How to move students from consumers to creators: Don’t Work Harder Than Your Students

Never Work Harder Than Your StudentsDon’t Work Harder Than Your Students:

This is one of my favorite sayings, and I feel like I’ve been wearing it out lately. I went back to Robyn Jackson’s book by the same title, and found this great example of what that means. To the right is the graphic from the book on “dividing classroom work” and below that are the important prompts to help put this in focus.

There are many teachers creating beautiful graphic organizers and outlines and notes which they continually share with students and other staff. This is truly a great resource for our students, but there is a time when students need to do the creating themselves. Are we doing work that students should be doing?

When I’m seeing teachers go above and beyond in this way, I go back to thinking about gradual release of responsibility and when I ask about it, the most frequent response is that the students can’t do that on their own. My question back is when will they learn?

Our students need to grapple with constructing/creating their own understanding of what they’re supposed to be learning. Teachers already know how to do this. I hope this urge to create is more about teachers love for what they do than a fear that they need to continue in this fashion out of some unspoken expectation that this is what teaching is really about. These tools can be used for scaffolding, but at some point the scaffolding needs to be taken away to see what really is going on behind it.

Prompts to consider when thinking about dividing classroom work:

  • Look at the list above. What work are you currently doing that really belongs to the students and what work you are you asking your students to do that really belongs to you?
  • Resist the temptation to give students all the information they need at once or upfront. Let students engage in discovery for themselves and provide them only with the information they need to facilitate that discovery.
  • Ask students more open-ended questions and answer fewer questions yourself. Only provide answers to questions that will enable students to answer other, larger questions.

 -from Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson

Link to ASCD post on the book