Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Learner Voice - Rigour and Relevance - Students talk to teachers about learning styles

Getting students to talk about their learning is so much more powerful than adults trying to persuade or lecturing staff. During a professional development day a group of high school students (all ages all abilities) faced their toughest audience yet by speaking to over two hundred teachers about work that they found rigourous! Some also talked about their preferred learning styles and shared projects they thought really worked. One student basically told teachers to 'get into the real world and join the 21st century'.
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They talked about:
  • preferring to work in depth on longer term projects
  • collaborative working, mentoring and coaching each other
  • many had very high aspirations that teachers didn't even know about
  • they wanted assignments with clear objectives that allowed them to have an element of choice as to how they approached them (relevance)
  • they really stressed the use of technology (including blue tooth)
  • the fact was clearly made that they wanted to be comfortable when they worked - more relaxed seating forms with music at times. With out briefing he talked about not liking being crammed into "box like rooms" and endlessly lectured.

.What also came across clearly was how articulate most were about their learning, many had the audience in gales of laughter at times, but they also were determined to get their point across. They were really talking about learning anytime, anyplace, anywhere!

.There were also clear negative points where students talked about working to produce something they were proud of and then not being able to share it, or having presentations cancelled and generally not having their efforts recognised or valued.

I sat there wondering, with the presenters, that despite hearing the students voices, how many teachers actually took on board the actual meaning of what they were saying - they were pretty blunt at times! If they did hear it , how are they going to change practice to help students learn how they want to?

Many teachers thought it was an excellent session, the first time that we have done this exercise on such a scale and just the start of several sessions. There were also some teachers who found the session uncomfortable. It is, after all, not how they were trained with students challenging teaching styles. It is, however, what the future looks like and it is teachers who are going to have take this change journey if we are really going to engage our young learners.

(ps: maybe one of the most memorable quotes was one students who noted that he "sometimes went back to the old ways and used a book". Whilst lots of people laughed there was a very clear message here!).

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