Learning subjectives – designing for when you don’t know where you are going

In the first week of #rhizo15 Dave asked us:

How do we design or own and others learning when we don’t know where we are going?

How does it free us up?

What can we get done with our subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

I am a self employed EFL teacher, partly self expelled from the formal education system. The fact is I managed to find a way to fulfill my passion for learning and teaching and remain loyal to certain beliefs out of a “system” where I couldn’t find a place to fit in.

I’d like to share an example, so you can have a clearer picture of my journey in a system which didn’t trust me as a teacher and neither did it trust that my students were actually learning in what they thought was a messy environment.

“Debbie, your classes tend to be messy and noisy; the goals and outcomes of your lesson plan are clear, but your class doesn’t move according to your design. Yes, your students look engaged and  motivated when they are on task, but then they end up doing things you have not included in the outcomes”

And the truth is David, still remember one of my mentor’s name, was right. Yet, I couldn’t find ways to explain that I found it hard to predict what my students were going to learn.

A more concrete example? I asked my 9 year old kids to get in pairs and talk about their families as a follow up to what I thought was a carefully designed lesson plan. We had practised vocabulary, present simple, we watched a short video,  controlled – semi controlled practice, the follow up was determined to be successful.

However, a little boy came up with a fantastic story about an imaginary elder brother, who had been born when his mother was only 10 years old, whom he had not met yet because he was a soccer star living in Australia, number 2 in the International ranking below Lionel Messi.

We simply loved it, he captured our whole attention, especially coming from this shy boy, who powerfully became visible to all of us.

But he made language mistakes, yes he did, he confused tenses …

How could I predict this outcome? Should I have been more precise in the rubric and tell them “Pay attention kids: you are not allowed to be too creative when you talk about your family“?

One day I said good bye to a system that was not making me happy and which didn’t trust me, and above all it didn’t trust my students.

Sometimes, challenges and hard times lead us to travel a journey of uncertainty, it’s that journey where you look sideways and you notice you have left the main road and are walking in a different direction, sometimes you realize you are walking alone but eventually and unexpectedly you meet a crowd walking in the same direction.

I cannot define myself as a dogmetician, but we have our unplugged learning moments in my classes, so rather than planning goals and outcomes before the class, we work with emergent language and expand to emergent needs in a class where it doesn’t really matter who proposes the topics or the resources. Sometimes I bring things to our classes and sometimes my learners come up with their own findings, questions and needs. What emerges during the class becomes my learners’ subjectives and we go for them.

So, back to the task, my learning subjectives for #rhiso15?
I want to keep embracing uncertainty as a means to successful learning moments
I’d like to become more confident in dealing with some kind of disorder.
Above all, I want to keep enjoying the freedom of learning.