Friday, April 22, 2011

Student Driven Learning = Passion-Based Classrooms

I often speak and write about differentiating instruction. Unfortunately, when I go into schools I see very little differentiation occurring.  This is the case even schools who have bought "magic bullet" programs like Renzulli Learning who tout themselves as a "Differentiation Engine."  I have visited about a dozen schools using such programs but without a solid foundation in what differentiation means.  Instead, they have all their students working within the learning management system on the same thing!

When I dig a little deeper about why this is happening teachers confide that they can't possibly create 32 different lessons for each of their students.  When I hear this, I realize they're not getting something very important.  The students own the learning.  When we give up control and empower the students to learn the way they want with the tools they want, the results are terrific and the students are partners with their teacher in designing learning methods, tools, and environments that are best for them.  

Josh Stumpenhorst recently celebrated the results of this method of teaching in his blog in a post called, "Student-Driven Learning." In the post he shares the ways empowered students learned the literacy standards they were mandated to meet.  Here's what he did.

"I was going to give complete control of the learning in my Language Arts to the students. Starting three days ago, that is exactly what I did. First, we went over our district mandated standards that we had to “hit” between now and the end of the year. Then, I shared with my students various projects and activities I had used in years past that were related to the specific standards. Then it was all on them."
You can read about his initial motivation for a student driven classroom, how to “give it up”, an initial class update, and updates titled “It’s About the Learning”, “Learning Should be Viral”, “One on One is the Best”, “Sub Plans” and "I Am Done!" about his experiences from the classroom as related to his decision to hand over the learning decisions to his students.

To read about how other teachers are doing this work, read these posts.
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