Saturday, October 3, 2009

Challenging Students to Think for Themselves

Throughout any given school day, many students in my class ask questions that they could positively answer for themselves. It is apparent that many of them have always had others answer these kinds of questions right away without even giving the individual an opportunity to think for themselves. When my students ask me a question, I tell them to stop and evaluate what they are asking me. Then I ask them their question or a closely related one. They usually smile and answer their own questions. This encourages them to think on their own. I also let them know that since they can usually figure out the answer on their own, they are not giving themselves credit by asking someone else. They discount their ability to be a problem solver.

Every time I hear a student say, "That was easy," I correct them by suggesting that instead of saying "That was easy," they need to say "I am good at this/that." This encourages them to give themselves credit for being good at something instead of minimizing their ability. Also, when they say something is easy, they could discount someone else in the class because maybe other students are not good at it. Therefore, if they hear someone else say that was easy, then they will feel bad about themselves because if it is easy, why can't they do it? Even though we have only been in school for about 4 weeks, students are now encouraging other students to say, "I am good at this." This is nice to hear.

"Use your problem solving skills," is something I say often. Being accountable for their own learning is another topic for discussion in my class. When students are accountable for their own learning, they are encouraged to ask questions when they don't understand a new concept or idea. One of my mottos is to "Ask questions if you don't understand something." Motivating my students to also advocate for themselves is something else I try to do in my class. They should learn how to advocate for themselves to get the most out of their education.

With the internet, enabling parents, and a generation of people that rely on a quick answer, we must nurture a learning environment that indirectly forces students to think for themselves to maximize learning on an individual basis.

We need to foster a learning environment where our students "OWN IT." They need to internally own what they are learning, thinking, doing. It can't be the teachers, but the students must own whatever it is for true meaningful learning to occur. The way to do this is to force them to answer their own questions, stop allowing them to be day dreaming in the classroom about what they might be doing in the future or what they could be doing, and force them to acutally believe that they can do whatever it is. Now or in the future.


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog and thank you for alerting me to your work. Obviously, our public is a little different but our goals are the same. All the best in the future. Babblebob

  2. hey, i've just found this blog. i'm a trainee teacher and this is really interesting. will be reading more.
    thanks x

  3. singabob and taxigirl thanks for your comments. I appreciate your support.

    Singabob, it doesn'y matter what environment we are in, I think it is our purpose that matters.

    All the best to you too.