As an interning teacher of high school German, something I'm really struggling with is when students just don't put a lot of effort into my assignments. But not because I can't understand why - it's because I DO understand. The activities I give in class and assignments I give for homework can't be flexible enough to perfectly accommodate every student. Some don't really need the practice, others need to work more on the basics, and perhaps most of them would learn better some other way. Like the saying, "you can't please everyone", I think you also can't teach everyone with the same explanations, activities and assignments. When I try, I feel like everyone loses.
Here's what I'd rather do, though it may be too radical. At the beginning of each semester, I want to show students a schedule of learning objectives and over the first couple weeks, I'd like to share with them tons of resources, online and locally, that they can use to reach each objective. After that, at the beginning of every week, we'd be in the computer lab (which we already have on Mondays), where each student would plan out how they'll meet the objectives of the week. By the end of that class, they would need to send me a copy of their plan so that I can look it over, possibly make suggestions, and approve it. Throughout the rest of the week, students would work on what's in their plan. For homework every Thursday, they would reflect on how well they accomplished their goals - what worked for them, what didn't, and what they need to do to improve. As for the question of assessment, students could also make up projects with rubrics (that I would approve) to show that they have actually learned. As for my role in the classroom, I would be more of a guide than a teacher. I would help students individually when they ask for help, work on finding more resources for them, and create more learning materials that my students assign me to make. Outside of school, I would also get books from the local libraries that my students request.
My Thoughts After Writing This
- "What?! High school students aren't mature enough to take control of their own learning!" (Well, maybe that's because most of them have never had to. If we took self-directed learning seriously and maybe had freshman take a mandatory course in it, students would really appreciate the opportunity. After all, self-directed learning means no more busy work because they only do what they need to learn!)
- "If this could actually work, why don't we see more alternative schools doing this? The schools that actually do something similar all seem to be elementary and once in a while, middle school." (Maybe it's too different and people are too scared to try. I think another huge problem is that self-directed learning isn't a focus of many [or any?] teacher training programs. I spend hours nearly every day teaching myself new things and finding more resources for my students, but I had to learn on my own how to do that. Most education professionals only seem to speak of PD as instructor-driven courses and seminars.)
I'd love to hear some other people's thoughts on this. I've been going a little crazy lately, frustrated with my own teaching and unsure of what I should do about it.