Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Designing Online Learning Experiences That Empower Students

Earlier this year, I was inspired by a teacher who required her students to assess their prior knowledge and then choose their learning path for each lesson. Soon after, my co-teacher and I made specific changes to our math workshop in order to increase student agency and ownership in our own classroom. Our goal was to provide ways for students to direct their own learning while also considering long-term projects as performance assessments.

I’ve recently started learning more about empowering students from author John Spencer. In this short video, he suggests 10 ways teachers can start offering choice for their learners.

I considered each of these suggestions when designing my latest online math content, a learning quest through Classcraft. My students engaged with this quest during their independent work time in math workshop over the course of four weeks. Each task in our quest includes a part of our fictional story from our “realm,” lesson content, assessments, and game rewards for student players.

Each location on the map contains lesson content and
learning tasks for students to complete. 

Student Choice in Daily Learning

Each learning task includes a variety of teaching materials such as charts, videos, songs, and examples. Students can choose how they want to learn and practice each skill.

My students are able to choose which topics they practice first. They can build their confidence with topics that were easy for them to understand during small group instruction or they can choose a more challenging task.

We provide students with ongoing instruction in each topic as they progress toward mastery, allowing them to spend more or less time on a topic based on their need.

My students determine when they will take the formative assessments for each topic based on their personal progress.

Student Choice in Final Performance Assessments

Project Format
When many students have shown mastery of most of the topics, we give students choice about how they want to demonstrate their learning with final performance assessments. Students can choose the format, audience, and specific topic of their project.

Project Management
While working on projects, students manage their own work. My role as the teacher is to help students stay on track and provide additional resources as the need arises.

Students have chosen final project ranging from paper and pencil tasks
to creating teaching videos and using manipulatives to model a problem.

Evidence of Empowered Students

One of the benefits of teaching in small groups in a math workshop format is that my co-teacher and I have a clear picture of each student’s progress toward mastery. At the same time, we want our students advocating for their learning needs. Part of what makes this possible is the visual aspect of the quest map. It makes it very easy for students to track their own progress, plus they are motivated to complete tasks to gain points toward leveling up. We have found that students are advocating for their learning needs more often by expressing their need for additional face-to-face help with specific topics. This is empowered learning!

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