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.
- One Great Way to Differentiate Instruction – See how Deven Black designed a lesson that enabled students to tap into their strengths, interests, and learning styles.
- Who Owns the Learning and Assessment? - Read how digital ethnographer Michael Wesch uses learning goals and a wiki for his students to design their learning.
- When students own the learning –See what happened when Keith Ferrell relinquished control and gave students a choice in how they would meet learning goals.
- Real Life Learning - Shelley Wright is a high school educator in Moose Jaw, SK. On her blog she shares, “I love learning more than anything else.” This post features the video of what happens when school becomes real life.
- Skype in the classroom – Educators everywhere are bringing education to life with Skype.
See how Melanie Holtsman is using Skype in the Classroom or take a look at this video to see how Carl Anderson is using Skype to connect with virtual guest speakers.
- Principal Hands Over Control During a Trip to The Zoo - See how handing over control to a nine-year old made Principal Patrick Larkns trip to the zoo a much more enjoyable day.
Lisa Nielsen is best known as creator of The Innovative Educator blog http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com and Transforming Education for the 21st Century http://ted21c.ning.com learning network. Lisa is an outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education. She is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on "Thinking Outside the Ban" and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students. Based in New York City, Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities helping schools and districts to educate in innovative ways that will prepare students for 21st century success. Her first book “Teaching Generation Text” is set for a fall 2011 release. You can follow her on Twitter @InnovativeEdu.
Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.