“I like knowledge, but I don’t like school,” says a student.

The following post first appeared on my Bluegrass Dispatches blog for Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) on September 25th, 2013.  The blog focuses on questions, issues, and solutions surrounding the Common Core State Standards and School Redesign.  CTQ has an impressive array of teacher leaders and voices at the site–check it out!

I’ve cringed when I’ve heard students in the past make discouraging remarks about other classes, and if you’ve spent any time in the classroom, you’ve inevitably heard both positive and negative reviews of your colleagues. These informal reviews are often spot-on, a contention Amanda Ripley argues in The Atlantic, as strong evidence exists suggesting students are the best evaluators of teaching effectiveness.

But what about student voice regarding general school reform?  Is it possible student insight should be considered more as we redesign schools, classrooms, curriculums, and policy?  

Obviously, students don’t have master’s degrees in Education Leadership. Students generally don’t study pedagogy, read Education Week, or converse online about education-related debates. But they do know what is most engaging, impactful, and inspiring in schools. After all, they’re the subjects of countless lab experiments, so to speak, all with wildly different results.

I asked some of my students from Fern Creek High School in Louisville to discuss what changes they believe would be beneficial to schools. All of the students have, at some point, been frustrated with a “sit and get” model of education, and they didn’t prepare their responses.  

Listen by clicking here.  

What strikes you most about their words? For me, what’s alarming is their perception of a lack of student choice in course selection, in addition to a dearth of creative opportunities.  

As we plow ahead with implementing the Common Core Standards, it’s imperative that we design instruction to allow for discovery, creation, and action.

At Fern Creek, Brent Peters and Joe Franzen have designed a dynamic English III course centered around food, with students beginning each instructional unit facing a big question leading to critical inquiry, intensive writing, and hands-on learning: What is good food?Is food sacred?, and Is school lunch saving our generation? are among the questions students tackle. The class is a hit with the kids.

As for me, I’ve attempted to exploit the open-ended language of the CCSS to allow for student discovery, creation, and action as well, designing a digital media course titled Unleashing Digital Storytelling.

Can you imagine a school system that listens more to students?  What are some pros and cons to this approach?

1 Comment »

  1. Lots to think about.

    I agree with your final speaker.

    I’m forever hungry to learn new things, but I don’t like sitting in a classroom being talked at. It’s tiring, passive and boring. How much does any school, anywhere, reflect different learning styles? My sense is they do not — even with clickers and whiteboards and Ipads. Older students feel little sense of connection to “the real world” and how the things they are told to learn will be of any value to them in later life.

    It is a little shocking, certainly at the senior levels of high school, that students have little to no say in what they will learn, at what speed and in what fashion. Not every student will get 100% of what they hope for, but how engaged can any teacher expect students to be when they are, as many are, force-fed on someone else’s timetable?

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