A teacher involved in our Learning by Design project describes a small but very poignant moment of learner transformation, a moment of recognition on the part of the child of his or her own sense of agency:
At a workshop with about 20 of her peers, Rosemary showed a video that she had made of one of her grade one students, Mario. She had asked Mario to show his work and share his opinions about a recent project. This was a boy whom she described as having a great deal of difficulty with writing—a boy who would only ever write reluctantly and with much prompting and encouragement.
The teacher had asked the children to respond to a book they had read in class about a hungry caterpillar and to use their preferred mode to illustrate their favourite part of the book.
Mario was interviewed by the teacher and asked about what he had chosen to do, in this case a 3D model/sculpture which represented that part of the book he had most enjoyed. The teacher then asked him about some writing on a yellow sheet of paper that was on the desk next to his sculpture.
Mario read from the yellow paper: ‘This is a [hungry] caterpillar’. The teacher is heard from behind the camera asking him if anyone had asked him to do that writing – ‘no’ he responds, with a smirk and evident satisfaction on his face.
‘So, what made you do this writing?’ Rosemary asks.
To which he replies, ‘I did it all by myself.’
‘Do you think you are a good writer?’ she asks.
The boy’s face contorts into a grimace and he shakes his head.
‘No,’ he says.
Pointing at the piece of paper she asks: ‘But do you think this is good writing?’
‘Yes,’ says Mario, with a tentative smile.
‘Why?’ asks his teacher.
‘Because I did it all by myself and nobody helped me.’
The video ends with a big smile from Mario.
Burrows, Peter, Bill Cope, Mary Kalantzis, Les Morgan, Kieju Suominen, and Nicola Yelland. 2006. ‘Data from the Australian Research Council Learning By Design Project.’ Unpublished Manuscript.