The Surprising Impact of Student Led Learning
By Amy Howell
TechEd is a hot topic in education right now, but what we really need to be discussing is student led learning. Students leading other students in learning is one of the most amazing things you can see.
STEAMbassadors, STEMbassadors, Alpha:Techsperts, The Girls – they go by many names, but they are all groups of students dedicated to learning the newest technology and sharing their knowledge with their peers and their teachers. These groups of students spend their own time learning new resources and new applications, and then they talk to teachers in the building to find ways to teach relevant concepts to their peers.
Watching students take their time to reach out to teachers, not in their grade level, to find out what the students are learning, looking at the resources we have and designing a lesson, asking for another teacher to look at it and give feedback and stand in front of their peers or students that are older than they are and confidently teach them new material… it is nothing short of inspiring.
My first experience with student led learning was a group STEAMbassadors who decided to ask a 2nd grade teacher if they could teach her class a lesson on the units from a popular virtual reality learning program. The teacher was blown away by the girls’ commitment to the entire process. The girls wrote a lesson that aligned with the standards the students were learning at the time. The girls took the class from start to finish through the lesson, they asked the students questions that made them think about the concept and the students were engaged in their learning! When the teacher was teaching a lesson later in the unit, students referenced the learning they did with The STEAMbassadors. They were making connections themselves… it was fantastic
Currently I am working with a group that call themselves The Alpha: Techsperts. They are a group of 3rd -5th grade students that have a passion for technology and a desire to share their knowledge with their peers.
A group of 3rd grade girls from this group started a new trend, which frankly blew us away. They went to the librarian with an idea. They wanted to teach lessons in our new Lion Libratory. She told them to plan it and do it! These girls planned their lesson with two teachers, gathered their materials, and taught a 4th grade class their “Not a Box” lesson; it was so successful they ended up teaching 3rd, 5th, and 1st grade lessons as well. The girls had such a good time; they planned their own lesson using “How do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?” The girls used this book to lead students through a lesson on “Social Emotional Learning.” The best part of the student led learning was seeing the students use their teacher’s structures and procedures. They modeled the structure of workshop model, their teacher’s attention getting routines, and allowing students to share their thinking.
We have a group of our Techsperts helping to lead lessons on coding to all of our classes. The students will assist teachers and high school students in guiding students through a variety of coding lessons and technology based learning. Each lesson starts with a text and then the students will be divided into groups to complete activities that align with the book. The Techsperts will guide the students in learning how to use their new technology, without “doing it for them.” The purpose of this day is for our Techsperts to practice teaching others in a space that allows for them to receive feedback from our adult educators.
The Alpha: Techsperts will be learning on their own through Google Classroom, in adult led learning opportunities, and Techspert led learning opportunities. These learning opportunities will vary from “How to use Google Docs”, learning new applications the students find, learning the new resources the school acquires, and “How to teach a STEM/Markerspace lesson”.
Our goal as educators is to train our kids to not need us. We are seeing our students take initiative in learning concepts on their own, teaching their peers, and reaching out to let us know what they want us to teach them. Before we know it, they will be leading all the learning here- we will just be spectators in their journey.
About the Author
Amy Howell has been in education for 16 years, all of which have been in Northwest ISD in Justin, Texas. She received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and her master’s degree from Lamar University. Mrs. Howell has taught and coached 7th and 8th grade and she has been an administrator at both the middle school and elementary level.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum