Teachers often do all the work for their students, leaving them with dependent learners. The release of responsibility to your students will let them take ownership of their work.
Developing students who think critically and engage proactively can be time consuming, but will ultimately produce more successful students. And it will save you from carrying the burden of your classroom solely on your shoulders. To implement this release of responsibility, try some of these tips in your classroom:
1. Explain the why behind your lessons.
Students always want to know why and how the information they’re learning will be relevant to their lives. While it can be tiring to constantly hear “When am I ever going to use this?” your students are on the right track. Motivation is key to learning. If your students can understand the value behind their work, the release of responsibility will come more naturally. In an article for Teacher Hub, education consultant John McCarthy writes, “Placing students at the center of their own learning requires their collaboration. They need a voice in why, what, and how learning experiences take shape.” Answering why (how is this relevant to the lives of your students?), what (how can you let the interests of your students guide your lesson planning?), and how (what types of learners do you have in your classroom) places students as the focus of your teaching and gives them a voice and a sense of responsibility.
2. Spend less time lecturing.
While some lessons require you teaching up front, try to plan lessons that minimize talking at your students. Students spend all day listening to their teachers; let them talk and discuss to release the responsibility of keeping the lesson going by yourself. There are lots of methods that allow for movement and creativity in the classroom, like station-based learning, which allows students to work at their own pace on a variety of projects around the room. Encourage a discussion environment by asking open-ended questions and prompting small group discussion among students. Check out Edutopia’s article on conversation tips to encourage your quieter students to start talking.
3. Help students problem solve.
Rather than immediately answer questions or work out problems for your students, help guide their thinking. Critical thinking is more important than getting the answer right every time. An article on preparing creative and critical thinkers suggests four methods for helping students generate ideas: defer judgment, seek quantity, encourage all possibilities, and look for combinations. Helping students process their ideas without judgement encourages ownership of the learning process.
4. Be aware of your own needs.
Teacher burnout goes beyond just you; when you’re discouraged and unmotivated, your classroom will suffer. Be aware of your own physical and emotional levels and set boundaries for yourself. Practicing self-care, mixing up your lessons plans, and remembering why you teach in the first place can help to alleviate the blues, but the gradual release of responsibility will remove the burden of learning from your shoulders. You can’t “fix” your students or force them to learn. Once you accept that you’re not solely responsible for their success, you can help them take ownership of their own learning by coming alongside them rather than always having to be a step ahead.
For more ideas on developing your classroom, check out our classroom series!