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Let Learning Unfold With Students in Charge

We went over the project that was co-designed with the students today and the experiment is underway. Allowing students to take ownership of this project and in turn, the unit as a whole is a big shift.

Despite the fact, that I am comfortable sharing the decisions in class, I've never given up complete control with creating a unit wholesale. This was a great risk that I'm sure will yield big rewards.

As the project is set in motion there are several objectives:

  • Chart the trajectory of engagement during class time.

    • How are students using the time?

    • Are all students in the group participating equally?

  • Chart the level of learning going on in the assignment.

    • Is the assignment rigorous enough?

    • Was the pacing good?

    • Adequate time?

    • Adequate formative feedback?

  • Ensure the full meaning of the assignment is communicated and that the students themselves make sure that it is explained the way they want it to be.

  • Be clear about success criteria so that students know the expectations as outlined by their classmates and understand what benchmarks need to be met.

As the process unfolds, the progress will be tracked continuously through Periscopes as well as taking the status of the class and group conferences. Students will have multiple opportunities to speak with me and each other to make sure they understand what they are doing.

Here are some of my concerns:

  • The assignment will not be rigorous enough and will therefore feel like a waste of time despite how we tried to make sure that all ducks were in a row (of course this is a concern when I create the assignments myself too)

  • Students won't actually work deeply with the text or the research and then the work will lack depth. The usual suspects are at play here. What if we can't engage them and they derail their small groups?

  • The pacing may be off. There used to be three projects in this unit that we condensed into one, a substantial one. I'm not opposed to the idea, but I'm worried the depth of knowledge won't transfer.

That being said, I'm suspending my worry and concern and will trust in the process. The students are good and want to learn and because they do, it will work out and I have a lot to learn in the process as I observe and engage as a supporter rather than a leader.

The role of the teacher needs to be continually adjusted to suit the needs of our learners. Education has catered to the adults for too long and therefore has missed the mark. If we are truly invested in helping our learners become 21st century ready, we need to empower them more and then support them in their success and failures. In this way, they will learn to cope with both of those experiences in meaningful ways.

How can we continue to empower our learners and redefine our role as teachers to support them on their journeys? Please share

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in March 2016.


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