Listening to Our Students

A visual representation of what a group of teenagers at a Imagining Learning event wanted their education to look like.

I have noticed a theme in this week’s posts: Listening to students. First in the children’s book Iggy Peck and then in an op-ed by a well-informed (if not a little snarky) high school student. I found this super interesting organization called Imagining Learning that goes around the country holding “listening sessions” with teenagers centered around the question:

“How do we educate young people to thrive in a world of possibility?”

Students talk through their answers to the question and then collectively create a visual representation of their ideas. Interesting if not a little “hippe-dippy” as some of my math colleagues might say. However the exercise reminded me of how valuable this structure can be in an academic context. I often have students explore a topic via reading and discussion and then task them with creating visual representations in groups. I find this strategy to be more effective for non-factual, higher order questions like: “Who should be blamed for the Arab-Israeli conflict?” or “Was Hamlet actually crazy?” or “Is cloning ethical?” A great way to ensure this exercise is rigorous is to wrap up the class by having students write an evidence based response to the question that was studied, debated and illustrated. Alternately, the writing could occur the next day after students have had time to look at each other’s illustrations and form their own opinion.

How do you show your students you are listening to them?

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