Many of you know that a physically fit lifestyle is something that is important to me. For quite some time I have gone through phases of running, biking, swimming, or lifting weights. In most of those activities, I seem to hit a plateau and feel I can’t get over the hump to improve any more. Then, someone will convince me to do something to force myself to take it up a notch. One year I participated in the RAIN ride (Ride Across INdiana – a one day bike ride from Terre Haute to Richmond), and this year I completed two half marathons – a feat my younger self would have told you was impossible. Each of these events forced me to get over my plateau, and I did that through training. In the past I always had simply worked out, but to prepare for these events I had to truly train. In work out mode I would show up, do my workout, feel pretty good about it, but I didn’t push myself to go above and beyond. In training mode I had to create a schedule the forced me to go further or faster than I had in the past, and hold myself accountable so that I could achieve my goals.
Some of our students are in work out mode. They show up, they do their routine, and they go home. Some get good grades because they can play the part, others do well because it’s what their parents expect, and some don’t do well at all. Then there are the students who are in training mode. Something grasps their curiosity and they run with it. They truly learn because they can see where their education is taking them
One of the goals that teachers should have for themselves is to help students take control of their own education, to put themselves in training mode. Unfortunately, some of our students don’t yet have that attitude. So… how do we get them there? It all lies in the mindset of the student. If a student doesn’t see the relationship between what they are doing in your classroom and what they want to do one day, they aren’t going to buy in. To get them to buy in, we have to know the kids and know their goals. Goal setting and conferencing will allow us to learn more about our kids and their interests. Then we can help guide them in their learning so that they see the connection between what they are doing in class and their future.
Once we know that the kids see the value in what they are doing, the next step is to hand it over to them. Once again going back to the HSE21 best practices model, student choice plays an important role in best practices. Giving up control can be scary – there could be issues, but the fear of possible issues should not prevent us from providing students with the benefits that come from letting students take the driver’s seat of their education.
If you’re looking for ways to integrate more student choice, look into Genius Hour or Twenty-Percent Time programs (Gmail exists because of a Twenty-Percent Time project by an engineer at Google). Or you could look for other ways for students to innovate in their learning. Start with a learning goal, but give students the choice of how to share their learning at the end, or give them choices in how they will reach the learning goal. Not everyone has to do the same thing, and some kids may be able to take their learning beyond the work out phase and into the training phase when given more choices.
What have you done that has allowed you to give up control? How did it go? What were the good things to come from it? What struggles did you find?