Expert Learners for Social Justice

Teachers can grow students' 21st century skills leveraging student voice and choice for authentic engagement.

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Student engagement can be a challenge across the country, but students come to school with natural interest in many real world issues and ideas that naturally and authentically engage them. While not all courses have the flexibility to align to student interest, many do. If we build teacher capacity and provide conditions to re-imagine the school experience, students can learn 21st century skills through topics of their own interest. In my English classes students grow as critical readers, effective writers and judicious thinkers through researching, discussing and presenting on social issues they care about. Similarly, students could learn the themes of history by researching the historical antecedents and civic influences on the issues affecting their lives. Numeracy, environmental impact, statistics and art could all play a central, interdisciplinary role in these passion projects. And in the process, school becomes an institution through which students gain the agency to solve the questions alive in their lives.

This already happens in many of the best classrooms across the country, but this type of student-centered, interest-based learning should be the norm, not the exception.

This idea inspired by the student roundtable hosted by ASCD at Patapsco High School on October 13th.

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Photo of Sean McComb
Team

I believe that, Maggie. They're ready: ideas, insight, initiative. We need to set conditions, make the space and guide.

Photo of Maggie Favretti
Team

Hi, Sean,  When we first started researching design thinking and how to integrate it across the curriculum, our first meeting was a Student Caucus.  We still have the video, but you don't need to see to imagine what they said.  One of my favorite quotes was, "I want to do something that matters NOW.  What am I waiting for?"

Photo of Donna Teuber
Team

Hi Sean, I'm so impressed with the ideas that came out of the student roundtable! Getting students to talk about what is meaningful to them is a great way to meet their needs. You have so many ideas here! The next step on the Guild is to build out an idea. You could start a shared Google Doc and start putting in some of the detail. Happy to help - please reach out.