Give students more control

I just worked out while watching a great 18-minute TED Talk by Rory Sutherland, called Perspective is Everything. He’s a fun speaker, and it’s an entertaining talk about the power of marketing.

My favorite image from the talk is this, from a stop light in South Korea:

The little lights around the big light count down the time until the light will turn green.  The idea is that road rage is reduced (and thus, accident rates go down) when drivers can see the time left to wait instead of wondering “when will this light change?”

The driver feels like he or she has more control.

When I saw this, it made me think of one of the ways that TLC middle school (opening in fall 2013) will be different — students will have a great deal of control over their learning.

For example, rather than giving every student the same assignment, students will have control. Eventually, they will learn to assign themselves homework that is appropriately challenging and that is targeted to their own learning objectives.

The following quote made a big impression on me: it’s from a book chapter titled Is Homework “Deliberate Practice”?

How else will students at TLC have control over their learning?

  • They will choose some of the world news articles they read each morning.
  • They will choose what to blog about to share with the world what they’re learning (we’ll be blogging about three times a week).
  • In seventh grade, students will group together and will choose several inter-disciplinary projects to work on for several months each.  As the year progresses, they will take on more and more responsibility, and then, in eighth grade…
  • They will choose a capstone project that they will work on for six months that will make the world a better place.

A great example of a young person doing this sort of world-changing is Jessica Markowitz.  As a sixth grader, Jessica learned about conditions in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide, and wanted to help.

So she did something.

She started a non-profit called Richard’s Rwanda that has raised over $80,000 for students’ education in Rwanda. She’s visited Rwanda several times and has raised consciousness about Rwanda in Seattle, where she lives. She has changed the world.

There are plenty of potential Jessica Markowitzes here in the Triangle. Young people are capable of great things. TLC will mentor young people, give them more control over their education, and help them apply the skills they develop so they can change the world.


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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One Response to Give students more control

  1. glichtman says:

    Great plans for next year and examples of what all schools could be doing right now to further our core goals. Thanks for sharing, Steve and looking forward to seeing it in practice when you open in 2013!

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