Student Centered Learning

For those of you who don’t personally know me, I am an avid reader of just about anything I get my hands on. That said, as I’ve been browsing the monthly journals I receive monthly, I continually ask myself, “How can I make my teaching more student centered?”

Heaven knows that as teachers we’ve learned how to weave the technology piece into our daily instruction. The SAMR model accepts the understanding that there is an evolution to our instructional development with technology. It understands that we start out by (S) substituting technology for another dimension of our work, sort of like we substitute low fat Greek yogurt for sour cream because we know we should eat better than we do. Speaking for myself only, my substitution is sort of hit and miss. I don’t always remember to slip in the yogurt just as I try to slip in the technology. But I don’t find that either leads to a satisfying experience of implementing meaningful changes for me or my students.

So, you might ask, what’s a teacher to do? Well, in my case, as my family and friends can readily attest, I head back to Rutgers. My dissatisfaction with piecemeal implementation of technology has taken me into a certificate program with the ultimate goal of my learning how to construct an online classroom environment.

That’s pretty heady stuff for me.

During the course of our class, (we’re in Week#3), we’ve discussed the history and development of distance learning from the beginnings of the correspondence courses through the high tech online course work we pursue today.  I couldn’t help asking myself, ‘how do average high school students ( emphasis on average, not AP, not Honors… average students) become learners who are driven to find the answers rather than just to complete the work?

[ Yes, I know you will say that the work has to have relevance.   I teach a lower track Algebra 2 course and explaining to my juniors that imaginary numbers are used in engineering endeavors doesn’t go very far in terms of relevance for them.  Perhaps you see my dilemma…]

As I’ve rolled this question around for quite some time, I seem to think that being an independent learner is a process.  Like all things, starting small, independent learning should progress through a hand holding period to the training wheels to the freedom that comes with being able to seek answers within one’s own time schedule while still meeting the deadlines.

My problem is that I just can’t figure out how to make it happen.

Like most projects, some of the students get the hang of it and seem ready to loose their training wheels. But as soon as the independence is given, the rider is in the bushes and parents are saying that independent learning is too advanced for high school students.

How do we make our average students ready to take up the responsibility and challenge for learning? Should it start in middle school?  Does it need to be a school wide policy? Perhaps you can let me know your strategies.  I’d really like to hear about how you’ve moved to the ubiquitous flipped model with the less motivated student population.


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