My seniors finished the second semester of Research Seminar about a few weeks ago. In my last post I shared their thoughts about the course. Here are mine.
What went well: Students owned their learning. Even when they missed a deadline or failed to submit a piece of a project, they owned it. I had honest conversations with them about their work. There was enough trust that many pushed themselves out of their comfort zones on a regular basis. They all learned more about their own process of learning, since they were able to develop their projects over enough time. Trial, error, effort, and conversation led to insight. Most of them took their projects to the larger student body through workshops on our annual Convocation Day for Social Justice. They were invested, deeply. I saw passion and purpose. I also saw considerable growth and confidence in research and presentation abilities but also deepening of thought. They sought essential questions.
What did not go as well as I would have hoped: Some students had trouble completing all of the pieces, including reflections and properly formed bibliographies for all of their projects. While they definitely came together as a group, which enabled them to sustain a fair amount of momentum in second semester when I was less present, they did not work together as colleagues and sounding boards as much as I would have liked. I envisioned a group where they would share their work in process with each other and provide helpful insights and feedback to push each other further. There were pockets of this, but I had hoped for more.
Looking forward to next year: I hope that the students who sign up for the class realize that it will be their own experience that they create. I worry a little that the curriculum created by this year’s class will be seen as THE curriculum, not THEIR curriculum. I hope that I get a group of students so willing to let go of their expectations of what a class should be and what a teacher should do. In short, I hope that I get another set of kids willing to jump off the deep end with me and figure out how to swim together.
I have to constantly remind people that the class next year might be radically different than the one this year. I have to remind my colleagues and principal that they cannot assume next year’s class will do something similar to this year’s class. After all, this year’s class created their class, not the class. It really is a “pick your path” adventure, not a Seinfeld class (for those who don’t remember the show, it self-identified in an episode as a “show about nothing”). For that, I give all the credit to my students.