Student ownership was an area of focus in my action research last year. I have always been passionate about ownership over learning and behavior but my systems for teaching and modeling this have varied greatly until about three years ago when I finally created my own system. The system itself is so simple that it is almost embarrassing but I have realized that the approach, the way we model and use the system is what makes it work. Moving an idea (any idea) from theory into practice, especially best practice, takes careful planning, consistent attention and a lot of self-reflection. Here are the Levels of Ownership:
Level 1: Understanding with assistance
Level 2: Collaborating, trying and applying
Level 3: Applying and understanding independently
Level 4: Guiding and instructing others, creating new meaning
The first step I took to implement these was to unpack each one with my class. I started with the title, Levels of Ownership, we unpacked the words levels and ownership so that the students were able to construct a deeper understanding of this practice. We talked about why we take ownership, when students have the opportunity to take ownership (always) and how this connects to our Levels of Responsibility (loosely based on the Raise Responsibility System).
Understanding with assistance: Beginning with Level 1, I introduce the vocabulary (which I borrowed from Blooms) and then allow the students to create their own meaning through examples, synonyms and discussions. Constructing meaning, context and importance is critical for the students owning the levels of ownership. The Levels of Ownership are often covered with various post-its with descriptors, examples and guiding questions.
Collaborating, trying and applying: We talk about the levels of ownership...a lot. After mini-lessons and independent practice we do quick checks and share our levels with partners or the class. When learning new concepts we visit the levels and choose where we are on our scales of understanding. After group work we check in with our levels to evaluate our independence and ownership over our work. I share my levels of ownership and we talk about the importance of honest reflection. This is where the process is normalized. We share, we try new things, we fail and we learn. If we don't use the levels of ownership, we don't truly understand them and then they aren't a valuable tool.
Applying and understanding independently: This is where the students not only own their learning but drive the learning that happens in the classroom. Allowing for student choice and reflection, collaborating on classroom design, celebrating struggles, establishing a culture of feedback and fostering a true community are ways to practice this step. The classroom is never mine, it is always belongs to the students and this is where we live that. This step is also very important to me, as their teacher. If students are owning their work, I need to hold myself accountable for planning for high quality, best practice instruction.
Guiding and instructing others, creating new meaning: This step is often the most difficult for us to define. I really grappled with writing these words in the post as well. This level is when students have a firm grasp of the content, have owned each step of the process and are able to support others in their learning. We also know that creating is the highest form of thinking so in this level students are creating, transforming content into something else. This might be a blog post, a genius hour or inquiry project or creating tools (writing songs, developing graphic organizers, etc) to help instruct others.
Where does the feedback happen, you ask? In all levels of ownership. Effective Teacher-Student feedback loops are used to empower students to reflect on their practice and identify strategies or tools they can use to move throughout the levels. Student-Student feedback loops are also a critical component in moving through the levels as well - practicing effective feedback and normalizing practice and error is essential to successful ownership.
Things may have gotten out of hand with the length of this post but it is really just the beginning (we are understanding with assistance?!). I'd love to hear your strategies for student ownership and requests for topics for future posts. Let's continue this discussion.