Every teacher desires to promote student-centric learning. They want that positive, inviting atmosphere that allows kids to speak freely what they think and decide how they can learn more. For such a tall order, it entails a lot of tweaks, sometimes drastic ‘break-ups’ from the status quo. If you want to make a real difference in your students’ learning, these are the changes you would need to introduce gradually in your classroom:
Process over Product
Typically, finished outputs always get the recognition. Consider the short stories your third-graders wrote. The write-ups that got into the final folio are the ones celebrated, read aloud, and talked about in the book launch. The same is true for science projects. The perfect paper mache volcano replicas are the ones that get the spotlight in science fairs. This is all good, praising and honouring the kids’ fruits of labor. But, too much of it communicates also that the product is more important than the process. That it doesn’t matter if it was their overprotective moms who made their volcano dioramas or if their short stories were a semblance of some classic fairy tale — the output is what’s important, anyway.
If you want kids to embrace learning, you would place more emphasis on the process of discovering, rather than the product of that discovery. You’ll take time to ask about their struggles and frustrations along the way, while also celebrating small wins. You’ll help students track their progress, and get them to appreciate how far they’ve come since they started. This habit helps them embrace learning better.
Feedback not Grades
For sure, you’ve seen this common scenario in class too many times: you return a homework or a project to the class, hoping that they would read through your remarks at the sides of the pages, only to have them look at the first page, at the score you gave them. You worked so hard, perhaps missed a few nights of sleep coming up with meaningful comments only to be ignored by students. The reality is because teachers have used numerical systems for measuring pupil’s performance for so long, kids have gotten used to it that they don’t care anymore about the ‘qualitative’ remarks. It’s then your job to deepen their appreciation for performance evaluation methods.
Ditch the grades on outputs altogether. Instead, give them suggestions for improvement only. If you want a more unconventional method and really push them to own this classroom routine, have the pupils give each other feedback on their work. Give them the rubrics and let them evaluate each other. Be sure to create a pleasant, non-threatening classroom environment. Perhaps let them lay on the floor, on mats or on bean bags, complete with throw pillows. Or if you have a community zone in the classroom, let them use that. Work with school furniture suppliers if you’re still in the process of creating your community zone.
Failures as Important as Triumphs
Most students are afraid of making mistakes, precisely because it’s painful. Plus, culture has venerated victories so much, that it’s never a good thing to be on the fail side of things. The reality that your class needs to understand, as young as they are, is that failures are the norm and that success is the exception. Moreover, for success to be achieved, there are a lot of failures to be experienced.
So as much as you celebrate wins in your class, try to give as much attention to failures as well, particularly the learnings your students can get out of it. Let them be frustrated at their imperfect dioramas. Allow them to grieve over short stories that didn’t win in the competition. But, don’t ever let them miss the essence of failure, which is to try and try again. Over time, this attitude and habit will make them more resilient, at the same time, help them be more emotionally mature in handling academic dilemmas.
Do you want to raise students who are assertive of their love for learning? Who is very much in touch with the way they understand things? If you want your pupils to really embrace learning for themselves, make these changes today in your classroom.