“Some people talk in their sleep. Lecturers talk while other people sleep.” - Albert Camus


“Lecture: a process by which the notes of the professor become the notes of the student, without passing through the minds of either” - Unknown


“The more I say in class, the less my students learn…students learn more when they are active.” - Eric Rothschild

My whole early career, I was always dissatisfied with my classroom practice. Early on, I couldn't articulate why. Later, I knew why, but through a crisis of imagination, fear of dictating change, and lack of experience, couldn't settle on something I liked better. I would have some fun activities from time to time, but mostly, I lectured and gave tests.

It was while I was teaching Advanced Placement U. S. History, that I became particularly frustrated. The rigidity with which the College Board requires their classes taught, and the sheer amount of stuff that we had to "cover", was the last straw. At that time, I was an advisor for our Global Scholars program. The Columbus Council on World Affairs, who administered the program, had a system that was essentially a choice board (at least that's what I know they are called, now. At the time, I'd never heard of it.). Students would be required, in each module, to choose some number of "favorites" out of a larger sample of activities. They were able to hit all their standards, and allowed the student some freedom to find something they may be passionate about, or have some talent in. At that point, I knew that that was how I was going to adapt my APUSH course. I was so committed, that I actually made the change at semester break - probably not my smartest idea, but once the kids got used to it, they loved it...and my scores improved, or at least stayed the same.


This system has evolved, since then into a system of individual personalized learning that I have incorporated in the design of all my courses, the past 6 years. Students can have some choice in the ways in which they are consuming the material. Once students have internalized the material, they then will have some voice in how they show they understand what they have just learned. The work they produce is considered when the teacher provides feedback on the level of mastery the student has attained. Students can revisit any of these sections to review material for better understanding, or further the explanation they have provided in their produced material. Essentially students have the ability to go back and revise their work product to show that they have mastered the concepts in each standard. With this mindset, students are never really "done" with the material. They have many opportunities to improve their understanding of the course material.


The learning process is broken into three parts, choice, voice and mastery:


Choice - Students have an opportunity to learn material in a variety of ways. While some students may have a need to gather background information, others will be ready to learn new material that is aligned to the standards. Others still will come to the course with enough information to be able to dive deeper into content material by seeking out their own resources and engaging with material in their own personal way. A way that I, often times, can allow students this choice, is through the use of my unit sheets.


Voice - Once students have completed a requisite number of course activities they will be given the opportunity to provide their understanding of the material. This can be done in a variety of ways to be catered to the ability and skill set of the individual student.


Mastery - The course instructor will provide feedback and record the current level of mastery a student has presented. If a student wishes to further their explanation for the instructor, the reported mastery level may be adjusted accordingly.


This is illustrated the graphic, below.

I submit the following examples of a few of the ways students are allowed to show mastery and synthesis:

Historical High School Musical

Jazz Music & Civil Rights - Lego

Modern Memes of the Progressive Movement

  • email icon
  • Twitter
  • Black Instagram Icon