The Continuum of Ownership, updated by Barbara Bray (2018), is a derivative adapted from the original content by Bray and Kathleen McClaskey (2015) with graphics by Sylvia Duckworth. This continuum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
I’ve had many conversations educators who commented that developing ownership of learning takes time and that it doesn’t always happen in school. Most of us grew up in a system that valued sameness and compliance. In fact, many of the change agents I had conversations with during my podcasts who are successful entrepreneurs today had similar experiences that I had during their K-12 education. They stated that they did not have a voice in their learning and found ways to just follow the game of school. There was no ownership of their learning except outside of school.
The following four phases below and in the graphic above show how any learner moving from Compliance to Autonomy can build the self-confidence they need to own and drive the learning.
In the Compliance phase, learners do not own their learning or may not believe they are the ones that have to do the work to learn. They have no idea that they can own or drive their learning at this phase. This is what most of us as learners experienced because “school” was designed for “students” to follow instructions. Since the late 1800’s, a school was designed with the teacher as the person responsible and accountable for what students were learning. Students didn’t feel they had a choice in how or what they learned so they just went along and learned how to “do” school the way they were told. When you walk into a class where the teacher owns and drives the learning, the teacher tends to be the hardest-working person in the classroom. You will see walls covered with materials the teacher purchased or created. The teacher is usually doing most of the talking and students contribute to the class by doing what is asked of them.
In the Understanding phase, students share how they learn best with the teacher. Being able to write how they learn and include their interests, talents, and aspirations gives students a voice in what and how they learn. These conversations with the teacher help shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. In this phase, students also consult with the teacher to determine what resources, tools, and learning strategies can support what they need to meet learning goals and tasks. Students share evidence of what they are learning as they learn with the teacher and their peers. In this phase, the teacher with the students will choose the most appropriate resources to use and the evidence of learning to share and post on the walls.
In the Investment phase, students start developing the skills they need to work independently and collaborate with others. They see the value of goal setting with guidance from the teacher to determine the next action steps they will need to progress in their learning. They are now more invested in their learning and know how to identify and choose the best evidence of their learning that demonstrates mastery. Walking into a room where students are invested in their learning looks different. This is the phase that validates them as learners. They are focused on completing tasks, reflecting on what they understand, and talking about their learning. They enjoy sharing the evidence that demonstrates what they learned.
In the Autonomy phase, students as learners have the self-confidence and have acquired the skills to work independently and collaboratively with others. By using innovative and creative strategies, learners extend their goals to now pursue their interests and passions to discover their purpose for learning. They are determined to self-monitor their progress as they meet their goals. Learners identify something they are interested in and involve themselves in the process. Autonomy means they are learning because they motivated to learn. When you talk to learners in this phase, you can hear the excitement in their voices. Learners want to share what they are doing throughout the process and look forward to showcasing and exhibiting the process and products to peers, family, and possibly a global audience. When learners have autonomy, they own and drive their learning. Autonomy means that learners have agency.
Barbara McCombs, Ph.D., from the University of Denver, states in her research Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students that motivation is related to whether or not learners have opportunities to be autonomous and to make important academic choices. Having choices allows children to feel that they have control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps them develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.
This approach that McCombs states in her research demonstrated how learners can move from compliance to autonomy by teachers creating a learning environment that provides learners with choices and opportunities for growth and ownership of learning. When a learner at any age pursues an interest that they are passionate about, they are motivated to learn and own their learning. When learners own and drive their learning, they want to become more independent and eventually self-directed learners.
I want to give a big thank you to Sylvia Duckworth @sylviaduckworth (http://sylviaduckworth.com) from Toronto, Canada for designing the graphics for the Continuum of Ownership.
Other Continuums Moving to Learner Agency
- Continuum of Voice
- Continuum of Choice
- Continuum of Engagement
- Continuum of Motivation
- Continuum of Purpose