Some Simple Techniques to Turn Learning Over to the Students

In a very busy couple of months, I am seeing sharp lines between the way I “teach” and the methods of, perhaps, more traditional instruction, be it with children or adults. The lines grow brighter as I get to observe in classrooms and workshops.  One element keeps popping up: why do you, the teacher, have to do “that”? How might the learning process be more engaging if the students did “that” (whatever “that” is)?

So, here are some easy steps; try them with your students. Ask a colleague to come visit your class in little two-minute check-ins every day for a week and give you feedback: are these occurring more frequently? Are they becoming your norm?

  • Within a very broad context, let the students develop the guiding questions.
  • Ask the students what questions they have and don’t say anything until they ask some.
  • Find the right questions that the students care about solving before ever asking for an “answer”.  Final answers are easy; it is in the getting there where learning takes place.
  • Pass out lots of post it notes; gather ideas from the students many at a time rather than one at a time via hand-raising.
  • Let students organize their idea notes how it makes sense for them…and then discuss and allow re-statement.
  • Get out of desks. Work on vertical surfaces that are visible to all; that is why God invented idea paint.
  • Don’t lead in with a lot of rationale or planning; just get to work; that is why God invented erasers.
  • Noisy discussion is the sound of learning.
  • Stop talking. Provoke. Listen. Demand the students own the process. Help them get there.

Am sure there are others but these leap to mind this morning. I am utterly convinced that these techniques know no boundaries of subject or age.

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