“Learning to Let Go: Listening to Students in Discussion” by Chris Friend

I read “Learning to Let Go: Listening to Students in Discussion” today and thought I would share it. I have to say, I’m guilty of leading discussion to where I think it needs to go and trying to make my different course sections line up. Friend really puts forth some great arguments about the harm in “planning,” designing classes to be best for student learning/engagement, and the role of the educator.

 

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3 thoughts on ““Learning to Let Go: Listening to Students in Discussion” by Chris Friend

  1. I love that you put scare quotes around “planning”. I wonder whether we as educators should have a larger discussion about what that word means to all the big-box curriculum-producing textbook-publishing companies versus what it could look like to, oh, I don’t know, maybe students?

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    • I may have heard that theory once—the one where students were an integral part of the college classroom. In fact, I think the education may even have belonged to them in that theory. But, again, that was just a theory. Unfortunately, the reality seems to be focused on the politics of planning, of assessing, of standardizing.
      How many times have we said/heard “this isn’t high school,” “you’re not in high school anymore,” “time to be accountable adults,” or some variation thereof, yet we expect accountability without giving them ownership. Why should they be accountable for something we are hell-bent on possessing ourselves? Lecturing, standardizing, etc. are all variations of our own ownership of the classroom—or, at least, not the student’s ownership. Why should students be accountable for something they don’t even own? The classroom, the content, the direction of the content (as you very eloquently described in your piece) should belong to students. It is their money, their class, their education. Their voice needs to be the main voice and adequately represented in this discussion.
      I’m going to try your design out in my classroom, but I do have a question for you. You mention that if there is a lull in the conversation, you look up and it usually starts everyone off again, but what do you do if your students start off talking about feminism and somehow end up on a topic like ice cream (or something else exceptionally off topic)?

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  2. Don’t forget the bit I said about taking notes and adding questions to those notes as I go. When there’s a lull, I look up *in the notes* and find something from earlier in the conversation that I can ask a question about. That way, it’s relevant to what they’ve said, but I can keep the conversation away from ice cream.

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