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.

Views: 68

Tags: student-driven

Comment by Jeremy Kaiser on October 5, 2009 at 9:59pm
If you can figure out a way to make it work, the students would greatly benefit from your efforts. This is the way that education is needing to head in order to help students learn. I think this is true of any class whether it be English or Science or a Foreign Language class. Student generated learning is the only way to go, if a teacher can get it to work. This will take some major change in attitude, not only with the students, but with parents, other teachers and administrators. You have some great ideas here. Thanks.
Comment by Tamas Lorincz on October 10, 2009 at 1:32am
Loved this post, Makes you think what direction to take. One of the greatest challenges these days for any educator is staying relevant. We have to let go of the notion that students come to school tom learn about the world. Instead we have to embrace the idea that we have the motivation, drive, will and knowledge to serve as the Ariadne's thread in Minotaur's labyrinth. We're not the source of information anymore, we're the guide through the maze of knowledge. We're important but important differently. We have to redefine ourselves, our actions and our roles to be able to regain the prestige of our trade.
Your suggestions is a great example of the thread we can offer our students and redefine ourselves. Great idea. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

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