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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Balancing the Classroom: Strategies for Sharing Responsibility

A teacher in our local school district recently posted a question on one of our discussion boards: "I'm having a difficult time coming up with ideas on how to give my students more responsibility and freedom in my classroom. I am very structured and organized -- how can I give my eighth graders a little freedom in the classroom and retain structure and organization?"

This is an excellent question. Responsibility and freedom are clearly two concepts we must embrace if we are to teach young people to participate in our democracy. It's easy for teachers to be so organized and structured that students lose freedom, which in turn lowers the level of student responsibility and increases the teacher's responsibility. Is this the way we want it to happen?

To answer this teacher's question, two instructional strategies come to mind.

1. Project-based, cooperative-, or service-learning methods. These place the responsibility for learning on the student by encouraging him/her to find the answer to a problem rather than memorizing a teacher-given solution.

2. Student-generated and tested hypotheses. Students write down what they know about a concept and then conduct research and experiments to either verify their knowledge or correct their misconceptions. This strategy is most often associated with scientific methods but can be applied to many areas.

How would you answer this teacher's question? Do you have specific examples to share? Please write and let me know!

Comments (65)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I went to a workshop last month about difficult behaviors in the classroom. The speaker said in order to decrease behaviors in your classroom give students a choice so that way they feel like they are in control even though the teacher still has the control. After the workshop I started to give my students a choice before they have the opportunity to misbehave and become disruptive. It definitely works and my students usually make the correct choice.

Jennifer's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The layered lesson plan system is awesome for giving student's choices. I recently did something similar on my final exam. It gave my students choices to answer what they knew best. When they got their grades back, it was a huge confidence booster! I liked the layered formats at www.help4teachers.com but believe that they would take enormous resources and time to create. As a new teacher, I don't have that many different activities, worksheets and projects to pull from. I can see myself using the system, maybe on a smaller scale, in the future. Thanks for the suggestion.

Karl's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am also new to blogging. Cooperative learning is an excellent method to allow students to share ideas, voice opinions and work together toward a common goal. Being responsible for their work can also add to self-esteem and apositive self image. Do alot of you use cooperative learning? If you do, has it been beneficial? If not, what other methods have you found to be more successful? Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!

Alisha's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I knew that I wasn't alone when it comes to giving more responsibility to children. However, I am a 1st grade teacher and giving responsibility to little ones sometimes becomes work. I do, however, believe that in the end the hard work will pay off if we can start giving more responsibility to children when they are younger. The problem sometimes occurs not from the teacher-student relationship and the responsibility we have established at school but yet the parent-child relationship they have established at home. What I mean by this is that not all parents allow or give their young children much responsibility which in turn creates a problem with the responsibility at school. So when this has occurred in my classroom I simply visit with the parents and make sure they understand the concept that I am trying to teach the students more responsibility and the parents need to support this at home as well. Sometimes this is effective but sometimes not. I simply do what I can to teach responsibility to these little guys so that it may be easier when they get older. My challenge seems to be that sometimes I might set my expectations a little high and so the 1st graders are not able to achieve at a level of responsibility that is appropriate. So, does anyone have any good responses for 1st graders and responsibility?

Alicia A.'s picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thank you for sharing this website. It is great! I plan to share it with other teachers in my school.

KB's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach 5th and 6th graders. One way I've found to help the kids become more responsible is to let them in on the "rule making" for the classroom. The first day of school we discuss things that should be allowed and shouldn't be allowed, and then put the rules into their rules. I go into this already knowing things that I want included in the rules, but through discussion let them come up with the kids.

I also do as much cooperative learning and project learning as I can. The kids love being in charge of their own learning.

Janie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am also new to blogging but it is a great way to exchange ideas and gain new insight to what is happening in different situations or classrooms. I agree with other postings that the students should help in making of the class rules. I also have in my mind my goals but it is interesting to see what some of the students ideas are about rules and what they should or should not be allowed to do. This will be my first year teaching first graders but I have been a teachers assistant for 5 1/2 years working in grades K-5th. It has been an experience and I have gained some insight on how to manage and organize my classrooms from these other teachers that I have observed. It is amazing how the difference in teaching strategies can be amongst even same grade teachers.I am excited to learn and get to discuss new ideas and concerns that I may face in my classroom.

Mal. M's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just completed my first year of teaching and throughout the year I was constantly struggling with how much "leeway" and responsibility to give my classes of 7th graders. I think the strategy of "student-generated and tested hypotheses" is a great way to create responsibility in a 7th grade science classroom. Instead of feeding students hypotheses to test, this would put more of the responsibility on them and make them think!

nour huda's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

it's so good to teach young children responsibility; being self-responsible of their actions and learning and other things will alleviate the burden of the teacher in maintaining the order and discipline in the classroom. by doing this children will learn to correct themselves alone,and will have a critical mind, they can distinguish between what is wright and wrong. it's obvious this issue in not easy to realise, it must be parents teachers cooperation.

Amreen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Each and every person should be responsible enough for his own sake.a person is said to be responsible when he manages the time according to him.as we say that time never comes again so hold the time in your hand and try to be a reponsible person.a person is also said to be responsible when he does the thing which is said to him in the limited time period given to him.
student's must be trained so that they become a responsible one in there future.these are just my views,hope it will be useful for you.try it,i think you'll like it.

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