Freedom to Learn (F2L) is based on the notion that for significant learning to occur, this needs to be based on personal involvement and most importantly, it must be meaningful for the learner.
This project spanned a period of 3 years, one more than originally planned due to the pandemic. It supported 3 mentors from the Senior Management Team and numerous teachers from Italy, Malta and Poland, to provide the freedom and structure for learners to engage in truly meaningful learning activities. Supported by the mentors in each of the schools, and through an online network, teachers explored ways in which their actions as teachers can support this freedom while at the same time providing the structure that the learners need for significant learning to actually take place. This implies a concrete move from a teacher-centred to a learner-centred approach in which the teacher becomes a facilitator of learning, giving up some of his or her power in the classroom while modelling democratic competences in action.
Teachers were encouraged and supported to give as much freedom as they felt comfortable to give in their classrooms, taking into account the different contexts, as learners took on different small-scale projects of their choice. Teachers were supported to provide the resources that the learners needed to accomplish their self-initiated tasks. These ranged from material resources to specific activities that the teacher needed to carry out to support learners’ understanding. The mentors and online networking between the schools provided a forum where teachers could ask for help and support, discuss, share frustrations and good practices, and in so doing, created a small-scale community of practice.
Throughout, teachers were encouraged and supported to relinquish more and more of their power and authority in favour of as much freedom as they can afford. By the end of the project, teachers developed a deeper understanding of the learning process and felt more comfortable in a truly learner-centred classroom. By the end of the project, some teachers felt confident enough to adopt the same approach to specific curriculum content, giving the learners the freedom to choose how to learn the specified content themselves and engaging them in all aspects of the process including any final grading of the work where applicable.
The different contexts and levels provided an added value in terms of the common challenges that the participants faced. The different contexts and levels also provided for objective reflection and candid support as well as cross-fertilisation of ideas. The mentors in the different schools offered immediate face to face support whereas the online network provided a context for reflective practice, as teachers made their actions explicit. Four Learning, Teaching and Training Activities involving mentors and teachers consolidated the network and provided opportunities for participants to experience the different contexts, share good practices and develop their competences further.
The success of the project exceeded initial expectations. This website is but a showcase of an experience that has left an inedible mark on our school communities as the F2L network continues to grow.