A concerned parent asked me about a project her son had to do in which he had to research Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style. The boy showed no interest in creating a presentation that included a diorama. He had no interest in the work, and his mother was concerned that the end result would reflect that fact.
I asked her if he played Minecraft, to which she replied yes, so I suggested that he build the diorama as a 3D model on Minecraft, and the young boy suddenly became very willing. He did the research and created a very good presentation.
It may be important for teachers to embrace a student’s capacity and enthusiasm when the chance arises. Allowing a student to choose how he or she may learn, with correct restrictions, may create a higher level of engagement and may compel the student to work harder.
Learning Targets And Student-Developed Products
There are times when students will invest more work into the projects and tasks they choose themselves. If the subject is rather open and the output may be varied, then students may engage with methods and styles that suit them. They may create documentaries, staged debates and pod casts of their choosing. If the tasks at hand still engaged the skills required by the curriculum, then it may be worth considering as a means of getting students to engage more and work harder. Students would still create work that may be subject to revisions, but by the time revisions are due, they would be engaged enough with the project to maintain their enthusiasm for it.
Students may use tools and apps to demonstrate their understanding of a concept without the usual structure we are all so used to. You could give students a desired outcome and then ask them to reach said outcome with the available tools (be them high or low tech) of their choosing.
If you are concerned, you could start small. You could give the students an outcome and give them three routes to the outcome so that they still have a choice. If you are a little more brave, you could have the first two choices be something structured by the teacher (i.e. something more traditional), and then have the third option as a wildcard/blank-check choice. That way, if the student has trouble picking a method of his or her own, he or she may resort to one of the structured options whilst still maintaining the notion that he or she choose the path taken. It would work well so long as they conform to the learning targets and propose a plan prior to starting.
Rubrics may sometimes be a useful tool when it comes to formative assessment. It helps teachers figure out how well a student is learning and may then be used as a peer coaching and self-assessment tool. The teacher would maintain a level of support for the students to ensure further growth.
It may be tough convincing the students that rubric is good for formative assessment, and it may then be tough for them to embrace the idea. It is imperative that the teacher repeatedly reviews the situation to ensure any instigated ideas are having the best effect, which is a sound thing to do in any teaching circumstance. For example, a teacher with a lesson plan is unlikely to keep to the same lesson plan year after year, since one assumes the teacher will change and adapt it to make it more efficient and effective.
A teacher may help save time by designing the rubric with the help of the students. It may then help them understand what the quality standards are for learning. It will help establish the student’s expectations, which alone may shave time from the process since the teacher will not have to go into so much detail about expectation later. Co-developing high-quality expectations with the students will make the students feel involved in the process, it will help them understand, and help get them to agree to it.
I have found that student-led conferences have taught me more about academic growth than any teacher-parent conference I have attended. The fact the students are allowed to lead without the teacher sitting in on the conversation is very enlightening.
When it comes to teacher-parent conferences, it is mostly about adults discussing student progress and their interpretation of it. If students are present, they are only able to respond to questions and comments put forwards by teachers, which may (and does) leave a blind spot in our awareness. The students sit there and daydream whilst the parents do the heavy lifting.
Student-led conferences allow students to reflect on their own learning and explore the journey. Students that take part and lead will often work in advance, which helps them bring forward the signs and signals relating to how they have grown during the academic marking period. They may expose how their work connects with things such as their grades and behavior. It allows us as teachers to evaluate their next steps regarding their continued growth.
If you are interested in this approach, here are some resources.
Set Students Free So They May Learn With You
I am a parent myself with two children, so I have experienced both sides of different instructional approaches, and I have experienced a wide range at that. I encouraged my teenage children to construct their learning criteria and establish their academic criteria.
As a result, my children spent around two days developing their ideas and designing methods that fit with their academic criteria. The process involved things such as experimenting with sounds and beats, constructing motorized vehicles, and trying to explain abstract scientific concepts behind the chapters the children were writing. The teachers they had helped by providing the muscle behind the process.
After the students were able to revise their projects, they were able to present their findings and ideas (my children too), and what was most interesting was how most of the children had focused a lot of time and energy into their projects. They had obviously forgone their usual free-time passions for the sake of working on their project about academic criteria and such. There are lots of opportunities for students, including essay services, but, nevertheless, students should get trust in order to develop themselves.
It is quite possible that when teachers trust their students to choose how they learn, and give them more open-ended opportunities, that more (if not most) students will engage with it. That the students will show more consent and even set their expectations a little higher as a result.