Student Led Curriculum
Mike Anderson, the author of the book Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn: The Key to Student Motivation and Achievement believes that “offering students choices about their learning is one of the most powerful ways teachers can boost student learning, motivation, and achievement.” This philosophy of education is unfolding at Deep Creek Learning Center.
DCLC is unique and every day is an adventure. When I walk in the doors, I never know what to expect. While observing a brainstorming session this week, I was completely captivated. One of the guides asked the students, “What are things YOU would like to learn about?” I stopped typing and looked up from my computer. Did a guide just put the future of the curriculum in the hands of the students?
The room was silent and some of the students were squirming in their seats. I sensed they were uncomfortable. The gravity of that question evoked pressure. I watched in wonder. I sensed that students that had come from a typical school setting haven’t been asked that question on many occasions, if ever.
There were a few moments of silence and the guide did something that isn’t always easy to do when you are standing in the front of a group of students who quickly turned into crickets. She stayed quiet. Then, she asked the question again. She waited for what must have seemed like an eternity and then boldly took a step back. Then, when she realized she needed to reach further she asked, “How could you come up with some topics that you are interested in?”
She took another step back and the students started talking to one another about things that they love and topics they wanted to learn more about. And then, educational magic happened. With a white board marker in hand, an older student began writing on the board and other students followed her lead. When they were finished the board was covered with an eclectic group of topics that everyone in the room was excited about .
At the end of the student led brainstorming session, here are some example topics that covered the board:
· September 11
· Religions of the World
· Greek Mythology
· World War II
The students were excited and even suggesting ways they could learn about some of the topics. You heard suggestions like:
· Field trips
· Online field trips
· Building replicas
· Teaching one another
· Lap Books
After this amazing day, I witnessed something the next day that left a tremendous impact on me. One of the guides revisited with the students some of the topics that were written on the board. But, she did more than that. She showed up for her students. She had resources for them on some of the topics that they discussed the day before. The faces in the room lit up. They shared their interests after feeling slightly vulnerable, and she proved that she would guide them as they began the adventure of uncovering their interests.