Empowering Learners to Leaders
By Rachelle Dene Poth
With so many different tools available to teachers, we can now not only design more engaging ways for students to learn, but we can also give students opportunities to do more in the classroom. Students need to be more than just the creators, we should be empowering them as leaders as well. The “traditional” classroom structure of teacher-led, teacher-centered classroom has to move aside for students to drive their learning, to be empowered in a student-centered and student-driven classroom. By making choices about the types of activities they want to use, they become more empowered in their learning.
Tips on Promoting Student Empowerment:
- Start with relationships. Some of the most important skills that we can help students develop are enhanced through peer collaboration. Through these interactions, students have time to build communication skills, social-emotional learning skills and to develop skills as a leader, by sharing their knowledge in these groups. In addition to the learning of the content, the development of these skills will be so valuable for their future. As the facilitator of learning, the classroom teacher can interact with each group and spend time learning about the students and their interests, continuing to build relationships and a supportive environment. In doing this, it provides a strong connection to encouraging students to take on a new role, such as that of a “teacher”, and drive the learning in the classroom. Building these relationships is the key to student growth.
- Move aside. I took a risk this past year and decided that I needed to spend less time talking at the class and to find ways to talk with them, even creating opportunities for the students to lead the class. I started by offering students an opportunity to teach by using digital tools that are typically used by teachers for facilitating lessons. I thought this could be beneficial for many reasons, mostly because it would be an authentic way to have students create and build their leadership skills as well.
Some of the ways to have students lead the class are by having them create activities and lessons using some of the tools we had been using in the class. Not only does this give them personalized practice with the content material, but it builds their technology skills, helps with problem solving, creativity, empowerment and really adds more meaning to their learning experience.
Some tools to try are:
Playposit: Students can watch and respond to interactive videos, or they could select a video and create their own lesson to share with the class.
EDPuzzle: Another option for creating interactive video lesson with open responses or checks for understanding along the way.
Formative: An interactive lesson can be created with a variety of question types, added content and great data to use for planning the next steps in the lesson or for having students track their growth and reflect. A great tool for formative assessments, for use in class or as student-paced practice.
Nearpod: It is easy to create interactive lessons which include multiple question formats, the ability to upload content, PhET simulations, BBC videos and 3D objects and virtual tours. A great way to immerse students in learning. Students enjoy creating lessons with Nearpod to practice the content or to teach peers about a topic of interest.
Kahoot! and Quizizz: Two options for game-based learning which have been great to engage students more in learning in the classroom, but also tools that students can use to create their own games, by focusing on the content they need to practice, making it more personal and authentic. It also creates more resources for the class as a whole to use.
- Take it one step further. Once students build confidence in creating and sharing, perhaps you can take it one step further, as I did, and have a “teacher for a day” activity. For this, students create a lesson based on a grammar topic or vocabulary, and it can be used for review at the beginning, middle or end of the school year. When the students create lessons, give them the chance to control the lesson. As the “teacher for a day”, students are in the lead, providing the explanations, answering questions, and calling upon the other students for answers. In my experience, the students enjoyed being the teacher, providing support to each other, collaborating, and offering feedback to each of their classmates. It is very rewarding to see them transform from learners to leaders and develop those essential collaborative skills as well as building confidence.
Because of the availability of so many digital tools, learning is no longer confined to the physical classroom space, nor does the classroom teacher have to be the only person providing instruction. By giving more control to the students, where they are the creators and leaders of lessons, we empower them in learning.
After trying this in the classroom, take time to have conversations with the students and ask for some honest feedback. What did the students like about being teacher for a day? What did they not like? How did it feel to be in control of the lesson, to decide how to teach, and experience being in the lead?