In Chapter 2 of Learner Centered Innovation, author Katie Martin discusses the environment (ecosystem) that must be present for learner centered innovation to exist. Obviously at the center of this is the learner! But equally as important is what surrounds the learner, things such as policy, culture, vision, values, and systems. If all those aren’t set in place to support the learner, an innovative environment will not be possible.
One thing John Spencer mentioned in the YouTube live video had to do with the idea, “what am I doing for students that they could be doing for themselves?” The answer to that question is also key to creating an environment that is both learner centered and open to innovation. In my classroom this year I am beginning to make some of these shifts that John is referring to.
- Students have the opportunity to work on music that interests them and practice at their own pace. I am not responsible for making those decisions (though I do make sure students are accomplishing something in class!)
- In small group lessons, students are able to sit where they would like and work with who they would like.
- During ensemble rehearsals student volunteers lead warm-up exercises, deciding what skills to work on each class period.
- There is a “Student Center” set up in the classroom, where students have access to various materials and supplies they may need.
- Several students worked independently on music to perform at a recent recital, some playing solos, and others duets. I provided the location for them to practice, but the students did the work themselves. One group even got creative with dynamics, orchestration, and an added coda!
As with anything, there is always room for improvement. I would love to find a way to not have to listen to and assess so many video assignments each week! Even when given a rubric, students still have trouble determining when they have mastered a skill. I don’t know how to make that work yet, and it may be a necessary part of what we do. In addition, tonight I observed a rehearsal where after playing a piece the conductor asked the students, “What did you hear? What do we need to work on?” Yes! I need to start doing this tomorrow! Students know, they can hear it. They don’t need me to tell them.
I also need to be careful not to let the policies and systems I put in place stifle student creativity. There is a fine line – it’s still ok to have requirements, but there needs to be room for student choice and creativity. Again I come back to George Couros who said, “you can’t submit your taxes on Google Slides.” There is a time to follow the rules, and a time to let the students choose. I need to be clear on expectations for both situations and make sure I leave room for both situations. At the end of the day, I must think about what the learners need (not only what I need) so they remain at the center of all plans. If I can do this, we will all move in the right direction.