A plan for planfulness
An Unschooled Masters proposal for some research
I moved into this year with a desire to open up space for myself to work on this unschooled masters project. It’s been a couple of months since my last post where I used the questions that we ask our young people to help them reflect on their learning to reflect on the progress I have made with this project.
Since then I have attempted to make some serious headway with this project and after trying really hard to push it in one direction a breakthrough happened and it went all left field on me.
I started by curating a list of articles on the cognitive development of planning capacities in young people, thinking that grounding myself in the cognitive developments might be useful. In the process of bringing together such a reading list I came across the doctoral thesis Dissolving the Walls: An Inquiry into Nomadic Agile Learning and decided that it looked intriguing enough to start with. However, it was disappointingly overly philosophical. Whilst the large first section was an interesting journey through Dewey’s understanding of the holistic notion of transactional experience whilst also weaving other related action-orientated perspectives, such as enactivism and activity theory, into a pragmatist-enactivist onto-epistemology of situated knowing, the second was disappointing. Here agile learning tools were discussed from the perspective of a University lecturer as facilitator, however, as someone who works at an Agile Learning Centre (ALC) I felt that I gained nothing from this discussion of the practical application of agile tools in the context of situated knowing.
But it sowed a seed.
Do I want to study the cognition of planning and retrospectively apply it to my work as a facilitator or do I want to study something that can be weaved into my work as a facilitator from the get-go?
So I held fire on the cognitive science and started pursuing writing and presentations on the history of ALCs, different ALC tools and their applications and reflecting on some of the questions that I already had from my observations of how our learning community operates whilst using them. At the end of that week I spoke to facilitators from other learning communities around the UK and the question that one of them wanted to ask was in self-directed education spaces how do you meet a child who wants to be told what to do by an adult?
There is a juxtaposition here with the notion of the child self-directing their learning, as is normally conceived, with the need for direction from outside especially from an adult. And, they asked, how do you find that balance?
Every question that we work with almost never has a binary but is always a question of finding the right balance. Tipping the scales in the right direction, or to the optimum place. That was how I was conceiving the questions that had been running through my head and they were fittingly similar to this persons.
During that hour long discussion I realised that this was rich and fertile ground for thinking, and therefore for writing. And an idea for an ethnographic/action research project came together, which this week I proposed at our mentor meeting and so excitingly I will be conducting an action research project on planfulness and tools for planning for young people at our learning community over the next couple of months.
I have not finalised the project fully but I am interested in exploring my own reflections on planfulness, trying to dissect what us as facilitators think about the practices and processes we use and if we actually all come at it from the same page (our differences will be of degree not kind but might be interesting all the same), exploring how facilitators from different communities across the country think about planfulness, and finally what our young people think about planning and projects and the tools we use.
A few of the themes that I would like to explore:
Cognitive developments in planning ability (especially in tweens and teenagers)
Time and timings
How do we meet people who want more direction from outside where they are at?
Is a learning community a primarily social space or project based learning space for our young people? Why might they come to us perceiving it differently? How does that change how they relate to us and our meetings? And how do we relate to them? Differently or not?
What are the purposes of the ALC tools we use: to us, to other facilitators, to the broader network. Do they all align? Do they have to?
What tools do we not use we could adopt and what tools do we use we could let go of.
What is the hidden curriculum of planfulness at learning communities across the UK, including our own.
I’m sure others will come up as I proceed. I aim to take this half term to conduct some research, gather some thoughts, interview/talk to the different groups outlined above and then spend Easter bringing together some proposals for change that we could implement and analyse over the next half term. I will then write it up during that half term.
Additional Thoughts on the Project
Since I started this project I am heartened to see thathas decided that the peer review system is not working and that other ways of publishing science should be attempted, such as publishing science articles on his substack instead of in journals.
I wrote this as a paper for a scientific journal last year, but getting it published required making it boring. Here’s the version I wanted to write.
This fits in line with one of the central tenants of this project in that gatekeeping of credentials should not be viewed as an impediment to conducting something serious/scientific/academic and that in some ways the gatekeeping and centralised nature of education is going to break apart and we should be trying new things now anyways. This project is undertaken in the same spirit that Adam writes this conclusion to his rallying call for a different way of publishing science.
So now is the time to act. May the best ideas win. And if I end up looking foolish, that’s all right. I am, after all, literally a clown.
Whilst discussing with my fellow facilitators this project proposal we not only fleshed out more ideas for the action research but came to the tangential conclusion that it might be useful to reach out into our local home education community and run termly workshops on deschooling as unschooling parents. We intend to open up the space to host a discussion group for anyone interested in thinking about their relationships with education and how they can deschool and the first topic, fittingly, is planfulness. Exciting times.
And finally, I hope to populate this part of my substack with more regular ongoing brief notes on my reflections as I move through the ethnographic stage of collecting research over the next month or so. Or at least that is the plan!
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