Monday, June 6, 2011

Giving Up Control

controlIn Crazy Talk on Control in Schools from The Tempered Radical, Bill Ferriter states,

There are still a TON of teachers who are threatened by the idea of turning over control to their students.”

I realized that when I read this, my best lessons in the classrooms were the ones that I didn’t have total control.

Of course I had control of the basic classroom rules like come prepared, respect others etc. but when the actual learning was taking place, I didn’t have control. I knew where I wanted them to end up but I didn’t necessarily have control on the process of getting there. It was kind of like taking a journey to a specific destination but some took different modes of transportation and different routes to get there.

I started the lesson by explaining the purpose of the lesson and the goals and objectives to accomplish. Then as a class, we discussed ways that I would be able to assess that they achieved what I expected of them. Sometimes it was hard for them to come up ways so I would offer suggestions that would be used if no one came up with others. This usually sparked some ideas and once the ball gets rolling, the ideas pour out.

Once the students know where they are going, they start deciding how they want to proceed forward. This is a great way to learn problem solving and can be used for anything they do in life. By doing this, they are using skills they already know and also practicing skills they have recently learned. The more they do this, the easier this will become.

It is important for them to learn that sometimes the route they choose may need to be altered or even rerouted. It is important in problem solving to learn how to be flexible. This experience will help them from melting down when faced with roadblocks or obstacles that may delay them in reaching the final goal. Instead of stopping in frustration, I would be able to help them or even their own peers may be able to offer viable suggestions to continue. This is another lesson that will be used throughout their life: asking for help. Many times students have learned that asking for help is a sign of failure, but I try to show them that it is a sign of collaboration, determination, and persistence that should be encouraged.

Sometimes this type of learning could even lead to other avenues of learning. I would actually have a “parking lot” to list other topics that students were interested in learning about at a later time. Just knowing that there were other topics they were interested in learning about in the future was encouraging for many students who usually had no interest in learning in the past.

Since the students’ learning may take off in different directions with many possibilities, it is impossible for me to control all that takes place. When I first tried this, it was scary. But once I saw how much more my students were engaged, it really made sense to me. In this way, students had invested in their own learning and were more motivated to reach the final goal, which I had intended for them to reach.

I saw that I still had control over the topic, goals and objectives as well as final say over the process but the students felt like they had some controls too. By allowing them to control some things, I was showing that I trusted them too. This trust is something most students are not willing to abuse once they are given it.

Do you give up control in your classroom? If so, please share. If you don’t, please share why you don’t.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Control!'
http://www.flickr.com/photos/13661433@N00/97033289 by: Faramarz Hashemi

1 comment:

Sioux said...

Definitely! I agree with you wholeheartedly. I often will begin a lesson/project/writing activity with an unknown end in mind, and my kids always surprise (and surpass) what I initially had in mind.

Teachers need to be facilitators...guides on the side, not sages on the stages.