Student-Led Learning Could Provide A Solution To The Stagnant State Of Learning Outcomes

Abstract

Student-led learning is a deliberately pursued active process that has deeper implications for students. It often creates an escaping-realm for students who wish to become leaders someday. Such learning transforms students into the creators of “how“, “why,” and “what if” pursuits of questioning. Self-driven efforts of students allow them to channel their emotions (panic, anxiety, tension, stress and hesitation) into reflection-led theories which can influence their thought-process and actions.

A person reads a book open on a table
Representational image. Maintenance of planner by students acts as a reflective-tool to map their goals, agenda settings and action plan.

Raelin (2002) emphasised upon the role of the reflective practices as “the practice of periodically stepping back to ponder the meaning of what has recently transpired to ourselves and to others in our immediate environment” (Raelin, 2002). Maintenance of planner by students acts as a reflective-tool to map their goals, agenda settings and action plan.

Introduction

We, as teachers, often find ourselves in a state of meta-cognition while deliberating over a simple yet complex matter: expected learning outcomes. What do we actually mean by them? Are they being carved the way we want them to be? Are we working towards the direction that would help us reach there? Are we facilitating and stimulating our students enough? Are we equipped with a synthesised array of action plans?

All these dilemmas with the dynamic environment into the bargain pose a considerable amount of challenges in teachers’ life. Many may raise a question that after devoting a significant number of years in teaching, one can easily identify the problems, prepare a blue-print, delegate the efforts and achieve the target. Teaching, not to be forgotten, is a blueprint of the solution to potholes. Discussion around dilemmas should not be confused with incompetency to take decisions. They should be celebrated as they are the beginning of gallant actions.

Just the way the above paragraph has shifted its focus from one concern to another, similarly, so is the state of ELOs. Sometimes, they are too ambiguous while sometimes, they set too many expectations from children. Are we ready to explore the arena of “extended abstract” stage of SOLO Taxonomy? The answer is an explicit ‘yes.’

While we enable our children to venture into the realm of unexplored exploration, we, as facilitators, need to put the over-whelming cycle of fears behind our back that not only hold us from giving our best but stop us from taking the expedition to unresolved queries.

Let the students take over within the modern learning environments.”  The statement is as stupendous as much as it is thought-provoking. Our rationale is that student ownership of learning is a stroke of a genius.  Student-led learning, transferring of content, sharing of the curriculum by choice could prove to be a successful performance indicator for teachers, students, and schools at large, especially in a society where students often come from the closed background.

In an environment, where artificial intelligence is changing everything so fast, teaching a pre-determined curriculum by following step-by-step pedagogy is surely a recipe for disaster. When given a choice in their learning, students carve their own niche. Not just this, they also create their own pedagogies which are completely unheard of. Such an approach highlights the teacher as the ‘guide on the side’ rather than the ‘sage on the stage.’

I agree that it is easier said than done. After all, we cannot and we should not forget the barriers to student-led collaborative learning which increase the dilemma furthermore. To name a few: lack of time, crunch in classroom resources, the pressure of standardised testing, student discipline and behaviour among others – puts us in a conundrum of mysterious uncertainty. The real dilemma around “to be or not to be” often outweighs reality. The actual effort lies in looking for answers with positive probable success while eliminating the problem of ‘false positive’ and ‘false negative.’

Student-led learning helps in developing 21st-century skills. It prevents students from getting trapped in the quagmire of an unprecedented set of circumstances. Most importantly, it develops 4Cs: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication. The process of transforming the 4C’s skill set into action is not something we were taught. As a result, most teachers are not comfortable with the process.

Some successful techniques have been in use for a very long time that has attempted to put the onus of achieving the learning outcomes upon students. Let us carefully observe them:

  1. Let the Student Take Over the Classroom:

OBJECTIVE(S):

  • To flip the traditional academic setting
  • To allow the discussion to take shape
  • To ensure that every voice chime in

OUTCOME(S):

  • Flip class may turn out to be the solution to problems like – performance anxiety, boredom, lack of interest towards the subject and lower proficiency among others.
  • This sort of a setting flourishes and strengthens student-bonding with another, given when students respect each other’s opinion(s) and this happens when they listen to one another. This gives them the chance to be a better listener and debater.

NOTE: Every theory comes with its own cons. The above technique is no exception. It happens many times when lesson planning goes for a toss due to internal and external factors or environmental and behavioural factors. The risk may heighten when the class is under a student’s control.

Here, the role of the teacher as a facilitator plays an important role. This may include giving special recognition or rewards to those who are performing well or taking a pause for doubt clarification for those who are struggling with the concepts.

Girl students in a class sit facing a teacher who is writing on the backboard
For representation only. The role of the teacher as a facilitator plays an important role.
  1. Development of Meta-Curricular skills:

In my opinion, Ivar E. Berg’s and Sherry Gorelic’s work, titled, “Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery” (1970) may find resonance in the current paradoxical situation of India where economic growth is being portrayed as ballooning more than twice as fast as the rest of the world on one hand whereas, over 30% of youth aged 15-29 in India are not in employment, education or training (NEETs) on the other hand.

In their study too, they stressed upon the relationship between education and jobs. The workforce often finds itself in a situation where they may be over-educated but under-paid. The basic demand from the workforce in their first year is to have knowledge of skills which they may acquire in their third year. Where would these skills come from? Can schools play an important role here?

Einstein stressed on the ideology that lifelong learning should be given importance because personal growth stops where there’s no learning. The ever-changing and challenging world calls for the development ‘Meta-Curriculum Skills’ which include leadership skills, time management, ability to make things stand out, critical thinking, analytical skills, data learning, decision-making skills, outcome-oriented approach and last but not the least, emotional intelligence.

Development and assessment of such set of meta-skills may help in mapping the desired and required competencies that would make students ready for global competition. It would help teachers and students in identifying their competencies (as to what they are bringing to the table) as well as, to help them in knowing their shortcomings while designing the blueprint to achieve excellence in it.

Every school comes with its own mission and vision that encapsulate the set of core values that each and every school intends to promote and instil among its students. For this very purpose, schools need to come up with their own catalogue of activities, clubs, performing-arts, visual-arts, sports activities among others. Such classes need to be carefully designed for students to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary for undertaking university education. Online “dialogue-series” of such clubs and activities may also act as stress-busters for students and teachers together.

  1. Let the Students Be Their Own Custodians:

Self-regulation and self-supervision may make one a go-getter and goal-oriented individual. This ensures they honour their self-imposed guidelines and meet them at the same time. No one is born as an organizer. It takes perseverance, patience and prolonged dedication to be one.

Making a checklist of to-do(s) keeps one on track with their projects and deadlines. To allow students to be their own custodians they need to be taught the art of being an organizer. Student planners (daily or weekly) could help them achieve so. Such planners also act as a portfolio for students and help them in shaping their goals. The pedagogical function of portfolio-based learning is to help students plan, retrospect, introspect and push themselves towards their goal of higher-understanding.

Given is an example of a Weekly Student Planner:

Conclusion

Student-led learning provides shape to introspection. It allows students to correct their mistakes and rebuild their thoughts, plans, actions and evaluations. It acts as an intervention to the learning outcomes of students and encourages critical thinking and cognitive learning. Self-reflection by students demarcates ‘surface learning’ from ‘deep-learning.’ Argyris (1982) claimed that learning only takes place after we understand our own experiments and how others react to our experiences. The reflections are then assimilated into a ‘theory’ from which the implications for future action are deduced (Cox, Bachkirova, & Clutterbuck, 2010).

References:

  • Argyris, C. (1982). Reasoning, learning, and action: individual and organizational. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
    Retrieved from here.
  • Developing Character Skills in Schools Qualitative case studies. Final report – August 2017. Clarissa White, Jen Gibb, Jo Lea and Cathy Street – NCB Research and Policy Team
  • Ivar E. Berg’s and Sherry Gorelick: “Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery” (1970)
  • Introduction to SOLO Taxonomy. Retrieved from here.
  • Raelin, J.A. (2002). “I Don’t Have Time to Think!” Versus the Art of Reflective Practice. Reflections, 4(1), 66-79.
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