This is my response to the reflection questions at the end of Chapter 3- "Creating Empowered Learning Experiences" from the book "Innovate Inside the Box" by George Couros and Katie Novak.
1. If we look at what students are doing in the classroom as a sign of the effectiveness of their teacher, what are some examples of things you would look for from students to signify great learning?
To me, great learning is signified by students being collaborative and creative in the classroom. I want to see students communicating with each other, working toward collaborative solutions, debating ideas and supporting their opinions, and giving genuine feedback to each other. I like to have "structured chaos" in my classroom - students constantly in motion and action, but all with a specific purpose and structure.
2. What are some examples of "empowering learning" in your classrooms for students and in your school/organization as professionals? How are you empowered as an educator, and how does that empower students in learning?
One of the awesome examples of empowering learning that has happened in my school is the social cause project that 7th grade students complete in ELA class. In this project, students research a social topic of their choice that is meaningful to them and develop a a presentation to educate their peers and convince others to support their social cause. This project still addresses the standards, but also gives students autonomy to explore a topic that is close to them. This always brings out the best in students, and every year I watch the presentations and think, "wow, I never knew that about that student" or, "oh my gosh, I never thought I would hear them speak so many words at once." It is awesome to see how this project empowers learners.
As an educator, I am empowered by always being given the opportunity to try new things in my classroom. Without the fear of thinking that I will "fail", I am not afraid to try new things. This in turn leads to new learning opportunities that give my students more chance to develop a voice and express choice in their learning.
3. Curiosity and questioning are keys to empowered learning. What are some ways you can help students develop powerful questions to spark their curiosity?
In my "Design Tank" project that my 8th grade students are working through, they are creating solutions to problems they have identified at school. Each of their problems started as a "How Might We...?" statement. In order to get to this driving question, I had students list their "dreams and gripes" at school. I gave them sentence starters such as, "At school, I wish I could..." (dreams) or, "At school, it annoys me when ..." (gripes). By starting with these sentence starters, students can see themes in their dreams and gripes and use them to create deep-diving questions. Some questions students have developed are: