We know that when students feel committed to what they are learning, achievement accelerates. We also understand that when students believe the work they are doing is their work rather than made up work given to them by others, they are more likely to persist and succeed in the face of challenges. Further, we know that when students see a clear purpose for what they are learning, their learning becomes deeper and richer. The bottom line: When students are committed to, feel ownership for and see purpose in their learning, success is a predictable outcome.
Certainly, some students find it easy to commit, naturally feel ownership for their learning and are quick to find a purpose to their work, but many, maybe even most, students do not. The question is: How can we increase the likelihood that all learners will develop this relationship with their learning?
Admittedly, students make their own choices and bring with them experiences, learning habits and dispositions that we cannot control and may not choose for them. However, they are not beyond our ability to influence. We still hold within our hands considerable potential to make a difference. The answer resides in how we choose to position learning and our instruction for students. Our potential to influence comes in helping the learner create a connection to and interact productively with what he or she is learning.
A great place to start is to give learners a meaningful voice and provide legitimate choice in their learning. We may not be able to allow student to choose just any learning goal, but we can allow them to choose among a reasonable list we provide. We cannot ignore standards and expected learning outcomes, but we can give learners a voice in how they will achieve and demonstrate achievement of the standards and outcomes they pursue. We can also reposition our conferencing with students so that they are co-designers of their learning rather than assignment getters and direction followers. Further, we can engage students in dialogue that reveals what is important to them and then employ that information to make a strong connection and build commitment and purpose in their learning.
It is true that we cannot control the level of commitment, ownership and sense of purpose students bring to their learning, but we possess powerful tools to have an influence and increase the likelihood that these key learning accelerators are present. These tools leverage the voice and choice of the learner in ways that make commitment, ownership and purpose more likely to be driving elements of learning success.
Want to learn more? Join us for the November Institute Webinar, Thursday, November 29th from 12:00 to 1:00 PM. A team from West Allis-West Milwaukee will discuss how they use voice and choice to engage students and lift their learning.