Lead Learners

5 Ways To Inspire All Learners To Be Lead Learners

It has been established that the highest form of learning is teaching. When one is put in the position to teach others, one learns the content and concepts at the highest applied level in order to successfully communicate it to others. This realization has led many educators to turn their classroom over to learners through project-based learning, presentations and learner choice. However, too many learners have still not experienced these opportunities to be Lead Learners. Here are five ways all educators can expand the opportunity for all learners to learn at the highest level by all becoming facilitators:

1. Learner As Professional Presenters

Learners have been giving presentations for years in all types of classes and grade levels. I suppose even the early years of Show & Tell were intended to have every learner present or tell a story. We need to challenge all of our learners to become master storytellers and presenters. All learners need to have multiple opportunities to become an expert in various research-based deeper learning activities where they get to present their findings, conclusions and innovations all in a professional environment using professional applications and technology. Additionally, we need to teach the explicit skills required to deliver a professional presentation. Too often, we assign presentations that only focus on the content instead of the delivery as well. Or, if we focus on the delivery, we don’t actually teach the requisite skills. We all know Death By Powerpoint. Let’s teach students to avoid this. There are dozens of resources, but implementing information from entities such as Nancy Duarte and Slide:ology or Being Makers Better Presentations would be appropriate. In addition to getting all learners to be master presenters / storytellers in order to achieve the highest levels of learning, these skills will be used repeatedly in job interviews and professional environments for a lifetime.

2. Learner Roles

We have had learners in various school roles for years. We have had Teacher Assistants, Cafeteria Volunteers, Attendance Monitors, Class Monitors, Drum Majors, ASB Officers and others. But it’s time to ratchet this up a bit – or even a lot. For example, what if one’s class or program had a Media Coordinator responsible for coordinating the video work? Or a Social Media Coordinator handling the class Facebook, Instagram and Twitter Accounts? How about a Project Coordinator responsible for calendars, roles, timelines and deliverables? One could keep going with a Design Coordinator, Social Coordinator, Web Coordinator, YouTube Channel Coordinator, Community Coordinator and many others. How about Peer Coaches? If it’s good enough for professionals, why not learners? It’s not about titles for title sake. It’s about learners taking greater responsibility for the strategic roles in the classrooms. It’s about allowing learners to bring their expertise and experience forward for the greater good, while also enhancing their skills, resumes and portfolios. At one high school, I was fortunate enough to implement a Student Project Coordinator. Learners who were advanced in a given curricular area, or showed tremendous enthusiasm and skill, could apply for this position that put learners in the role of facilitating learning. Instead of an aide, or gloried gopher, a Student Project Coordinator led sessions, coached small groups, organized model lessons and facilitated demonstrations.

3. Portfolio Presentations / Defense of Learning

We need to create systems where learners have to not only do ongoing end-of-project presentations, but also practice reflective learning. These not only get them to present their best work and learning, but also teach them again and therefore continue to learn at a higher level. If it’s good enough for graduate students and doctoral candidates, it’s good enough for all learners. Many classes, programs and schools have started to have their learners do a Defense of Learning in order to capture this deeper learning experience. iLEAD SCVi does an outstanding job with their annual Senior Defense PresentationsAs a former school leader, I worked with our staff to design a year-end portfolio presentation students would do each year entitled the Personal Brand EquityThis culminating project not only required them to analyze and assess their learning and best work, but also do the same for them as a growing, learning and ever-improving young adult (skills focus). Reflection, presenting and teaching will represent the highest form of learning these students can both experience and demonstrate.

4. Learners As Experts

All learners need the opportunity to become experts; experts in various focused areas of their content studies, as well as experts in professional areas of choice. As our educational pedagogy becomes more project-based, learners will have greater opportunities for deeper learning like this. In their core and other courses, facilitators and learners will collaborate to design challenges and areas of inquiry where students focus deeply on specific aspects of the content and its application. PBL expects that learners will have a voice and choice on what they study deeply and how they will demonstrate their learning. In that spirit, many facilitators are discovering the tremendous opportunity to make their students experts through choice projects such as 20 Time Projects or Genius Hour pursuits. These are in-depth and often long-term project pursuits specifically based on a student’s interest. They choose what they want to learn more about and how they will again demonstrate it. It’s the ultimate version of Student Voice and Choice. But again, it clears the facilitator out of the way giving the learner full rights and means to become the expert, to become a teacher and to ultimately the lead learner in this given area. Not only does this lead to learning at the highest or deeper levels, but it also relates to the skills our students are going to need in the gig economy. They will often have to create their own work. 

5. Capstone Projects

Again, educators need to explicitly design project opportunities that are culminating, capstone type projects for our learners. This is not a new idea. We have had senior projects at the college and secondary levels for years. However, these can experience a 2.0 where learners have a chance to choose areas in which to pursue their culminating learning experience. Again,  iLEAD SCVi  pursues this type of work through their 10th Grade Personal Projects. Unlike the reflective quality of the Defense of Learning presentations, these are more about learner passion, purpose and choice. These are also often opportunities for learners to see that their work can have an impact beyond themselves. There are many ways and reasons to design these capstone experiences. So, instead of another template, think about how we can create these for all of our learners in our courses, programs and schools.

I am sure all of us could collectively generate more than five ways, but this represents a start. 


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