One of our session’s attendees asked us about the pressure to cover the host of skills and content that a course’s curriculum calls for. This is absolutely a real and difficult challenge in our school and in many schools as the expectations to cover and assess Common Core, discipline-specific state standards, 21st Century Skills, and other content requirements increase. It’s exhausting to think about! In my American Lit course, for example, I need to cover all of America’s literary history in only 9 weeks of 84 minute class periods. This is a huge burden–one that inspired Meg to create the ILP in the first place. Furthermore, this responsibility suggests that teachers are the only people in the room who can deliver content or help students improve in skill areas. If we assume that, we are greatly limiting student’s learning to the extent of our knowledge. We are limited.
By helping students establish individual learning needs, by facilitating students’ work with purposeful questions rather than a supply of information, we are teaching them how to go delve deeply into a topic and work toward skill mastery. One twelfth grade student captured this sentiment beautifully when reflecting on her work with the AASL standard of developing and refining a range of questions:
In past units,I had the bad habit of choosing random essential questions that had absolutely nothing to do with each other. It ranged from love and beauty to deceit and honesty. There was nothing in common, and I ended up having to connect them using overly complicated explanations. But choosing this standard has taught me to focus on one theme, and to fully develop that theme. It has allowed me to become an expert in one topic, rather than a dabbler in ten.
Perhaps if we can help each individual student feel this empowered, we will have classrooms full of content and skill experts who can teach each other as a community of learners.