For students who are ready, offering open-ended and/or negotiated tasks can engage and inspire. However, some students find this confronting as most students are unaware that they already have control over their everyday learning.
For students who are accustomed to “teacher-pleasing” and traditional approaches, negotiated and research tasks can initially be overwhelming. Some students can be hesitant and become confused, while others can be overcome by looking for the “right” option amongst those on offer. There are the students who are anxious, who want to be doing the same as the majority of their peers, or who fall into a way of learning depending only on what their group is doing, or what has been modeled for them.
To maximize the success of this approach, students need more than explicit teaching about how follow their interests, research effectively, understand how to facilitate their own engagement and to take risks.
It begins with a shift in the way our students think about their learning. Students need to understand that they always have options and should feel confident to make choices and “have a go” when it comes to their education.
The things I want to emphasise with my students:
1) Choose the way that works well for you. There is no one right answer or one right way to do things. We all learn in different ways, by making a good choice for yourself you increase your learning potential. If you learn better by taking notes as paragraphs, by creating flowcharts or recording in dot-points, go for the one that suits you.
2) Have a go! Your perspective is unique and important, not wrong or right. I do not have all the answers; we are all looking through the lenses of our own experiences. Share what you have and all our learning will be enriched.
3) Mistakes are good. They are an essential part of learning and some of your most powerful learning experiences will be from trial and error, exploring and fixing your mistakes. This will solidify your learning and you will remember it for much longer than simply being presented with the answers you need. Ask any scientist, they challenge and test their own results rigorously.