Monday, December 08, 2008

What do the learners think?

If we are to 'personalise' learning to 'engage' all learners to develop their 'learning power' and talents ought we not take the time to listen to their views?

The people who know best about what attracts student's curiosity, or things that worry them, are the students themselves. A visit to even the most child-centred classrooms will find very little reference to students' questions, views and theories. All too often students are required to respond to what their teachers feel is important for them to learn.

A good idea, at the beginning of a school year, is to survey students' views and to compare what changes have eventuated over the period of the year as a result of the years learning.

It is not to late to undertake such a survey so as to suggest ideas for changes for the next year.

Teachers could get together to list all the topics that students could give their views on using a 1 to 5 scale ( 5 representing great). Such a list should look random, interspersing children views about subject areas ( and aspects within each) with school grounds, buildings, bullying, friendliness of staff, sports and playground facilities

It is a good idea for the teacher to run through their views of the items from when they were at school
to give students 'permission' to give honest responses and to show students that their teachers are 'human'. Some teachers might express they were not very good at something but have done their best to improve.

Items could be selected out of the list for yearly comparison, for example, student attitudes towards maths or bullying.

Another end of year activity could be to list the 'key competencies' ( in 'student friendly' language) and for students to draft out their own assessment of how well they have developed these vital learning dispositions. After dialogue with the teacher finished copies could be added to their end of year report. This would be an excellent way to share with parents the importance of such future learning attributes.

Another suggestion is for teachers to ask their students to write a note to next years students to share with them the kind of things that they will need to do to thrive in your classroom.This can provide some very interesting insights!

The ideas ( or mindsets', or metaphors)) students have about school can be gained by asking them to finish the following sentences:

What is a school? A school is a place where...
What is a student
? A student is a person who....
What is a teacher? A teacher is a person who...

Is a school a place where you do as the teachers says, or a place where you come to learn? Is a student a person who does as he or she is told, or a person who learns how to do new things? Is a teacher a person who tells students what to do, or a person who helps you learn?

Finally teachers could ask their students some of the following;

What do they like about school?
What would they like to learn more of?
What are the three best things about school?
What don't you like about school?
What would you like to learn less of?
What are the three worst things about school?
If you could change one thing what would it be?
What makes a good teacher?
What makes a good learner?

What are the things that interest, or concern them,that they would they like to study next year? Most likely students ideas will reflect important aspects of the current Learning Areas what were the best things they studied this year and why?

Any of the above activities would indicate to students that their ideas count and, equally importantly, might show areas for schools to acknowledge and improve?


Anonymous said...

Good idea- Your post is now in my fast filling Delicious 2009 To Do List.

Anonymous said...

Well done Bruce.

This is a great idea and I will do it this week.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thanks Tom and Allanah

Working with students to help them develop their learning capabilities and talents is far more sensible than getting them to do things 'we' think are good for them. Going with the 'flow' is easier and still provides a challenging role for the teacher to see that students gain both in depth of understanding and 'learning power'.

To do this we need to listen to our students to help them become the best they can be.

Unknown said...

Very well written. Thank you for sharing your thinking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post. I have found surveying my students to be a very informative experience. I came across Zoomerang a few years ago where I create and send the surveys from. I mainly use their free account since I only need to ask about 5-10 questions at a time, but they do offer discounts on their paid membership to educators for those occasions when I want to send a longer survey to my students. I have found them to be a great resource I use throughout the year.