Before I started working for SBW (https://www.sbw.edu/en/home) I was sceptical about the idea of referring to students as learning partners. It’s not that I am a traditionalist, and I have always thought it important to involve students in their own learning, but the idea of referring to students as learning partners was far too progressive for me. However, six months later, I had a wholesale change of heart!
Involving students as learning partners means actively engaging them in the learning process and treating them as equal participants in the development of their own knowledge and understanding. This approach recognizes that students are not just passive recipients of information, but active constructors of their own learning.
There are several ways to involve students as learning partners in the classroom:
- Encourage collaborative learning: Group work and collaborative activities can help students learn from each other and develop their communication and teamwork skills.
- Provide choice and agency: Giving students some control over their learning experiences, such as allowing them to choose the topic they want to learn about or the way they want to present their work, can help them feel more invested in their own learning.
- Incorporate student feedback: Asking students for feedback on the teaching methods, material, and assignments can help instructors better understand how to support their learning.
- Encourage self-directed learning: Encouraging students to take charge of their own learning by setting their own learning goals, seeking out resources, and reflecting on their progress can help them develop independence and responsibility.
Involving students as learning partners can be an effective way to promote student engagement and motivation, and can lead to deeper and more meaningful learning experiences.
There are several reasons why students may learn better when given autonomy over their learning:
- Motivation: When students are given the opportunity to choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged in the learning process. This can lead to increased attention and effort, which can ultimately lead to better learning outcomes.
- Interest: Giving students the freedom to explore topics that interest them can lead to a greater sense of curiosity and engagement, which can facilitate deeper learning.
- Personalized learning: Allowing students to customize their learning experience to fit their individual needs and learning styles can help them learn more effectively and efficiently.
- Responsibility and ownership: When students are given the autonomy to direct their own learning, they are more likely to take ownership of their learning and be more responsible for their progress.
- Self-esteem: Allowing students to take charge of their own learning can boost their confidence and self-esteem, which can lead to better learning outcomes.
Overall, giving students autonomy over their learning can be an effective way to promote motivation, engagement, and deeper learning.
Moreover, there is a growing body of research that supports the idea that giving students autonomy over their learning can lead to better learning outcomes. For example, a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that “students who were given the opportunity to choose their own learning goals and strategies performed better on a post-test compared to students who were given predetermined goals and strategies” (Klassen et al., 2010). Another study published in the Journal of Research in Education found that “students who were given more autonomy in their learning had higher levels of motivation and engagement, and performed better on achievement tests” (Lin & Kao, 2013).
Research has also shown that personalized learning, which involves giving students some control over their learning experience, can lead to improved academic performance and higher levels of student engagement. A meta-analysis published in the Review of Educational Research found that “personalized learning interventions were associated with positive effects on student achievement” (Wang, Li, & Wang, 2017).
In addition, research has also found that student autonomy can lead to increased self-determination, which has been linked to better academic outcomes, including higher grades and test scores. A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that “students who reported higher levels of self-determination had higher grades and test scores” (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
The research suggests that giving students autonomy over their learning can lead to improved academic performance, increased motivation and engagement, and a greater sense of self-determination. Based on the research and my experiences, I am now very happy to refer to the young people in my school as my learning partners rather than my students!