4 Ways to Increase Student Ownership

As the Spring wears on, many teachers struggle with keeping students invested during two specific phases – the ‘crunch time’ before major assessments and the ‘down time’ after major assessments.  During crunch time, sometimes the pressure gets to all of us and our students can get burned out.  During the down time after major assessments, it can be hard to get our students to take material seriously in the wake of high-stakes testing.  No matter which phase you’re currently in, try these strategies for increasing student ownership in the classroom in order to keep investment and motivation high.

Set personal goals.  While your class may have an overarching goal you’re working towards, students may feel more ownership and investment in a goal that they have set for themselves.  If this is during crunch time, their goal can be related to the upcoming assessment and they may be more inspired by it since they came up with it on their own.  If it’s during down time, it can add some needed drive and motivation to their work during a time when they often just want to relax.

Track their own progress.  The more informed students are about their grades/scores and progress towards mastery, the more empowered they feel to keep progressing.  Keeping a personal tracker where they are documenting their own scores and progress can be really motivating for students.  It allows them to reliably self-identify areas of strength and weakness, reflect on their progress, and make plans for improvement.  During down time, you may even have the flexibility to allow students to choose which skills they want to add to the tracker or focus more energy on.

Increase student decision-making.  If students are able to drive classroom learning and have input about what or how they’re learning, they can feel increased ownership over mastering the content.  When appropriate, allow students to decide which objectives they want to review first, for example.  Or during down time, try letting students have some input into the topic or process for a project in order to increase their motivation for working on it. 

Raise student responsibility.  Try putting students in charge of explaining or reviewing certain concepts for the class, when appropriate.  This could be done formally where groups of students are tasked with preparing a review activity for certain topics, or more informally by simply shifting your practice from the teacher answering student questions to relying on other students to answer student questions.  Either way, when students are made responsible for helping make sure their peers understand something, they are going to feel more ownership over the task and, hopefully, rise to the challenge and put forth an increased effort.

If you’re able to carry some of these strategies through both phases, it may also alleviate the bumpy transition that can occur between crunch time and down time.  When students feel ownership over their learning, the external forces become less important and students are able to focus more on their own personal growth and mastery and worry less about whether or not there’s a test looming over them.

How else do you increase student ownership and investment?  Add your ideas in the comments!

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