Saturday, March 30, 2013

Beyond 'Flipping the Classroom': Asking Students to Design their Own Learning

Too much of the teacher narrative out there is still devoted to what we do to our students. In my opinion, we need teach our students how to teach themselves. 

To this end, I have recently started a new non-fiction unit with my students... 

Dear Students,

You’re embarking upon the next evolution of our year. Our non-fiction unit builds on everything we have done, but will be more challenging than your previous work. I'm excited for the next two weeks - they have the potential to fundamentally change how we approach learning and teaching for the rest of the year. 

You just successfully completed your Poetry Portfolio. It was full of powerful intellectual work  - you curated content, wrote thoughtfully, and compiled everything into a finished product. These Portfolios were a pleasure to read, and I thank you for giving me a glimpse into the way you connect to poetry and music and life.

With that said, our non-fiction unit will challenge you in new ways. Instead of being asked to create a static portfolio, you will 1) publish your final product on the internet, 2) design both your product and your day-to-day tasks, and 3) will use at least one technological platform. Your product and process probably won't look like your classmates, which emphasizes the self-determination you have in your own learning. 

For such an independent unit, I expect you will be pushed a bit outside your comfort zone. You will need to be able to choose a goal and design backwards from it, be more comfortable with frustration, and be willing to ask for help when you’re floundering. If your confusion becomes too much, or you need to conceptualize it in more tangible terms, write out your questions or talk them out with either a friend or with me. It’s ok to get stuck, but help yourself get un-stuck.

This responsibility might be overwhelming at first, but it's meant to be empowering. In previous units, I’ve done this all for you - established the learning goals, designed the final product, and scaffolded your skills / activities to get you to that product. Now that I’m handing the bulk of this process to you.

I hope I have prepared you well for success in this unit. Consider:
-      In our Macbeth unit, I decided the annotations, the work, and you chose a product to show your understanding
-      For Lord of the Flies / Choice Book unit, I chose the essay format, you chose the book and the topics
-      For our Poetry Portfolios, you chose the content and intellectual work (within my prompts), I determined the product
-       Now, I'm choosing the overall learning goals, and you choose how to fulfill them. To help yourself,  track your work habits/progress daily – this can take the form of a to-do list, a log or chart, or however you want to keep your process tangible.

Think about what you have going for you:
-      a consistent emphasis on the process / product in my class
-      the five ‘teacher objectives’ so you know thelearning goals
-      freedom to choose a product that you’re interested in
-      ability to find mentor texts that help inform your final product
-      class time and technology to help your search /creation

What will this all look like in the end? To finish the unit, you will write me a 1-2 page formal letter explaining how you have fulfilled each of the five objectives. You will attach artifacts that demonstrate how you have fulfilled these goals. Compiling an ‘application packet’ like this is good practice for the future – colleges, jobs, scholarships, presentations all ask you to thoughtfully and carefully compile your intellectual work for a high-stakes audience.

Again, I'm not only excited, but ready, for this next stage of independence in our class. You are articulate young adults who deserve the freedom and support to publish your own voice - and I feel lucky to provide that space for you. 

Ms. Kennett 

1 comment:

  1. I love it! great idea Reminds me of the Google 20%