OK I will admit it. I have a control issue. This is one area that I am going to need to work on in my classroom – letting my students take control of their own learning. Because of this fatal flaw I thought it would be a good idea to attend the session: “Letting Go: How to Give Your Kids Control Over Their Learning.”
The first valuable lesson that I learned was that NCTE sessions get packed, and they get packed FAST. But despite being cramped in a little room like a sardine, I managed to hear most of the presentation and come away with valuable ideas to help me in relinquishing control.
The teachers presenting in this session used an Inquiry-Based Learning approach in their classrooms. The students have choice of the texts they will read. They develop their own essential questions they want to answer and create their own plans as to how they want to answer those questions; as well as how they should share the information they have learned. What I found intriguing was that the students examined and identified what standards they would be meeting while completing their projects. I appreciated the fact that students were not just examining the Common Core Language Arts standards, but standards from other sources as well.
Each student has an individualized learning plan that they developed themselves. Students reflect on their learning several times throughout the process. These reflections give students a chance to not only examine the progress they are making towards meeting their goals, but it also gives them a chance to explore any challenges they have come across during the process. There is a focus on the affective domain as well as the cognitive. This learning process is guided by constant interaction with the teacher, with plenty of feedback to go along with it.
The class is also set up in workshop style, with the teacher presenting mini-lessons on research strategies and other helpful lessons to aid students in their learning. Back to the issue of control – the teacher has not read everything her students are reading. Doesn’t that sound a little scary? But the session presenters stated that this then allowed the students to become the teachers. They have become the experts on their topic and they are able to share their knowledge with an audience. And we all know that one of the best ways to learn something is by teaching it to someone else.
Man, this post is getting long, but there was so much information that I took away from this session! Some final tidbits that I would like to share include: teachers have conversations with the students about why they are using this inquiry-based approach; if students are required to read a certain text this approach still works, students then have choice of the supplementary materials they use in their research and still develop their own essential questions; these teachers also took an approach similar to literature circles, using inquiry circles so that students work together as a community to develop questions and projects.
Alright I will now wrap this up. This session gave me a better look at the process of Inquiry-Based Learning and how I could use this approach in my own classroom. I was able to see how much learning students can achieve when teachers are willing to let go of control.