Letting go…

Inquiry starts with the teacher relinquishing some control, stepping back and allowing students to take more responsibility for their own learning. It’s a difficult one for most teachers. Veterans are used to having control and often find it hard to let go. Less experienced teachers are often struggling to gain control in the classroom and I think you need to have some control before you can let it go…

A group of teachers at my school have been working on ways for teachers to relinquish control. I asked my students what they thought and their responses were interesting. They talked a lot about teachers explaining too much instead of letting learners find things out for themselves.

Here’s what some of the teachers are saying, as they gradually begin to step back more and more..

Rubi asked her kids about control:

I asked my class how can I have less control and give them more independence. The response from quite a few of my students was ‘You explain too much’. Later on we were doing an activity and I explained it once with visual cues as well but there were a few kids who did not get it. I asked my children what I should do now. The best part was some of them wanted to give up their time to explain it to their friends – which was great!

Linda is the IT teacher:

My usual inclination would have been to tell the Year 5 students which web 2.0 tool to use to express their learning and explain in detail how to use it. This time I suggested three possibilities and left them to explore and decide on their own. The students experimented with the options, made their own choices and were engaged in the task at hand.

Des is a Year 4 teacher:

Some of the students’ comments about how teachers take control of their learning make one ‘squirm’. ‘ Obviously, without needing to, we try too hard sometimes. Being aware of this, is certainly making me ‘listen’ to my teaching. A little voice is beginning to say ‘enough’ let them figure it out for themselves. Even though this goes without saying, I still need to mention that the kids always need to know we are there for further explanations at all times.

Dani, is the music teacher:

Year 4s are learning about systems and, as part of this inquiry, I asked them to work in small groups and draw a picture of the solar system . The picture would be used as a graphic score, then performed with instruments they choose to best represent it. One student put his hand up and asked, ‘Can we choose ANY system?’ I was stuck for a moment because that is not how I ALWAYS teach it. I answered nervously (without them knowing), ‘Of course’… and I am now seeing different systems being drawn and discussed and performed….YAY!!! Now I totally understand…they led me…not me leading them.

About whatedsaid

Teaching and Learning Coordinator at an IB PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. I'm a teacher, a learner, an inquirer...
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2 Responses to Letting go…

  1. Really good to read these ideas from teachers. I agree it is really important to hand the learning over to the children, the worries associated I associate with it are that it can take time for the children to tune into this approach, and initially the ‘finished article’ does not always look as polished as a wholly teacher led one, although this can rapidly change.


  2. jfb57 says:

    Great article Edna! It is such a big thing to give over responsibility in any walk of life. I suppose that is for fear of what happens if…! We do know that true learning comes about from personal expereince so some how we have to bridge that gap. The first building block has to be a conversation with the class so that they understand the implications & so that the teacher can see where there may be areas to support.


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