Here are some highlights.
Susan shares insights from years of facilitating focus groups where students talk about their own learning experiences — a key form of data for teachers! Susan and colleague Makeba Jones have also worked with youth to research their peers’ take on learning in their own school.
The data? Students said they most wanted classroom work that was both rigorous and engaging. They wanted learning that was “relevant to the real world, connected to skills and knowledge they will need in college or in their careers, intellectually demanding, and engaging.” They called for more “projects,” “hands-on,” “group work,” “partner work,” “creative activities,” “interactive activities,” and lessons with “more spunk” in general.
Susan notes that students’ goals for their own learning actually align perfectly with the type of learning called for by the Common Core standards. “Both the Common Core and the students we interviewed call for our educational system to provide students with the opportunity to engage in high-level content through meaningful integrated activities. Both ask for more hands-on, applied work—projects not for projects’ sake but to give students multiple opportunities to show what they know. Both the Common Core and the students with whom we spoke want real-world application of in-class work. Both the Common Core and students seek work that builds from students’ life experiences; both press on educators to assign and to support work that will help prepare students in purposeful ways for their futures in college and/or career. Neither students nor Common Core proponents want to see challenge pursued as it has been: with a pile-it-on mentality that buries students in classwork and homework—in pursuit of higher and higher test scores—and with little engagement, applicability, or relevance to their lives or the world around them.”
Susan has also seen that when students directly tell educators about their hopes for engaging and rigorous learning environments, the conversation can cause “teachers to ask themselves: Is everything we are assigning essential to the students’ learning?”
Susan concludes that as we try to implement “Core-like” teaching, what we really should do is ask students which classes they most love to learn in. “Currently, many educators
and classrooms in the United States already embrace “Core-like” practices.
We may not know exactly which classrooms these are, but the students do. We just need to ask them. Questions such as the following may prove most generative: When have you applied what you have learned to real-world examples? When have you done classroom work that relates directly to a career of interest? What does challenging work really look like? What really engages you in learning?”
Do educators seek this data from students in the schools you know?