Who owns the learning?

I talk a lot about relinquishing control to learners, but do I always practice what I preach?

I’m a second language teacher. I think I have to explain more than I do. In the context of second language, I tend to like to make sure my students ‘get it’ before letting them do something with it!

When we talked about ways in which teachers keep control of learning, one of the kids said ‘Teachers over explain. They don’t let us get on with figuring it out for ourselves’

I’ve been trying to let go more and more, even in second language learning. We’ve been working on a text in Hebrew which the kids are finding interesting and stimulating. Time to let go further… I asked them to sit and groups and read ahead, to figure out the meaning themselves. I didn’t even give the usual vocab list to support their understanding. They created a headline for each section to show they had understood the gist.

And they managed just fine. They worked collaboratively to look up words, decipher meaning from the context and apply the knowledge they already have of how the language works. I was blown away.

As always, I asked for their comments on the process. ..

  • I found it challenging because we tried to understand it ourselves without the teacher (Jay)
  • We got through a lot and it was fun (Emma)
  • I think we got to read and learn more on our own (Matthew)
  • I think it was easy and good because the whole group cooperated (Jasmine)
  • We were in control of our learning and in a small group you get to say what you think  more than when it’s the whole class(Gemma)
  • I liked how everyone brought a different perspective (Dean)
  • We went off topic but we stayed focused most of the time (Aimmee)
  • I enjoyed the way we controlled the learning even though I struggled a bit. (Jassy)
  • We own our learning and today we had a chance to really be in control. It gave us a chance to practice all our skills (Tahnee)

Next stage: Express your understanding through any medium you choose.

(See previous post … I’m working on it!)


11 thoughts on “Who owns the learning?

  1. This is hard for a teacher to do…relinquish control. The first time you do it, you almost feel as if you are not doing your job, like the students will struggle through without really learning anything. But, when you let it unfold you see it for what it is, an opportunity for students to grapple with something that is difficult, collaborate, be confused, and feel the pride in figuring it out. So often we stifle that sense of pride because we get anxious and just give students the answers to hurry things along.


  2. A thoughtful post as always, I do enjoy reading your blog.

    Your next stage caught my eye.

    With my Year 7 students (11-12 years) last year we were using wikis. I was working with some other teachers as well and said to my students we should document our experience. Three of them asked me if they could write a story!


  3. I think your comment on teachers over explaining is one of the keys to this. We had a teacher who was coached in this area who had to have a timer limiting themselves to a 10 minute intro rather than the usual 30 – 40 minute dialogue. One of the keys is to stop the teachers talking to the whole for long periods – this releases time for students to do the work.


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