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Reflections on Building a Student-Centered Learning Environment

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn." - Benjamin Franklin

I am passionately curious about how students learn best. I am always experimenting with new ideas and lessons to challenge my students to own their learning. I do not "teach" my students, I instead I do my best to facilitate learning in a student-centered classroom. 

This year I want to help students adjust to a more student classroom. I decided to start our first major unit on ecology a with this in mind. Instead of starting with direct vocabulary activities, I decided to build the foundation around a field experience to one of our local prairies. We explored the prairie in small groups while engaging the students in building a sense of space about the ecosystem.

We returned to the classroom and began to build a Google+ Collection that connected key concepts from the unit to our exploration of the Prairie. Students were given guidelines and encouraged to collaborate. I circulated the room and clarified and questioned. We checked in with Google form exit slips and a quick Kahoot review / discussion. Students were encouraged to review for a quiz covering the objectives we had been working through. 

Students typically struggle on our first several assessments. The breadth of the material and the depth of many of the questions is not something they have enough experience with. Despite this, I was hopeful that we were ready. The quiz was online and students were encouraged to use the resources they created to help them with the quiz. The only rule was that they could not help each other. The results were not what the students and I hoped for. 

We decided to drop the quiz for now and take a few more days to dig deeper into the concepts on the quiz that were the biggest struggles. I stood my ground and I have not lectured or given them the answers. I instead create several additional collaborative experiences to help the students experience the concepts. These activities allowed for differentiated learning opportunities. Students had options to choose where to focus as they worked through the activities.

My normal practice is to go over the quiz and then we would create opportunities to earn points back. I decided instead to not share the questions and answers. Students will instead receive the same quiz tomorrow. 

My students will still need more time to learn how to use the activities and manage our assessments. We will take our time and grow together as learners. I am both hopeful and nervous that we will show some improvement through this process. 

I will check back in soon to let everyone know how we did on our second go around. 

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