Let Them Own the Learning

How do you learn best?  What are your interests?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  What motivates you?  How fast of a learner are you?

Are your answers to these questions the same as everyone else you know?  My point is, we are all very different.  So, if we are all this different, why are we forcing students to learn the same way and at the same pace?  I know that I learn best when I take ownership in my learning, by having choice in what, how, when, and how long it takes me to learn.  Do you?  I have been thinking a lot about what an education system would look like that personalized learning for every child – a system where students become learners who are actively seeking knowledge instead of receiving it.  I would like to create a school where the learners are presented with every standard, benchmark, and/or competency they will have to demonstrate mastery of.  After they are presented with these, learners are given the freedom to piece them together however they like and begin learning them in what ever order they like.  They may choose to learn from a teacher in a traditional classroom setting, on-line, through a work-study in the community, or by doing some kind of project.  There could be other ways that I haven’t thought of yet that students might come up with at a later time.

My point is… every person in this world learns differently, is engaged in different things, has different motivations, has different strengths and weaknesses, and learns at different paces.  If we give every child choice in how they learn, where they learn, how long it takes them to learn, and how they demonstrate mastery of their learning, they will take more ownership in their learning.

So what exactly would this look like?  Below I have included some examples.

If a learner wanted to work on a project that covered several competencies in multiple subject areas, they would only have to present their proposal to the facilitators for approval to begin working.  If the facilitator did not feel it was enough to prove competency, the facilitator would help support the student to improve their proposal to meet the competency.  Once the project was approved, the learner would have permission to begin working on it.  After completion, the learner would turn the project in to be evaluated.  If improvements needed to be made to meet competency, the learner would be given more opportunities to reach it.  Failure is not an option since more opportunities will continue to be given until competency is achieved.

If a learner wanted to work on a group of standards through an online course, or through direct instruction with a facilitator, these options would be provided.  There are many learners who like the structure of being told when to learn something, how to learn it, how long to spend on it, and how they will be assessed on it.  For these learners, there will continue to be traditional classes and on-line classes available to them.

There are also many learners who learn best when completely submersed in real world application of the learning.  For these learners, the school would partner with the community to provide authentic, hands on learning in the community.  The issue with this model is that community members cannot reward credit for completion of a competency.  Because of this, learners would still need to check in with their facilitators (teachers) to discuss how they will prove mastery of the competencies.

In each of these examples, it is the learner who chooses their personal method with the approval of a facilitator.  Currently we have a system where teachers hold the majority to all of the control.  In order for a system like the one I envision to be successful, teachers will need to give up some control and become facilitators of learning, and students will need to take more ownership and become learners.  We all learn best with the right motivations.  Most of us are intrinsically motivated to do more and learn more when we have some choice in the process.  Let’s release some control and let the students own their learning!


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  1. #1 by Kathleen McClaskey on August 26, 2012 - 5:04 pm

    Thank you Josh for this passionate plea to personalize learning for your learners. This is such an important story to share so I have just put it out on Scoop.it on the topic I curate on Personalize Learning (http://www.scoop.it/t/personalized-learning-plearning). My colleague and I also have started a website and business, Personalize Learning, and we invite you to take a look at the resources and toolkit that can support you in creating the change to personalized learning. We will be back to view your posts and your progress.

  1. Let Them Own the Learning! | Pedagogy, Education and Technology | Scoop.it

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