of input into the design, expected outcome and time-frames of said assessments but even so, such input speaks volumes for their passion towards Year 11 English and our learning context. In reality, I believe that if a student's heart is not into their learning, there is little chance of the head in contrast being highly in, let alone in at all.
So how do teachers create opportunities for passion-learning as often as possible? Here are some ideas:
- Ask the students how they want to learn this material. Their responses may well validate your idea or differing, may surprise you in their originality and/or creativity. Do they want to learn in groups, pairs, individuals? Often my students who love to work collaboratively while learning, prefer to complete assignments individually. Are some visual, oral, kinaesthetic learners? The more a learning space provides for these distinctions, the more likely the students will engage and be passionate.
- Ask the students where they want to work. Some of my students love to sit outside and work, others in a break-out space, some sitting on the floor while others prefer the traditional chair and table approach. Do I care about such variance? Absolutely not. I want the students to be comfortable in our learning space and therefore their sitting preference and learning location being self-determined only leads in my opinion to greater buy-in, learning and achievement.
- Know your students' needs and wants and futures. The more we know of the person beyond the student the more likely we are to present appropriate and relevant context, context and pathways that link to their their perceptions, intended career pathways and also emotional safety needs in the learning space.
- Ensure a learning space favours student choice over teacher choice. Now this does not in any way, shape or form suggest that the teacher is marginalised in the learning space. Au contraire, in my opinion the more we build an environment conducive to passion learning through maximised students agency, choice and ownership, the more important the role of the teacher is, despite the role being dramatically redefined. I rarely if ever address my whole class regarding learning activities for any significant period of time. It is even more extremely rare to see me either at the front of the class or sitting removed academically or physically from the students. In being present but at the same time sufficiently distant from my students, allows them the agency they desire and in my opinion need to become independent thinkers, learners and learners. However my presence does allow for a dramatically increased amount of 1:1 interactions variable depending on student need and choice. By giving my students the freedom to touch base with me when they see fit, this ensures that any conversations we have are student and passion-focused and done in real-time.
- Let the students choose the content of learning and assessment as much as possible. As mentioned previously, this class is an absolute stand-out not just in terms of their work and assessment completion but in the standard and timeliness of this work. No doubt the passion evident in both completion and competency stems from the fact that much of the learning and assessment undertakings is co-constructed with them in the classroom and in light of this, the two assessments have allowed each student to have significant choice in terms of content and output context. Ironically, one of the assessments is actually called My Passion, a student-chosen title and response context which the students fully bought into. Why? It was of their own idea and therefore had relevance and authenticity to them as students and teenagers outside our classroom.
- Have fun in the learning space. Although I take my role as a teacher very seriously, the more I'm in classrooms, the more I realise how little thought and effort is required to make what could be a time of boredom or disengagement, something fun and enjoyably engaging. I have seen teachers run tests using Kahoot that fully engage students and have privy to a movie première on measurement in a Year 9 Maths class. In my learning space, the introduction and targeted use of bitmojis in terms of gaining not only student engagement in a learning space but also also a greater understanding of my students'personalities, paid off big time. Likewise, our celebrating of an individual's birthdays to our #VIP (one minute whole class dancing to student music on Thursdays); such valuing and prioritising of fun learning creates dramatic engagement, often laughter and a genuine sense of camaraderie.
- Let passion have its time. I've lost count of how many times I've seen students fully engaged physically, emotionally and academically in a learning space activity only for their passionate involvement to be crushed by the teacher unnecessarily sticking to a pre-determined schedule. When my students are passionately into something in Year 11 English, the schedule within reason goes out the window. Why?might some of you ask? Well it's in these moments when learning really happens for students and so we should be all be surfing this wave when we can. It's in these moments students are demonstrating that they care about the context and content in situ and last but by no means least, they are deriving learning that can and will serve them well beyond their time as school students.
In reality, passion learning could exist for our students a lot more in schools if we only thought with our hearts as much if not more than our heads. I believe students have a genuine passion for learning, for growth and for mutually beneficial partnerships in our classrooms. Our jobs first and foremost is take this spark of passion and make it a flame, to fan it and to sustain it. In reality, in the future it is the passion of our students' learning (or otherwise) that will lead and assist them the most. If we kill or reduce their passion for learning, we arguably kill their learning and futures at the same time. Maybe just maybe as said in The Power of One:
first with the head and then with the heart.