Give the Class to the Students!!

What??? Give the class to the students?? What does that mean?

Giving the class to the students gives them a sense of ownership in the class and its contents. To give the students the class, a teacher does not just sit back and let the students do as they please. Instead, the teacher talks about what the official expected outcomes are for the class, what he/she would like to cover, and what the students would like to include. As long as some of the students’ input is included in the class curriculum, they will be more apt to put forth more effort for all the academic units. Also, this type of discussion lets students know the types of constraints the teacher has.

If a teacher is reluctant to include students’ input into the curriculum, he or she might consider asking students to rate his/her teaching and the content at the end of each class. The informal survey might also include a place for students to offer suggestions for improvement or for types of activities. For the first minute or two of the next class, the teacher might read some of the suggestions, including outrageous ones. For example, make a joke out of the response that suggests that the class be taught at the local fast food restaurant, discussing the quality of the food. However, suggestions the teacher might work with should be read aloud (even discussed), and the implementation of the idea(s) should be as soon as reasonably possible–preferably that day or the next.

Try this, and you will be amazed at how quickly even the doubting students begin to participate more actively in class discussions and activities. The teacher may also notice that complaints about the activities decline. (Students are reluctant to criticize activities suggested by others for fear that their own ideas may be laughed at.)

Giving students this much ownership in the class does not in any way interfere with the curriculum. English teachers may suddenly find that the students are as tired of the “teaching to the English skills” part of the curriculum as they are, and that the students would much prefer to learn from doing rather than through dry exercises involving parsing sentences.

Any time the students feel that a class or classroom belongs to them at least as much as to the teacher, they become more interested in learning. Or maybe they just open up enough to be willing to learn just a little…

Clearly, allowing the students to own the class involves a lot of trust–first on the part of the teacher, and then on the parts of the students. Tomorrow, I’ll talk a little about building trust between teacher and class.


I would love both pro and con input. Student ownership of their education is an important concept that needs to be discussed. Please post your comments!