What if Students Controlled Their Own Learning?

Kira Koop

ET = Educational Theory and Practice
CA = Curriculum Assessment
CO = Collaboration

IL = Information Literacy and 21st Century Skills

Hutton, P. (2014). What if students controlled their own learning? | Peter Hutton | TEDxMelbourne. [Video] YouTube.com: TEDx Talks.

This resource touches on elements of all four main sections of the course, but mainly resides within the category ET: Educational Theory and Practice. In this video, Peter Hutton describes the situation at his school, TC (for Take Control) in Australia, where the school experience is created by and for the students. Students sit on the panels for hiring teachers, they have input into the curriculum, and they choose their classes. There is no traditional homework assigned, instead, students are required to create a plan each week for 10 hours of “home learning” – whether that’s completing a project begun in class, conducting an experiment at home, or any other idea. The school’s default policy for questions or suggestions from students and parents is “yes”, unless it costs too much, costs too much time, or interferes with another person’s learning.

This is a radical approach to schooling, and it was fascinating to learn about this school’s approach to learning. The idea that students are trusted to know what they wish to learn, after demonstrating a set level of literacy and ability, and are able to choose every single course they participate in (from 120 electives!) is wonderful and mind-boggling. I’m having difficulty imagining this strategy in place at the high school that I graduated from, which was a fairly conservative, religiously-based school. The more I think about it, however, the more I like the idea of empowering students in this way. Each child or teenager at this school must have a very defined idea of their own agency and their own power, which turns the current dynamic of authority-submissive in the classroom on its head. 

Why Edcamp?

Hoff, Jane

CO – Collaboration Strategies in Professional Development

Swanson, K. (2013, April 23). Why Edcamp?. Retrieved April 17, 2016, from Edcamps, http://www.edutopia.org/blog/why-edcamp-kristen-swanson

Summary:  First started in 2010, Edcamp has gained a tremendous amount of support from educators interested in professional development that accommodates their desire for collaborative learning environments designed by teachers, for teachers.  The author lists the primary reasons why Edcamp has been, and continues to be, so successful.  First, Edcamp is free, in more ways than one: 1) There is no cost to attend, 2) attendees are free to choose and move through sessions based on their interests, and 3) Edcamps are held on Saturdays, accommodating teachers’ work schedules and not costing them a personal day to attend.  Second, Edcamp is structured as a participant driven professional development conference where everyone has authority and are free to participate as they wish.  Thus Edcamps promote productive conversation and effective collaboration as the platform for learning.  Edcamp sessions are scheduled on the day of the event, ensuring a more organic collaborative learning environment, rather than planned and canned presentations.  Similarly, Edcamps are hosted by individuals and organizations that are not affiliated with vendors or commercial entities, and as a result are not designed to sell anything or any way of thinking.  In essence, the success of Edcamps is owing to the collaborative platform is promotes.  Professional development through the sharing of ideas with other professionals in the field generates a +1 effect (two heads are greater than one) in learning and generating of ideas.

Review:  This article was written by an Edcamp “veteran,” and is clearly designed to inform educators of the collaborative method and resource for professional development.  Swanson does an excellent job of describing the Edcamp method, despite obvious areas that cannot be defined due to its largely organic platform.  This article inspired the idea that collaboration between education professionals might not be so bleak as observed on campuses – perhaps the key is giving educators a feeling of authority, self-determination, freedom, and voice in their professional development.  For more information on Edcamp and Edcamps that might be scheduled in your area check out their website, edcamp.org.