It is encouraging to observe an increasing number of educational leaders calling out the importance of student-empowered, student-owned, and student-centered learning. A.J. Juliani, John Spencer, Katie Martin, and Alan November, to name a few, are inspiring the shift that so many educators already know needs to happen–from a mechanical, soulless approach to learning to an inspired, student-honored approach.
Personalized learning defines a learning experience for the student and teacher that is intrinsically motivated and student empowered/owned. True personalized learning occurs when the student is a partner with the teacher, not only in student voice and choice, but a partner in content and curriculum creation as well.
The necessity for students to have a student-centered learning experience at school directly addresses three specific areas of educational need:
- Students’ interests, strengths, and loves are often not included in the learning experience at school. (Gallup)
- Students experience an “answer-centric” learning environment, where getting the answer right is more important than what questions the student may have. (Make Just One Change)
- Student creativity has been impacted over time by the absence of divergent thinking. Primarily, the school learning experience is focused on convergent thinking, where the product is emphasized and not the process. (Breakpoint and Beyond)
As promised in the title, here are three simple, essential, and powerful practices you can implement in your learning ecosystem that will make a difference. It is my belief that all three need to be consistently present and observable on any given day of learning, to keep the student-centered learning journey moving forward.
- Student Interests
- Student Questions
- Student Connections
During a time when educators are being flooded with information about important topics, I hope this will provide a simplified way of taking a quick inventory of our progress with student-centered learning.
It is true that student interests can change from one day to the next, and for some students, their interests are focused and rarely change. Then, of course, most students are somewhere in between. No matter where their varied interests fall, it is essential that their interests are not only visible and honored in the classroom, but that there is an ongoing opportunity for the students to voice what their interests are. Here are a couple of examples:
Example 1: Have a board in the classroom where students can post their ongoing, current, and changing interests so that it is visible to the class. It is important that students can manage the board by adding and subtracting what they post.