My best learning experience

1) Reflect on your own personal learning journey and K-12 education. Identify one learning experience that you can point to as having made a significant impact on some element of your own growth and development. It could be that teacher and subject that really sparked significant growth or a trip that opened your eyes to a whole new world or way of thinking or a non-catastrophic failure that you learned so much from.  Briefly describe the learning experience and identify the various supports, structures, mindsets and relational ingredients that were put in place by the teacher or facilitator that directly contributed to your growth and success. 

Grade 10 World History, Mr. McKenna’s class. My friends Alex and Dan and I made a video for a presentation we were supposed to do on ancient Egypt. Personal computer-based video editing was new – we used a camcorder, a computer at my dad’s office, and a lot of time. What we ended up producing was good enough that Mr. McKenna used it as an instructional video in the following years! This was perhaps my first real affirmation of the joy and satisfaction that comes from pursuing a creative, unexpected idea with rigour and thoroughness, losing the self in the pursuit of a vision. Even though he had assigned a presentation, I don’t remember any push back at all when we asked to do the video, and clearly he had given us access to the appropriate knowledge to make something meaningful. While it is difficult for me to remember particulars, I think that allowing choice and encouraging a creative pursuit must have been integral to us producing what we did. Clearly, we had a positive and trusting relationship with him and we were given the time and freedom to take this on. I do know that Mr. McKenna was never hung up on his idea of how things “ought to be,” which was true for our essay ideas as much as it was true for this “presentation!”


2) What is the one Learning skill (MOE) or Approach to Learning (IB ATL) that you feel is MOST important in this day and age? How do you intentionally build it into your curriculum and develop it in your students throughout the year?

Meta-cognitive awareness. The greater our self-awareness, the better positioned we are to make constructive choices to adapt to our weaknesses and harness our strengths. I think Volipitta’s 4S framework useful for describing this awareness. We need to be aware of how we think about our self, situations, strategies, and support. The more we understand how we think, why, and, consequently, how we feel and act as a result, the more effectively we can engage all of the other Approaches to Learning Skills.

I build this into my curriculum very directly, and daily, as my curriculum essentially is Approaches to Learning Skills. I use discussions of quotes, videos, and readings, as well as a number of awesome exercises from The Student Mindset: A 30-item toolkit for anyone learning anything Paperback (2018) by Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin. Every lesson we do is couched in terms of how to think about the issue at hand.


3) Insert an image below that best captures the essence of that Learning Skill or ATL.


From The Centre for Resilient Leadership



5 thoughts on “My best learning experience”

  1. Hi Lincoln,
    I enjoyed reading your blog and am looking forward to meeting you in person on Saturday! I remember being in highschool and doing a similar project! I think I remember the shennanigans that went on actually trying to film the production with a buch of giggling girls the most, but I also remember the product, learning, and discussion that went on at school too. It was creative and allowed many of us to shine!
    Take care,

  2. Hi Lincoln,

    Thanks for this post – love the dragon fly image. I really like how you articulated this: I build this into my curriculum very directly, and daily, as my curriculum essentially is Approaches to Learning Skills. The reason I like this is that more and more content is the vehicle through which we can have our students know, understand and practice skills and mindsets. If this resonates with you, you have found a great place to land for your PD!


  3. Hey Lincoln (@lsmith),

    I had never heard of Volipitta’s 4S framework before reading your post, but I certainly intend to look into it now. This is the type of sharing you will find with your Cohort21 experience: tons of sharing of amazing teaching tools.

    I’m excited to help you with your action plan this year and share meta-cognitive strategies.

    Welcome to Cedar Group,

  4. Hey! Welcome to season 8!
    Thanks for the book recomendation- Like you i am a big fan of the 4S but have not had the pleasure of looking through this resource.

    Meta-cognition is such a stromng basis for helping students to truly become independant learners. Being able to cultivate that awareness in them is an awesome gift to give to your students.

    Looking forward to seeing what you work on this year!

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