July 18, 2017

Student-Led Learning: What Does the Research Say?

competency-based pathways, classroom climate, student-led research, research,

"Ugh," I just have to say it, "UGH!" This is probably the hardest blog post I've ever written. Can I say, I really do love research. This is a picture of most of my collection of professional books. (Finally in one space!  Some, truly, are still at school-about 20 more!  Yep, I have a problem!)  

I've read most of these from the front to the back! Some are new and I'm working my way through.  So, I'm very familiar with research.  The UGH of this post is finding research about the actual practices of Student-Led Learning.  With that being said, we are going to start off this little look with...John Hattie!  

You have to give this man kudos! It isn't rocket science to take all the best research and find out what it says, together, in one place!  If you haven't heard of Hattie, this is exactly what he did.  Gather it up, synthesize it, and spit it out so teachers know what is best. Yet, we, as teachers, have barely heard of him!  Now, I have to admit, I don't have the most up to date book either, but fact is fact, there are some key points to Student-Led Learning that are targeted in his synthesis of studies.  They parallel claims made by the author's of Fearless Learners.  Let's take a look, shall we!

(Please note:  I have not taken these claims word for word from the text.  I have synthesized myself and put their ideas into my own words!)

Claim #1:  Students understand and can explain the mastery of standards.

Hattie:  Self-Report of Grades 1.44 (High Impact)
This is the highest impact on learning in Hattie's book.  It DOES NOT mean that kids are explaining their grades.  What it means is that students have views of themselves and how they learn. The level of achievement they believe they have directly impacts what they do.  Student-Led Learning allows students to feel successful, makes them aware of what they have mastered, and builds their self-belief systems.  I believe that this directly impacts their ability to walk into another grade level believing they are better, stronger students, even if it isn't a student-led classroom!  

Claim #2:  Students master materials instead of working through units at a teacher paced learning outcome.  

Hattie:  Mastery Learning 0.58 (High Impact)
This claim states that if students are provided with clear explanations of what it means to master the material, they will learn with more success.  This one comes with some tie-ins.  There include cooperation with classmates, classroom climate, lots of feedback, corrections of mistakes, and using diagnostic formative tests.  Interestingly enough, these are all claims made by the author's of Fearless Learners!  The little I have done with student-led learning also points to this being a valid claim!  SCORE!

Claim #3:  Students improve verbalization of skill understanding and self-question in the classroom.  

Hattie:  Self-Verbalization and Self-Questioning 0.64 (High Impact)
In one study that Hattie read, self-verbalization was among the highest returns in student strategies!  This is key in task oriented skills, such as writing and mathematics!  Awesome!  And, as far as questioning goes, it shows that the return for students is biggest in the lower ability and special education students in the study! Win/Win!!!  

Claim #4:  The teacher/student relationship grows and is key to the learning in the classroom.  

Hattie:  Teacher-Student Relationships 0.72 (High Impact)
Both authors in the text specifically discuss how much their relationships with their students change.  From my experiences with this type of learning, I have to agree.  Their needs and feelings become a core part of the classroom, creating a key community of learners that support each other without the teacher's interventions. They thrive.  According to Hattie's work, this is called a person-centered teacher.  This person-centered teacher builds a classroom of respect that allows for fewer resistant behaviors and higher achievement is the outcome! Who knew!  The key to all of this-the teacher needs to facilitate students' development within the classroom through empathizing with the students and providing feedback to self-assess, feel safe, and learn to understand other students in the classroom as well!  I'd call that a Student-Led Classroom for sure!  

Claim #5:  Students are able to meet goals they set for themselves.  

Hattie:  Goals 0.67 (High Impact)
According to the author's of Fearless Learners, goal setting is found throughout the student's day, week, month, and year in a student-led classroom.  This comes from the schedule they build each day for the next and all the way through each academic task and activity that they do.  Hattie's research says that they provide the link between the past and the future.  This is most valuable when students and teachers set challenging rather that "do your best" goals!  The most important thing in goal setting is the difficulty of the goal.  It directly connects to the performance of the person who sets that goal!  The student-led classroom is full of goal setting opportunities, making it, yet again, a classroom reaching for success simply by the make-up of design!  

And, there you have it in a Hattie nut-shell!  Oh, there's a lot more out there, and I'm reading up on a few more great research moments.  I think that's where the UGH really lies. This one was easy to locate and understand, which is what makes Hattie's books even nicer.  I look forward to sharing more information with you as I research deeper into this.  I can't promise that any time soon, because I'm finding some really meaty stuff!  Anyways, let me know what your thoughts are about this research and your experiences with the Student-Led Classroom!

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