Year 13 English students from Nelson College for Girls discuss the challenges of working in an agentic environment. Students share their experiences of increased learner agency, the role of the teacher, course planning, and the need to balance agency and expectations.
Narrator: Year 13 English students from Nelson College for Girls, discuss the challenges of working in an agentic environment. Students share their experiences of increased learner agency, the role of the teacher, course planning, conferencing with classmates, and the need to balance agency and expectations.
Maureen Schuyl: Trying to move students who have had someone making all their decisions for them to a place where they can make all their decisions for themselves. I think it probably takes six months for them to come to understand.
Student 1: Our very first lesson with Mrs Schuyl, she told us that we won’t be jumping through hoops in this class. I remember I didn’t really understand what she said because I’m like, “If we don’t get taught how to pass NCEA, we’re not going to pass and I won’t have credits”, and it’s like freaking out because it’s so different to your first NCEA year, and you’ve got all this pressure of it’s Year 12, you know, you need to do so well, and someone’s telling you they’re not going to teach you how to pass NCEA, and it wasn’t until the end of the year when I understood what she said. You’ve got to actually learn what you’re writing and you’re not being spoon-fed. I know definitely when we first came into this in Year 12, my whole family, and my parents especially, it came across with the stigma of being lazy on the teacher’s behalf, that this isn’t teaching and this isn’t how classes should be taught, and that changed very, very quickly. The teacher has to do so much to make sure that it actually is self-directed learning.
Student 2: I understand that at face value, it might sound like only the people who have the motivation to drive their own learning will be able to achieve under the system. That is why the teacher is so important in this situation, because they can look at a classroom and gauge, okay so these girls might be really happy to go off and do an essay completely on their own and come back to me for feedback when it’s finished, but I completely understand that for some girls, the other side of the classroom, might not have that, but that’s where the teacher can spend a period, or the week, or the lesson going over, helping them, guiding them through if they need the structure.
Student 3: I did at the beginning of the year as I sat down with Mrs Schuyl and she said, “What do you feel like doing this year?” I’ve got this piece of writing about my family and I’m going to build on that to make it a portfolio which is worth six credits or something like that, so yeah, that’s going to happen, it’s just like a natural progression, I just keep going as I’m going and from that, I’ve got maybe a bit of poetry that I might do as a speech, unless I want to present that orally which I might.
Student 2: In my first year of this English class, well obviously I had to make my own plan-of-attack, if you will, and be like, okay what should I study, what standards should I do, and when shall I make them due for myself? And yeah that was difficult, but thank goodness I learnt it then and not having been thrown into first year university and have to deal with all of that on top of the moving away from home and everything else, I just think, why not just teach it when we’re students.
Student 4: Conferencing is a really important part of how our classroom works and how we develop our work to be the best it can.
Student 5: I get a lot of help from my classmates, so if we’re all working on the same essay or anything, we can bounce ideas off each other. We discuss the ideas that we’re doing at the moment in English. When we’re writing essays, I can say, “I’m thinking about doing this topic, what do you think”, and then my friends will say, “I feel like that’s a bit broad, I think you should do this or that”.
Student 3: I think when you’re in a class with people that you trust and you admire how they work and stuff, they can tell you how well you’re working and I think if you have a debate or a discussion in a group of friends then you know how well you’re doing.
Student 5: The most important thing about self-directed learning is getting the right balance. Getting just the right balance between, for example, having deadlines and having things that you should do, but also having self-governance, making your own decisions and doing things you’re interested in.
Student 3: This class, it’s not a free-for-all, she’s definitely there, she’s guiding us in more of a subtle way I think. Yeah, if we’re on the wrong track, she’ll be like, “Are you sure you know what you’re doing there?”, and you’re like, yep I can take the hint.
Student 2: Teachers can set you on the right path but they’re not going to hold your hand.