Learning By Design: Ownership

This post is part of a 5 part series on our Learning Design Principles. To see the rest of the series click here.

Written by Jennifer Mattu, Guest Blogger.

It seems to me that I often sound like a broken record at the beginning of each new school year. “You are in middle school now. You need to become responsible and accountable for your learning, your assignments, and your grades.” As teachers, we all realize that we cannot make our students do anything that they don’t want to do, but we surely can encourage, motivate, and teach them the importance of this.

The first thing I learned while trying to get 100% of my students to take ownership of their own learning is that the learning must be meaningful to them. They need to know the reason for every learning experience they will encounter in my classroom. As the facilitator of each lesson, I start with why my students need to learn it, and then I move into creating the activities and experiences. At the beginning of each class, I share the purpose and learning goal with my students so they are much more aware of what I’d like to see happen. I try to stay away from the worksheets or “skill and drill” methods as often as possible and I add in technology when appropriate.

On top of that, the responsibility for the learning should primarily be in the hands of the students. Each of my students keep a data binder divided into four sections, one for each quarter of the school year. The first thing in each section is their personal math goal. Students track their weekly i-Ready times and pass rates, chapter assessment scores, and skills assessment scores. Through this data tracking, my students can see if they are on track to reach their math goal for that quarter. Students are also able to know what specific standards and skills they need extra help with. Putting this responsibility in the students’ hands makes them more accountable for their learning and progress throughout each quarter.

Along with the goal setting, personal reflection is important for me in my classroom. I created a simple weekly reflection sheet that my students fill out each week. It is available for them to fill out Friday after school on Blackboard or they can fill out the paper version before leaving class that day. There are three questions for them to answer including: “How did math class make you feel this week?”, “Why did math class make you feel that way?”, and “What could Ms. Mattu have done differently to help you this week?”. I make sure my students know that I need them to be completely honest and that I will not be upset about anything they write in their reflections. This tool has been more helpful than I could have imagined!

As I switched over from teacher to facilitator, talked less and let the students discover more, and made my lessons more meaningful, my students became more involved in their learning. When a lesson is truly engaging, not just busy, the learning among your students will explode. Give your students a chance to talk, give you feedback on your classroom, and provide input on how they’d like to learn. In return, you will see the energy, excitement, and motivation rise within your students.

About the Author: Jennifer Mattu a Pittsburgh native, living the past 13 years in Sarasota County, Florida. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education from Slippery Rock University, Master’s Degree in Reading and Math from Walden University, and Ph.D in math from Walden University. She is currently in her 13th year with the School Board of Sarasota County as a math teacher, department chair, and lead teacher at Heron Creek Middle School. Her passion is teaching children, future teachers, and current teachers! Education is the most important thing any child can have, so her goal is to continue sharing her love, passion, and knowledge for it.