Learners leading learning

For our PCT professional learning yesterday we looked at the reading "Learners in the Driving Seat"
by Chris Watkins. Watkins begins the reading with asking the students to point their index finger to the ceiling then to point to who is responsible for their learning. Most will point to the teacher.
This is certainly the case with the 11 beginning teachers that I am currently working with ie that they take responsibility for the students' learning but as Watkins points out "research demonstrates that when students are driving the learning it leads to:

  • greater engagement & intrinsic motivation
  • students setting higher challenges
  • students evaluating their own work (self & peer assessment)
  • better problem-solving"
He then provides some very good questions to ask (rather than tell) for Before Starting, On the Road, and Journey's end. These equate well to John Hattie's feedback questions "Where am I going?" (Learning Intention/goals/success criteria), "How am I going?"(self-assessment, self-evaluation) and "Where to next?" (progression, new goals) (Visible Learning, 2009, p177).

We did enter into a robust discussion regarding teacher-dependent students & how to turn this around.
Willingham's thesis "Why don't students like school?" (Visible Learning & the Science of How we Learn, Hattie & Yates, 2014, Chapter 1). He notes that teachers & educators probably did like school and did well there. He posits that "schooling is a social process and that the attitudes of peers exert a strong impact upon the individual and that we tend to align our attitudes to those people who are similar to us". Family background & parental pressures play a significant role as does student abilities and therefore student success.

Giving the students choices is a first step in Managing Self (NZC key competency) and is a well-known strategy in negotiation with students. "Students can make choices on what they learn, how they learn, how well they learn, and why they learn". Also letting student questions drive the learning is a powerful enabler that hooks students into the learning. But remember that the students must be trained to ask questions using SOLO and Bloom's Digital Taxonomy.

One doesn't need to turn the class upside down to effect changes. Slowly changing the locus of control is less threatening and gives everyone a chance to engage.


  1. And the more teachers who start to make these changes, the more likely students will respond positively.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post Cheryl. You have made links to many readings I hope to check out someday. I definitely agree that school is a social process, particularly from my own experiences. When I was at school, a huge part was the social environment - who I was friends with, who sat with me in class, who I'd had difficulties with before. Relationships are HUGE within teaching and learning, so I think to effectively change the locus of control, and encourage learners to step into the drivers seat, trust, empathy and respect must be present within the classroom. Looking forward to reading more posts and reflections, and for our PCT meetings next term.


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