QAIS Advisory: A forum to design and experience learning
Last year, as we reflected on our teaching and learning practices, we identified that it was important for our community to articulate the dialogue teachers and students had about the way they learn best. We also identified that we needed to find different means to support students in developing the confidence to speak about what works for them. Instantly, we turned our attention to ATL skills. We began to reflect on what we were doing to make them an active part of our learning experience, and to move away from only using the jargon to convince ourselves that effective learning was happening.
This reflection triggered the revamping process for our advisory program in secondary. Therefore, with the help of group of dedicated colleagues, we designed a set of goals that would enable us to transform the beginning of our days into positive forums to start the learning journey; to turn our mornings into opportunities to support students’ skill development to talk about their own learning. Essentially, we wanted these mornings to be opportunities for students to begin to design their learning plans.
As a result of evaluating the structure of our learning community, the way we explicitly taught ATL skills and the extent to which we were complementing the sense of individuality and uniqueness in each student, our ATL-based advisory program was born. In order to make the program work we identified roles that would enable us to move forward. Therefore, advisors became the agents that would lead our advisory program. Mentors, on the other hand, would be in charge of providing personalized guidance to individual students, in order to support their personal growth.
To make this program happen, advisors/mentors meet periodically to strategize and plan our learning mornings one week in advance. Some of the insights advisors bring to the planning forum are:
- Observations of the learning climate in the school. This helps us identify what kind of support is needed.
- Students’ proposals and opinions. This is a reminder to keep students at the center of the process.
- Ideas and strategies to implement.
- Suggestions about literature that is worth reading as a group in order to create learning experiences that reflect innovative practices.
- Samples of student work. This is a task to identify possible trends and collect data on how we can engage the whole staff in enriching our approaches to teaching.
In other words, this planning process is what allows us to create our learning strategy toolbox.
A school’s Mission Statement is a declaration of the principles that exist in the school’s learning culture, and should serve as a guide to inform the community about the skills, attitudes, and values the institution is equipped to instill in each learner. Therefore, the ATL-advisory program we designed is both a reflection of our school’s Mission Statement, and a forum in which we bring the mission to fruition.
Another important feature and target of our ATL-based advisory program is that we wanted to have another way to collect data about the learning explorations that were taking place in the school. We wanted to have an additional record of the initiatives we were promoting and putting in place to support students’ holistic development, besides the explicit teaching of ATL that occurred in each unit, in all subjects.
In a future new post I will share some examples of how this model of ATL-based advisory gave way to promoting student agency and leadership.
You may be interested in reading about what has been going on in my current school as a response to our ATL-based advisory program.