Our Teacher Led Innovation Fund project was one incredible learning journey. There have been some important changes in my practice which have occurred through my participation in this inquiry.
Before getting into it I want to acknowledge Liz Stephenson; one of the most beautiful people I have met. Liz your insights and depth of sharing during this professional learning opportunity will be with me forever. Thank you for giving your time and sharing your expertise so willingly. I am humbled to be part of the #storyhui whānau.
Also to Anne. Your drive and positivity is what makes you the special person you are. You have left me with many memorable moments. Something especially enduring is your ability to bring out learners’ deeper thinking through your questioning skills. It has been an unforgettable journey and I look forward to continuing our connection and learning together.
Thanks to Sandra and Rochelle who went on this journey with me. It couldn’t have been done without your enthusiasm and willingness to try something different. I think we can all see how valuable #storyhui is; listening to the voices of our students sharing what is important to them, watching them build confidence and learn what their swords and shields are, and seeing them thrive in a leadership role which is about understanding a process, and building mana amongst their peers in a quiet, trusting, respectful environment.
It is a privilege to share my #storyhui journey.
My curiosity was sparked when I was linked to a blog post from Anne Kenneally ‘Capturing the Voice of the Learner’. The twitter conversation which followed resulted in Anne and I seriously discussing where this could lead.
It led to this … #storyhui
“To draw someone’s story is to engage in a deeply respectful conversation” (Liz Stephenson).
I was captivated by #storyhui for a number of reasons.
Firstly it is about student voice. For a number of years now I have been consciously giving the classroom back to the kids. For too long our classrooms have been about the teacher; we decide everything, we make judgements on everything, we decide how everything will be. #storyhui is led by learners, is completely learner focused and this is empowering. For us, finding out what a learning success is from the child’s perspective is compelling as we get some insight into what students see as important learning. What makes #storyhui so potent is when learners get that ‘aha’ moment as they realise all the capabilities and strengths they used to achieve their particular learning successes.
#storyhui is focused on a learner’s full growth and achievement and this is another reason for my initial curiosity. When so much of what we base our judgements on are criterion-based, I was very intrigued to learn a technique which highlights an individual learner’s ‘complex world of personal learning and learner strengths’. #storyhui is a technique which moves away from a focus on traditional areas of achievement and success from the teacher’s point of view to what is meaningful and important to our learners. I am dedicated to ensuring that any sort of assessment I carry out is culturally responsive; that it allows for student voice and student difference and that it acknowledges a learner’s successes in a holistic way.
These examples below demonstrate an overwhelming theme which came through the students’ learning success stories; perseverance and determination
Lastly the combination of visual / oral narrative was very appealing. With so much of our learning being online it was enchanting to find #storyhui which takes us back to traditional modes of communication; telling and listening and drawing; all important skills which are integral to #storyhui success but also for life. Our #storyhui sessions had a real campfire feeling.
Finding #storyhui meant we could provide opportunities for learners to show often hard to see evidence. It was important to enable learners to do this; showing strengths that can often be missed. Particularly for our Māori and Pasifika learners. The #storyhui process is a culturally responsive way for learners to reflect on and record their own learning successes.
I am very aware that learner capabilities such as self management, manaakitanga, confidence, perseverance and collaboration are important aspects of learning, but it has always been difficult to describe or evidence these abilities. I have found #storyhui to be an innovative way for learners to share these capabilities. I see the potential #storyhui has for students to report on these capabilities alongside other educational achievement information such as literacy and numeracy with their whānau.
The coaching environment which is set up during the initial #storyhui meetings set a scene for inclusiveness.
- collaboration and safe sharing
- building collective knowledge
- social acceptance and celebration of each cultural difference
- the valuing of each achievement, no matter how small
- a respectful environment for risk-taking
- a place where learners can drive, explain and evaluate their own learning journeys.
We were very mindful about sustaining these practices throughout the project and taught our facilitators to revise the rules for the game at the beginning of every hui. All our #storyhuiers’ were respectful of the expectations and the mana always stayed with the storyteller. In fact this is what made the biggest impact from my observation; the students felt sharing in our #storyhui sessions was the only time they had ever shared self-selected learning successes to their peers in an environment where everyone was genuinely listening and the teller held the mana for that time.
The video ‘The Hero’s Journey’ was an engaging way to introduce the students to the concept of a learning success being similar to a journey.
The video explained how we all get called to adventure and from there we cross the threshold into the unknown and begin our transformation. Along the way we face challenges and temptations and we come across people who are there to help. The revelation takes place in the abyss and we come out transformed. We complete our journey with a sense of satisfaction and atonement ready to return to the known and wait to be called to a new adventure.
The students were keen to get into the role of the hero.
Our puzzle of practice
What happens to students’ ownership of learning and achievement if teachers support them to provide oral, visual and written evidence of learning?
Here is what the students said:
Over time with practice, sharing learning stories has got easier. Lots of the kids talked about feeling more ‘confident’ when sharing. Building confidence is a change for me and being encouraging is something I have learnt to do better. They all spoke about how it feels good to share and to have other people listening. The story is a story – no matter how big or small – I would not have shared as many success if not for #storyhui. #storyhui has helped me build my confidence – when you have told a story it feels good you feel confident – then you can share on to whanau. You feel proud – you want to tell it.
These two snapshots below are examples of the ownership the learners felt.
We began our learning by coming up with an overall inquiry question.
What changes happen to current teacher-led practice when we give students ownership and agency by using narrative as an assessment-as-learning tool? (Story Hui)
Change in practice
Although not a change in my practice, #storyhui reinforced the importance of a safe and trusting environment if we are wanting our learners to share freely. Through the #storuyhui journey the relationships with my students developed more deeply and we were able to discuss learning and other things freely and honestly; there were no barriers. This will continue to be a focus in my practice when building class culture.
#storyhui had me thinking about the importance of not only setting aside time to make sure our learners can share their successes but also the importance of an environment where there are expectations in place for others to listen and where the mana is with the person telling the story. Something which will change in my practice is my intention to embed #storyhui into our day. I will have a designated space for #storyhui and I will encourage my facilitators to lead #storyhui whenever the time presents itself.
After listening to their stories I have learnt how important it is for their peers and I to be available; to allow them time to share successes which are important to them. The change in my practice will be to give over the talking time to the students. Everyone involved with #storyhui mentioned to us how much they appreciated the time to share without interruptions. Knowing the group were really listening was important and was the difference to anything they had experienced before. Taking on one of the roles in a #storyhui session, as well as having a question to ask, meant the storyteller knew their peers were listening.
Another thing which was reinforced during this project was how capable our learners are if we give them opportunities to lead. The #storyhui experience has equipped a number of students with the knowledge and understanding of the #storyhui process which will enable them to lead hui in my class. These leadership roles quite possibly would not have eventuated for some of these students if it weren’t for the #storyhui project as we selected the group based on the potential we could see. Many of these students are those who don’t hold ‘formal’ leadership roles in the school but who are leaders in their own right and it has been exciting to watch these students build their confidence as they become comfortable with facilitating #storyhui with their peers. There were many occasions when our facilitators told us they were enjoying this leadership role. When asked, responses included this: It feels good to teach and help others and pass on what we have learnt when we facilitate.
Regarding leadership, something in my practice which I am more determined to do is to build belief in children who may not consider themselves leaders. I am a firm believer that leaders do not have to only be the loud and most confident students. It is important to ensure my students know that leadership can look different in different contexts and circumstances. Ensuring I encourage all students to take on leadership roles by giving them the opportunity to lead an initiative like #storyhui will be a focus.
The inclusive environment which is integral to the #storyhui process is another aspect which was profoundly obvious as we progressed through our journey. On a number of occasions early in our journey, students would start their story by saying ‘this is not really a learning success’ or ‘this is not a big success story’. Over time it was learnt that a learning success does not need to be labelled big or small, that it did not have to involve a particular curriculum area, that it was their story and what was important was others were there to listen and learn about the story-teller’s feelings, strengths, and shields as they journeyed through the chasm and came out the other side! All stories were worthy of sharing; these were their stories. I believe this has been a change in the way my students view success as a result of #storyhui.
The students began to realise that a learning success does not have to be huge and it does not have to be attached to a ‘curriculum area’ – that a success can be relating to any experience which has led to new understanding about something. The students’ comments also provide an awareness of how, by default, the #storyhui process helps build confidence.
Giving time for students to share their stories has, by default, resulted in another change in my practice and that is being a better listener. #storyhui has shown me what genuine listening looks like and sounds like. #storyhui has enabled me to realise the importance of having a place, a time, and a process to enable true, active listening.
The other change which will occur in my practice as a result of #storyhui is the way I ask questions to initiate deeper thinking. It became really evident how the use of careful questioning could elicit deeper thinking and more detailed responses. In turn, the ability to press for further information from the storyteller means they too are thinking deeper about their success and therefore having to consider all the shields, swords, and people involved in their learning success.
The last idea I am pondering is colouring in the white spaces. I would like to change the paper I use for #storyhui to black paper and use white / silver / gold pen for the story. I want to ensure these artefacts are valued and seen as precious evidence by the students and their whanau.
I feel at this point in our project I can say with certainty the learners who have participated in #storyhui have made very valuable contributions to their own evidence of learning through the establishment of visual artefacts (story hui) which can and have been shared with whanau. My next step is to use them in student led celebrations of learning. #storyhui has led me to make some subtle changes to my practice. Although subtle, they will be impactful.