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Interest Based Learning

Students record the activities that they are doing at home to receive scaffolding and credit towards academic subjects.

Photo of Jean Kaneko
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I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • Parent/Caregiver
  • Organization

Tell us about your idea

Whenever, I have  asked students to name their interest and then highjack the interest as an academic learning pipeline, the interest becomes a chore and students resent the teacher for taking something they used to be interested in and making it another school activity. In this time of distance learning, I have noticed that my high school students are rushing to finish their teacher created assignments to go back to doing the thing(s) that they want to do. They sometimes disappear for days because they are so engaged in what they have chosen to do. They are in the zone. They don't realize how long they have been doing that activity and often day turns into night before they are aware of the passing of time. 

In asynchronous distance learning, students can decide whether to "show up" or not. If advisors took their lead and asked for videos and pictures of what they are doing at home that is not related to school, they will find that students are babysitting their siblings, homeschooling them, or working for the family or engaged in a wide range of hobbies or investigations. Without the dark cloud of grades above them, students often feel empowered and with time, like the Covid 19 Stay At Home requirements, can be experiencing deep learning without even realizing it. Cooking can bring forth math,  chemistry and language arts standards. Building something out of wood, brings forth geometry, algebra, design, art and language arts. In a 1 on 1 session between the student and advisor, the advisor can scaffold for the student, additional interest driven opportunities that can meet reading and writing standards and skill development. 

This pedagogical innovation will create or deepen the relationship between student and educator, opening doors to additional learning that would otherwise not be possible when the student doesn't show up to engage in anything for school. We all know that safety and connections between student and adult in school are the most important conditions for learning. 

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

School use jargons so randomly, which causes a lot of frustration and disappointment for students and their parents. Student - Centered, or Student - Led, or Personalized or Interest Driven learning are many of the edu-speak that is used to describe programs. Often times, the adults in the school are driving the learning by claiming pressure to adhere to content standards rather than skill development. We try to cram standards into the student's interest, rather than providing the time, resources and scaffolding for the student to bring their learning plan to the table. When teachers are too busy, pushing their agenda, whether that be individual beliefs or district mandates or political finances, students seek the fastest, easiest way to get the best grades sacrificing deeper learning and the establishment of life long learner mindsets.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

I am a parent, educator, educational leader, a square peg all my life. My son's unique neurodiversity threw me into the world of education.  This journey has enabled me to investigate and research many schools and pedagogy. I discovered that all schools and educators have the right intentions but the system of teacher education and school in general, prevent a true pedagogical innovation to be realized. At best, I have experienced PBL schools that ask students to tolerate front loaded content and asked to provide evidence of  their learning  through products. The flaw in PBL done like this is that there is never enough time, nor respect given to the process.  I found out over 10 years of research, that unless everything that is a part of traditional school is thrown out and only those parts that are required to enable students to bring their true selves to meet the student serving adult facilitator, that it can be a wolf in sheeps clothing. Young people are too smart for that. 

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

Located in Los Angeles, CA, urban west side neighborhood. The community is generally more educated on the different types of learning available than most places, but choices are limited to homeschooling or traditional private school or neighborhood public schools.

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