By James Hopkins
Manaiakalani Outreach Facilitator
What is student agency? It’s not something you can touch or taste, but it is something you can feel and see. I could spend time trying to define the levels of empowerment and interwoven student voice as indicators of success, however to many teachers and whānau, it is a feeling deep inside and one that is more than challenging to explain. On Tuesday 23rd August, the Ako Hiko Cluster offered perhaps the best chance to anyone wanting to see what student agency really is. Over 150 students from eight schools descended on Hay Park School to lead, explore and experience together. I am, of course, talking about Student Led Toolkits.
What Are Toolkits?
The basic premise of a toolkit is for someone with strong skills sharing their practice around a specific tool being used in their classroom. The ‘expert’ teacher is tasked with sharing the ‘why, how and what’ of a specific classroom tool that they have found success in. Sessions are generally around 45mins long and offer input and ‘sandpit’ time in which teachers are invited to play and explore the new learning in the context of their own class. All are offered for free and the chance to connect with other teachers from across the cluster is often a draw in itself. Originally the concept was designed as professional development for teachers by teachers, however Ako Hiko has taken it one step further and developed an annual student led conference for 1:1 learners across the cluster.
Student Led Toolkits
With the inaugural conference in 2015 being a huge success, the Education Programme Leader Team began planning for the 2016 conference in June this year. A simple website was constructed offering students the opportunity to submit sessions to present, sign up to go to others’ and provide general information about the running of the day. Like any conference, students were provided with lanyards and name tags, offered a goody bag and placed into a draw to win a host of prizes offered by conference sponsors. A half-day programme was offered with 18 sessions held across six different areas of the school, each offering a specific skill or an introduction to a new learning concept. Slides were prepared, students were rehearsed and focused and the individual toolkits ran with absolute precision.
An incredible day of learning took place with students leading one another. Teacher input was minimal and predominantly centred around solving tech issues and small pep-talks prior to sessions commencing. This day was for students, by students.
A special thanks must go to all of the presenters and attendees who made the experience a memorable one, but especially to Vicki Archer, Phil Margetts and Rebecca Barton for their leadership and incredible efforts in providing such an incredible experience. Many others helped behind the scenes and the staff at Hay Park were more than generous in not only offering their site for the day, but also for their planning, support and leadership. Roll on Student led toolkits 2017!