With school starting up again soon, I have started to think about what exactly I want for my students in the new school year. What do I want them to get from their schooling experience? And what do I want my classroom to look like – me talking and doing all the work, or them actually engaged and making an effort in the learning process?
The issue of needing students to become independent learners was particularly prevalent in my second placement, where I was teaching a class of Year 7 students. Some of the girls were having trouble understanding the concept, and hence, working out the answer to the problem. So their solution was to bug the teacher for the answer. I tried explaining it to them as best I could, but as I was feeling under pressure to attend to 25 students at once as well as to cover the unit, I *may have* cut corners in my explanation. Their response? ‘Miss, you’re not supposed to tell us the answer!’
What did I learn from that experience? Firstly, students want to learn. Providing their basic needs have been met, they actually come to school engaged and motivated, expecting to learn. We cannot crush that. And secondly, in order not to crush their natural enthusiasm for learning, we have to engage them from the beginning. This means that from Day 1 of Year 7, students must be encouraged to find answers for themselves, and perhaps more importantly, think of new questions.
Imagine if your students still couldn’t think for themselves by the time they reach Year 12? How would they survive in the real world?
It might take a little extra effort and planning at the beginning, but planning lessons that encourage students to be independent learners and thinkers is easier and better for both you and your students in the long run.