TransformEd Change Agents: Dr. Catherine Zeisner

Two school leaders work together, with the headline TransformEd: Class of 2030 and the Microsoft, WE, and Fair Chance Learning logos

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As part of Microsoft in Education Canada’s TransformEd initiative, we reached out to some of the Canadian educators who are empowering the Class of 2030 with future-ready skills and forward-looking pedagogy. Dr. Catherine Zeisner is a Principal with the Thames Valley District School Board in Ontario, and an assistant professor at Gonzaga University in Washington and Western University in Ontario, specializing in Educational Leadership. She has her finger on the pulse of pedagogy, and we got the chance to ask her about the most important ideas in teaching, learning, and what students need to thrive. Read our interview with Dr. Zeisner!

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What exciting things do you see happening for students of different backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles when they’re able to personalize their learning?
Personal learning (PL) develops independence.  Having ownership over their choices, students learn to advocate their needs, are aware of their choices, and create equity for themselves. Teachers providing these opportunities for their students allow for more individuality and success at every stage of the learning process. They are aware of their students’ abilities and needs as it allows one-on-one time.

Student-to-student feedback built into PL allows students to seek and receive “feedforward” to improve their work.  Leadership and confidence develop when tasks create stages for students to share their work. PL allows students to understand their needs and wants and then learn to communicate those requests developing the skills necessary to work collaboratively.

PL allows for the development of self-efficacy which research proves is an indicator of success in all aspects of life and learning.  We know technology is an amazing vehicle to support personalization, but a supportive teacher needs to lead the way. Creating rich opportunities, feedback, and modelling creates classrooms full of learners prepared for the future.

What benefits do you see when student voice is encouraged?

The benefits associated with encouraging student voice allows students to grow and get their needs met.  We know that often there is an education perception disconnect between students and teachers and student voice addresses that gap.  Leadership, confidence, and persuasion are grown through the development of student voice.  Encouraging respectful debate, research-based idea sharing, and a sharing platform creates learning environments where students develop deep cognitive abilities and greater social-emotional skills.

The benefits of student voice for educators is that student engagement rises because content explored is more relevant to the students.  We all know the saying “the answer is in the room.” Well, with student voice, the answer is in the school.  Students know a lot, and when we give them the safe and supportive platforms to share, we are providing them with a great sense of belonging.  Most importantly, educators need to listen when students speak and consider the thoughts, investigate the suggestions, and implement the ideas.

If we’re empowering student voice today, what qualities will that translate to when they join the workforce tomorrow?

Empowering student voice today will translate into multiple qualities that students will utilize in the workforce tomorrow.  The ability to communicate effectively with others, working collaboratively with colleagues, and having the confidence to share their needs and ideas with their organization.  The workforce tomorrow will have more engaged and motived employees who know how to respectfully communicate.  Employees will look for opportunities to speak and share their ideas, therefore allowing for the development of their commitment to the organization.

Since student voice develops leadership, confidence, and persuasion skills no longer will an “entry level’ position be quiet.  Employers will have new employees with strong social-emotional skills that will allow for opportunities in which everyone will benefit.  Feeling that they have a voice in the success of their employer creates invested workers, happy employees, and people willing to go the extra mile.  These employees will be more motivated to work for the success of the organization, not just themselves.

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Catherine’s insights are a key to unlocking empowerment for students. Check in over the next two months, and you’ll see more ideas from innovative education leaders across Canada as part of TransformEd. To learn more about the needs of the Class of 2030, find resources to enable your own future-ready teaching, or sign up for one of our Canadian Educator or School Leader Summits, head to microsoft.ca/TransformEd.

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