Some love it, some hate it.
I once had a love-hate relationship with hiking until I questioned why.
How is it possible to hold such conflicting emotions for the same act?
While reflecting on my good old love-hate relationship with hiking, I was able to tease out my conflicting emotions and define the why. I realized that it was not the act of hiking that made me love or hate it, it was the conditions of the experience that defined my emotional response.
In that moment, I realized the parallels between classroom learning experiences and the conditions that defined whether I left the trail loving it, eager to go again, or down right pissed off hating every second.
I am now very aware that I have taken some students on some pretty terrible ‘hikes’.
The sad part is, I did it with a smile. I was completely oblivious to the conditions being created in the expereince.
I am now aware, that on some of those trips (not all) I might as well have led them straight to a hungry ol’ grizzly bear den and pushed them in.
So, in an attempt rectify my errors and to stop students from being fed to the proverbial grizzly bear, I am going to share with you what I have uncovered.
A journey through the mountains and a learning journey in the classroom have the following elements in common.
- an effective guide
- continual evaluation and assessment
- and an understanding and awareness of the different experiences each individual brings to the journey
Before setting out on a journey everyone needs to be made aware of the gear they are going to require. They need to be informed of the type of terrain they are going to travel, and the nature of the steps they are going to take. By making this information clear, only the most effective tools will find themselves in the bag.
Lugging unnecessary gear over four mountain passes is both cumbersome and an ineffective use of energy. Not to mention incredibly frustrating when you attempt repack the bag after dumping it all out, only to find that what you had wasn’t what you needed.
As such, hikers and students, need to know what they are going to encounter. They also need to know how to assess their gear and evaluate it for its merit. It is important that hikers and students look at their resources through a number of lenses. Having resources that can serve more than one purpose can be very helpful when the conditions change.
By making the hiker and student aware of the expectations that will need to be met along the journey, they will be able to pack the right resources and will begin to shape the conditions for a positive relationship with the journey.
LOVE: knowing the route, having an understanding of what is to come, having the gear to tackle the terrain.
HATE: Blindly following, not prepared for the terrain, wrong gear.
Hikers, like students want to explore. They want to slow down and follow their curiosities. They want to have the time to uncover the beauty around them. The final destination is not the defining moment of the journey. Therefore, they need a good guide. A good guide does not evaluate success upon reaching the final destination. They define their success along the journey. Did the hikers notice and smell the flowers? Did they have the opportunity to see the reflection in the lake? Were they given the time to enjoy the sunrise?
A good guide, shows them the general direction and allows them to choose the path they are going to take. A good guide, allows the hiker to explore everything in between.
Most importantly, a good guide knows that it is the experiences had along the way that make the final destination so rewarding.
A good guide, assures the hikers that it is okay to venture off the trail and forge their own way, as long as they keep in mind the direction they need to go. As such, a good guide coaches the hiker to critique and reflect on the path they have chosen. A good guide, prepares the hiker with the problem solving skills they will require should an obstacle appear in their path.
A good guide, provides the hiker with the opportunity to challenge themselves and attempt to conquer the obstacles they find in their path. The guide is always informed and ready to provide support should the hiker need it.
LOVE: Having the opportunity to sit down and think about the experience you are having. Having the opportunity to select the path that is right for you, even if that means breaking away from the trail. Having someone along the journey that values the beauty that each step brings, not just the arrival at the final destination. Having someone to share it with.
HATE: Being toted along from start to finish, missing everything in between. Forced to stay on the same path even if it your feet don’t fit.
The Need for Assessment and Evaluation
This is most important.
Hikers must constantly assess their journey. They need to continually reflect on the steps they have taken and the ones they are about to take.
They have to set goals for themselves . They have to evaluate their capabilities and determine how they are going to achieve their goals.
They need to receive feedback and support from those around them continually.
They need to constantly assess their gear and adjust as needed.
They need to reflect on what they require in order to continue moving forward, so that they can be successful and grow from the experience.
Most importantly, with every step they are afforded the opportunity to implement their new understanding and learning about the situation they are in. Every step brings with it reflection. Each of these steps carries a message and by acting on these messages the journey is enjoyable and rewarding.
If the hiker is not made aware of how to collaborate, self-reflect, self-monitor and problem solve, the final destination will bring fatigue, blisters, body aches and little enjoyment and personal growth.
Love: Continually reflecting on the journey and the steps taken. Monitoring needs and implementing feedback from self and others. Setting goals and achieving them. Sharing the journey with others. Proud of the accomplishment. Personal growth.
Hate: Left to stumble and navigate the terrain. Rushed and unable to monitor needs and make the required adjustments. Fatigued, frustrated, blistered.
Understanding the Experiences and Differences Each Member Brings to the Journey
Assumptions are deadly.
Knowing each persons level of experience and mindset is very important.
Most of the images I have shared with you are from a multi-day backpack trip I took with my mom and my cousin.
Having shared my graphic adventures with my mom time and time again, she began to see herself standing there with us along the ridge. A spark was ignited. She wanted to go. She was ready to release her inner goat.
“If you can do it, so can I” she beamed with excitement and committed to the trip.
I agreed with her. If I can do it, she most certainly can.
For an outsider looking in this comparison might seem a tad misplaced.
This is me!
Don’t mind if I say so myself, but my 32 year old self looks pretty darn good. At a glance, I look happy and healthy and more than capable (which I am, because I have the right mindset). However, like with all situations there is always more than what meets the eye.
Assumptions, are deadly.
I have arthritis. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid and Psoriatic arthritis when I was 12 years old. Quick and easy math – that’s 20 years now that I have been living with it. As a result, I’m missing a few joints here and there, some are just plain and simple fused together, and some burn like hell fire. Needless to say, my body does’t always move the way I want it to or the way people assume it would at first glance. So, it is safe to say that I have my own set of limitations, differences, and experiences. I have a different set of strengths and weaknesses that I bring to the group.
My cousin and my mom each have their own set of limitations, differences, experiences, strengths and weaknesses that they bring to the group.
By being aware of and nurturing these differences we were able to achieve the goal we set out to achieve. We were able to support one another along the journey and grow both independently and together. As we reflected on each section of the trip, we became aware that our varying limitations, differences, experiences, strengths and weaknesses continually shifted and changed as we supported one another.
Understanding this provided us each the opportunity to act in the role of the guide. In so doing, the experience was heightened as each member was valued for the contributions they were able to make.
LOVE: Having your experiences, differences, strengths and limitations being respected, valued and honoured. Having the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience.
HATE: Being in a situation where you are not looked upon for contributions. Put in situations where your limitations are not supported and you are left feeling trapped, stranded, and alone.
When all four of these requirements work together, the hiker and student will reach the final destination with a smile on their face. The conditions of their experience will be embodied with love and they will achieve the highest level of personal growth. They will have had a journey that they will most certainly wish to undertake again.
On your next hike, where will you end up?
“Its easy, look. Just do it. Ugh, what are you doing? Lets go already! You have hiked this type of terrain 1000 times.”
— Emphasis on the final product, the arrival at the end, not supported, not valued, not honouring the self reflection or assessment the hiker has made for themselves. Ready to be left to behind for the grizzly.
“You can do this, we’ve got you. We will help you through this section. I want you to try looking into the hillside and away from the edge as we go. Move slow and steady, and follow my tracks. One of us can take your bag so you feel more steady on your feet. If you need to stop, say so, and we will. If you would like to try using the poles you can. I prefer being hands free in this type of terrain, you decide what feels right for you. When you are ready we will continue on.”
— Emphasis on the journey, support, feedback. Listening to the hikers self assessment and supporting their needs. Valuing the experiences had along the way. Valued, achieving goals, feeling proud.
If the conditions are right, the guide will become the hiker and hiker will become the guide.
Who do you want to release your inner goat with?
Readings that influenced my understanding:
- Donhauser, M., Hersey, H., Stutzman, C. & Zane, M. (2014a). From lesson plan to learning plan: An introduction to the inquiry learning plan. School Library Monthly, 31(1), 11-13.
- Fontichiaro, K. (2015). “What’s inquiry? Well, I know it when I see it.” School Library Monthly, 31(4): 49-51.
- Okemura, A. (2008). Designing inquiry-based science units as collaborative partners. In School Library Monthly, 25(3): 47-51.
- Stripling, B. K. & Harada, V. H.. (2012). Designing learning experiences for deeper understanding. School Library Monthly, 29(3): 5-12.
- Style, E. (1988). Curriculum as window & mirror. Listening for all Voices. Oak Knoll School monograph. Summit, NJ. The SEED (Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity) Project on Inclusive Curriculum. Wellesley Centres for Women.
- Wiggins, G. & McTighe, J. (2005a). Appendix. In Understanding by Design, 2nd ed., expanded version(pp. 327-332). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
- Buerkett, R. (2011). Inquiry and assessment using Web 2.0 tools. School Library Monthly 28(1): 21-24.
- Coatney, S. (2003). Assessment for learning. In Barbara Stripling and Sandra Hughes-Hassell (Eds.). Curriculum connections through the library (pp. 157–168). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
- Fontichiaro, K. (2011a). Nudging toward inquiry – Formative assessment. School Library Monthly 27(6): 11-12.
- Fontichiaro, K. (2011b). Nudging toward inquiry – Summative assessment. School Library Monthly 27(7): 12-13.
- Harada, V. H. (2010). Self-assessment: Challenging students to take charge of learning. School Library Monthly 26(10): 13-15.
- Louis, P. & Harada, V. H. (2012). Did the students get it? Self-assessment as key to learning. School Library Monthly 29(3): 13-16.
- Moreillon, J. & Fontichiaro, K. (2008). Teaching and assessing the dispositions: A garden of opportunity. Knowledge Quest 37(2): 64-67.
- Pappas, M. (2010). Reflection as self-assessment. School Library Monthly 27(3): 5-8.
- Todd, R. J. (2011). Charting student learning through inquiry. School Library Monthly 28(3): 5-8
- Tomlinson, C. A. (2008). Learning to love assessment. Educational Leadership 65(4): 8-13.