"What if you could design a classroom and curriculum that was centered around the needs of you- the student?"
This is the question I am posing to my sociology students this week. While we are learning about Functionalist, Conflict, and Interactionist perspectives of education, the students will be designing a physical model classroom, and a curriculum/instructional style that they feel would best suit modern students.
When I introduced the lesson today, a student asked to share the following video:
This instantly started the brainstorming, so I asked the students to tell me one thing they would change about education/school- and it had to be a positive change, not a "Stop doing this" change. This is the result.
Looking at the list, I think you can boil the students' perspective down to these areas: Choice, Courses and Structures.
Freedom, options, and individual pacing all connect to Choice. Students want to choose how to navigate the content- they want more choice over depth of dive and order of content. They also want more freedom to take care of personal responsibilities- "why do we need permission to go the bathroom" was their specific question. But in the discussion, students shared they wanted to own their learning more, from content to seating choice to how they interact with the content.
Students wanted more course offerings. They wondered why four years of English were required, but no options for Creative Writing existed. More choice in foreign languages and more career based courses also came up. I particularly liked the idea of more variety in how you got your four core subjects coursework done. What if you did a World War II course for your World History Credit? Creative Writing for your English IV? Students seem to want more courses with relevance and application.
The final, and largest, group was all about the structure of school. From the time spent there, to the activities you engage in to the physical and social environment, students want changes to structure. Several mentioned block schedules, or "College Style" as one student called it. Flipped courses where you spent half the time at school came up, as did individual pacing, which goes back to that personal responsibility piece. Environments with flexible seating and softer lighting were mentioned, but the real structure they talked about was the social structure. They wanted more classes where students interacted with each other, even taught each other. Student led discussions and even student led reviews were concepts they embraced.
If you are reading the above topics, you now doubt have a similar view to me. Some things look awesome and immediately applicable. Some things look great, but are cost/personnel prohibitive. Some things...well, they need work. But that is the point. Students are now going to start work on their models and lessons, designing their "perfect class."
One student pointed out that the video only stated what was wrong- but did not offer solutions. She said this is the problem with so much today, we point out problems, but never offer solutions.
I smiled, then said:
"That's what you are going to do now."
Come back next week when I post the students' projects, and see how they did!
I teach Psychology, Sociology, Communication Applications and Debate at College Station High School, as well as coach the debate team and co-sponsor Student Council. I am an aspiring administrator.