Empowering Students to Take Ownership of their Learning

 “A student who understands what it means to own their learning has an internal drive to get things done.” This comes from the principal (and superintendent) of a rural school in Idaho who has unlocked the key to powerful learning. It’s often referred to by many different names:

  • personalized learning
  • proficiency learning
  • mastery learning
  • demonstration learning
  • individualized instruction
  • competency-based education

All these different names can be confusing but the bottom line is this:

Students are empowered to take control of their own learning. They achieve success not because someone is forcing them to move at a certain pace, or memorize a set of dates for a test the next day–they learn because they want to. And, teachers are empowered to provide richer, more meaningful feedback to their students because they can customize learning experiences as needed. School leaders are empowered to make more thoughtful decisions about schools and school systems. And parents/caregivers are empowered because they see their children enjoying school in a way they never did before.

All students deserve the opportunity to learn under this model, rather than just put in their seat time as required by state departments of education whose regulations haven’t been updated in decades. Contact hours mean far less than learning time–big difference! Just because someone may be sitting in a seat for 50 minutes does not mean they are engaged, motivated, and focused on the problems appearing on a worksheet.

I am currently working with P-12 administrators in Missouri to see if we can in turn work with lawmakers to create a legislative space for competency-based education. We have no desire to throw the baby out with the bathwater–districts should always be able to choose the model that’s right for their local areas–but there should be a provision that allows districts to see if this type of personalized instruction would positively impact their students.

If anyone is currently implementing this model I would love to hear from you. Or–if you want to talk about ways in which your school or district could slowly begin to build such a model feel free to reach out to me by clicking the “About the Author” page.




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