What happens when you:
Allow students to determine what they need to learn, and then enable students to manage their own learning activities?
I recently started a wiki space for my Grade 8 Science classes called Science Alive!
The concept is to let students choose their own topic to explore, and then demonstrate learning on all the levels of Blooms Revised Taxonomy.
It has been exciting starting this project… and scary too!
I have been developing a rather critical blog post, looking at my own attempt at creating and using this wiki in my class. I have told myself time and again that I have bitten off more than I can chew, and that I am expecting too much from my Grade 8’s.
I asked my students to ‘start’ looking into their chosen subjects this weekend. Before dinner tonight (Sunday Night) I checked the ‘Recent History’ of Science Alive and saw no changes for the weekend other than one on Friday afternoon. I have to admit to being disappointed.
Well I just came back (at 9pm) and I got to meet Joyce.
So, what happens when you:
Allow students to determine what they need to learn, and then enable students to manage their own learning activities?**
Have a look at what Katie and Sara did this weekend: Meet Joyce.
(**See the Instructional Stategy Development section in this Bonnie Skaalid paper.)
Originally posted: April 2nd, 2007
Reflection upon re-reading and re-posting:
From my post:
“I have told myself time and again that I have bitten off more than I can chew, and that I am expecting too much from my Grade 8’s.”
Yesterday I got to hear Alan November speak again. I couldn’t make his early session, but arrived just at the end of it, then sat with him for a few minutes before his afternoon session. He seemed inspired by some of the really great projects that teachers were doing. One interesting comment that he made was that, during their sharing session, time-and-again yet another teacher would come up to share what they were doing with their classes and two key ideas would emerge:
1. Teachers felt like their projects were not good enough, or that they could have/should have done more with it. (The subject of a future post.)
2. Teachers were surprised by what students were capable of, or what they accomplished.
The afternoon session catered mostly to teachers that had not seen him before, and although I really enjoyed it, what struck a chord with me were these two points Alan and I talked about for all of 2-3 minutes.
Do we set the bar too low for our students?
If we are continually surprised by what our students are capable of when we empower them with dynamic ways to demonstrate their learning, then isn’t that an indication that we should be expecting more?
I can’t help but think that we should expect more… and that perhaps this is a motivation issue. I don’t mean that “kids today aren’t motivated”! I think that we just don’t motivate them enough, we don’t offer them opportunities to feel empowered about learning, we don’t let them learn for the love of learning. Instead we teach them things that will fit on a test, things that will ‘prepare them for the next grade’.
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For a real-life example, I need not look any further than my own motivation in school.
My university marks looked like this:
I loved the course: A
I liked the course and the prof was engaging: A
I liked the course: B
The prof was engaging: B
I disliked any of the above, and the course was easy: C
Any other conditions: C- to B, but mostly in the C’s!
Translation… If I was engaged/motivated, I met and even exceeded expectations; If I wasn’t engaged, I did what I needed to do in order to pass.
In my classes with lower marks, I’m fairly certain that I would have looked like someone not really capable of doing more. Or else I may have been a classic examples of a student who gets those wonderful report card comments, ‘Not meeting his potential’, or ‘Capable of better marks if effort improves’.
I may not be brilliant, but I can’t think of a single course I took in university that I wasn’t capable of getting an ‘A’ in. So why didn’t my report cards show a plethora of A’s? Here is the crux: The content or the learning experiences weren’t interesting enough for me!
In fact, I often broke the criteria for projects and assignments. I would do what I wanted and ‘take the hit’ on my marks. (I have a perfect example of this that I’ll share at another time.) Or, I simply felt bored and didn’t bother putting an effort in. I’m not proud of this, but it is not an exaggeration to say that I probably handed in more than a third of my assignments late, simply because I didn’t want to do them in the first place.
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If we engage our students in interactive, social, dynamic learning opportunities that are meaningful to them, then what are they capable of?