If students designed their own school?  They did.

“What would such a school be like? No quizzes, no grades, not even classes.  Most of the time  it would have no teachers and no adults.”

What would it take for us to better support our students to “design their own school?”

The video above is excellent- an inspiration to all of us to rethink how we’re doing honoring student voice in the design and implementation of their learning.  It also leads educators to wonder: how could we better grab and embed the practices of this student-designed and student-managed learning environment into the current norms of our adult-facilitated learning?

The “Independent project” explained in the video is a one-semester opportunity for students to design their own learning.   It is composed of three parts: the weekly questions, the individual endeavor, and the collective endeavor. 

Weekly questions take up roughly half the time.

Every Monday each students comes up with a question based on something they are curious about related to a core subject.  Students spend a week doing research and experimentation, and on Friday, each gives a formal presentation about what they learned.

It is great to see the focus on questions as the frame and guide for the work of the week.   Why shouldn’t we use this approach with every student every week: questions first, questions throughout, questions driving the learning.

Clearly this is a format– learning following a question and directed toward making a presentation or creating a product– which closely aligns with the key elements of the Project-based learning model I promote here at 21k12.

The other half of their time is the individual endeavor, an ambitious project for the entire semester.   There is also a collective endeavor, in which they develop their collaboration skills and group problem-solving.  Great stuff.

The video is, I think, a terrific resource, and I’d love to see it shown in faculty meetings and PLC’s: what interesting conversations might follow it.    How are we incorporating student voice;  how are we welcoming students to design their learning;  how are we incorporating these student-designed learning practices into the mainstream of our program?

And what if we showed it to our students?  Wouldn’t it be a fascinating little experiment in our schools to show the video to middle school or high school students, and then observe what happens next?  What would it say to us as educators if nothing at all happens– if not any of our students, after watching this video, engage us in pursuing this kind of program?

What might we infer from such a lack of student follow-up?

And, if students do pursue with us these concepts, think of the richness of those conversations.   Even if there is no way, immediately at least, for our schools to implement exactly the kind of program promoted in the video, use the opportunity the video presents to explore and examine practice.   “Well no, we can’t do this exactly, but let’s wonder and ponder and consider how we might move in this direction or incorporate some elements.”  Couldn’t that be great for our schools?

My compliments and appreciation go to the video producers, the educators, and most of all the students involved with this video and with the program.