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Student-led learning isn't working

We didn't learn much in a student-led learning environment.

I've just returned from the National Future Schools Expo in Melbourne, Australia reflecting on how this impacts on our teachers' vision for the future.  In this instance I was not one of the people sitting in on inspirational speakers talking about what our future might look like.  Instead, I watched inspired teachers flushed, pumped and exhausted trying to grapple with the information they heard and imagine what it would look like within the context of their own schools.  In many instances they emerge from one of these conferences convinced they are going to make a change. A change which requires them to let go of the old and reach out for the new.  Their hearts are free to dream and hope for a brighter future in this environment of inspiration and innovation, but this is soon brought into check once more as they are thrust into the realities of school life.

I'm surprised at how many schools are seeking ways to give students more voice in their learning but feel they lack the tools to make it viable.  This is understandable because technology created so far has not dared to reach beyond the boundaries required to make full sense of what it means to take ownership of learning.  

It's such a difficult place to be, stuck between the old and the new! So, how do you deal with this in a way which does not burden our teachers to the point of collapse? Create technology which bridges both worlds!  This is what we do with YouPlanIt Classroom.  

Today I read an article written by Xavier Symons (2012) who pointed to new research which drives home the dangers of student-led learning. He believes teachers are caught up with too much of the nebulous education theories and focusing too much on student-led learning.  Students are crying out for direction and guidance. Too much time is spent on frivolous discussions and fiddling around with technology. 

I think Xavier Symons (2012) has made a good point and yes, this exists. 

We address this by providing a framework where students have the freedom to explore their ideas but are held accountable to the disciplines of sound-reason and high-quality responses to 

Thinking criticallyUsing language, symbols, and texts to make coherent sense of their thinkingManaging self and showing a willingness to be directed Relating to others and being open to new ideasParticipating in and contributing to communities Setting clear learning goals and achievement objectives Reaching deadlinesBeing responsible for their learning outcomes with clear instructions

We acknowledge and work on the basis that how we track, mark and report on our students need to be simple and honest. There is little need to pull our kids apart with over testing when there is a better way to satisfy stakeholders. We re-define the boundaries of testing and focus on those things which will help support students to become resilient, creative, and adaptable learners. And also, a need to focus on evidence that identifies great collaborators who can work independently and have outstanding interpersonal skills to influence their world, this is a great place to start. 

When we focus on these things the ability of our students to communicate in text, symbols, and language are enhanced and the impact of failure is tempered.  

Xavier Symons (2012) "Meanwhile, students are crying out for direction and guidance." The teacher plays a critical role in the development of a students' ability to produce high-quality work in a student-lead learning environment.  A teacher can only do this once they understand the mindsets required from both the teacher and student. Spending time to develop this understanding is often assumed and not taught.

Xavier Symons, (2012). "Too much time is spent on frivolous discussions and fiddling around with technology."  Absolutely!  This is not the teacher's fault, what other options do they have if they don't have the correct tools to do the job? I know from personal experience just how challenging and frustrating this is. You leave the day hoping your students learned something by osmosis or something more supernatural!  Please, be kind to our teachers, they do a great job in a confusing world of technology.  However, this is not to be an excuse to fall back to a teacher prescribed learning approach. 

Student ownership is, without doubt, a challenging but enticing endeavor for everyone involved. 

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