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Blog: Monday, February 10th, 2020

Student Voice in the Classroom

By Linda Pollastretti

At Rick Hansen, we have embraced the redesigned curriculum with a move to inquiry/ PBL model of instruction.  Woven within this pedagogy is the movement from a teacher centered classroom to a learner-driven classroom.  Many of us (parents) grew up in the teacher-centered environment – where the teacher was the fountain of knowledge who often lectured or spoke the entire class while we (students) passively took notes (for those who were engaged) or more often, daydreamed, passed notes or doodles across our notebooks.  Today, at Rick Hansen, the classroom environment looks a little different. 

The learner-driven classroom and school means an entire shift in the ecology of what the school, classroom, curriculum and student culture including the purpose and process of student learning looks like.  The emphasis not on content, or facts but rather the process of learning how to learn.  This concept isn’t “new” but rather has been around since the concept of formal education arose with John Dewey. 

Progressive education, an idea forwarded by John Dewey, would have us focus on the process of learning while encouraging students to exercise their voice and choice.  Empowering students to go in different directions to explore their area of interests, and passions within a given content area or curricular competency focuses learning towards students’ natural curiosity.  Noted sketch-noter, Sylvia Duckworth, has created a graphic based on the Choice is More than a Menu of Options by Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey  which illustrates the metamorphosis of classroom culture using student purpose including new roles and responsibilities for students and teachers.  The biggest change for parents to understand is the change in focus from content delivery to purpose discovery.

Kudos to the teachers at Rick Hansen who have transformed their classroom practices (never an easy task), realigned or refocused their assessment practices and moved the concept of learning from the teachers’ responsibility to the students’ mind, desk, and ownership.   Focusing less on content and more on learning while empowering students to exercise their purpose has transformed the school, the classroom and the concept of education within a leading innovative school.

Linda Pollastretti, Principal, Rick Hansen Secondary