February 15, 2018
The Best Ways to Shift Learning Responsibilities to Our Students
What can teachers do to shift learning responsibilities to learners? Teachers may be observing the phenomenon wherein students become less engaged in the learning process. Certainly this can occur in environments with a rigid curriculum. Without intervention, this disengagement can stifle creativity and create the expectation that information is provided by the teacher. This leads learners to feel they have little control over their own learning process.
Teachers are in the position to foster engagement and develop necessary skills and self-motivation. Alongside this they can model persistence in the face of challenges to achieve a desired goal. Let's talk about how teachers can shift learning responsibilities from them selves to their learners.
Student-driven learning begins from a place of trust. It helps when students are able to open up to teachers and share their experiences. In turn, their teacher may become more aware of specific learning needs and better understand and address any negative behaviours that may interfere with learning. This foundation is necessary to create an environment that fosters authentic learning.
The first of the approaches worth implementing is the creation of appropriate student choices. An autonomous learner needs the ability to select an opportunity which is naturally aligned to their innate curiosity. This approach is most effective when students are supported by fellow students and their teacher in a caring community that challenges them to grow and develop as a learner. Conferencing with and involving parents in class activities can help them continue the change occurring within a student while at home.
Engagement begins with the stimulation of curiosity. Offering the option of working collaboratively with peers is a way to naturally trigger curiosity in students. This is also a great way to shift learning responsibilities for creating more autonomous learners.
Developmentally Appropriate Choices Engage Learners
Teachers are often faced with a decrease in intrinsic motivation after third grade or so. Students appear to be naturally eager in preschool and the early years of elementary school. Then, they seem to disengage. How can this be rectified and how can teachers light the fire in young learners?
To shift learning responsibilities to learners effectively, we must ensure they see themselves as an agent of their learning behaviours. Their own thinking and feeling must surround the process and they must have choice and control. Students want to engage when they have a sense of ownership in the learning experience.
Teachers are models of behaviour and demonstrate how students can make learning choices. Students need modeling, encouragement, and teacher support during this process. Teachers offer scaffolding to students and techniques to gain mastery over difficult subject matter. A teacher can suggest a solution, such as creating a list and looking up definitions, for a student having difficulty with text with unfamiliar words. A teacher can see an issue to completing a task and offer simple and constructive solutions for getting over hurdles and moving on to the next stage of a project. At the end of the day, it is the student who chooses how to solve a particular problem. Teachers are there to witness and guide students towards a desired outcome, but the choices ultimately lie within the students themselves.
Teachers model the behavior desired in students. Part of this change is to show students how to listen and reflect on their choices. A teacher can get students to understand more about the type of projects they would like to complete by repeating part of what a student says and then following with an appropriate question. In this way, teachers can get students to identify what they enjoy most about an activity and which activities might be the most interesting to pursue next. Some students who are not as verbal may want to first use journaling to express their feelings. Teachers can then engage with students either by writing down a question based on their comment or talking with a student one-on-one or in a group setting.
As teachers repeatedly model active listening and reflecting, students may begin to incorporate practices when working with peers. They will begin to elicit information and draw out students who may find an activity challenging in encouraging and supportive ways. Shifting learning responsibility to students and modeling appropriate ways to communicate will create long-lasting skills students can take into adulthood.
Modeling behaviors and language that is useful should not stop with students. This can be done with parents who want to support their child at home in an encouraging way that promotes student-centered initiative and discovery. Conferences and having parents engage and observe students in the classroom can offer parents insight into this approach to learning. This can make it easier for the struggling student to get additional support at home, but would also be valuable for advanced learners and their parents.
Creation of Lifelong Learners
Students thrive and develop into lifelong learners when given opportunities to discover in the classroom. Teachers can shift learning responsibilities to students by:
- Giving students the opportunity to ask questions and get help from peers at the start of new learning tasks.
- Providing exercises along with choices that help them to self-monitor and identify their understanding of the material, as well as track learning progress.
- Having them understand how mistakes can be used to learn more effective strategies and how to manage negative emotions that can make the learning process more difficult.
- Providing specific praise to students to encourage them to repeat the skills and learning processes that they are assuming ownership over.
These are only a few of the options and behaviours that can be used to shift learning responsibilities to students and guide them into becoming lifelong independent learners. Students of any age can benefit from the approaches and strategies offered as they create a more supportive classroom and home environment that promotes enjoyment of and engagement in the learning process.