The topic is particularly relevant as I settle in to assess nearly 70 final assignments for a DI class I co-teach with a secondary colleague from my Board at Tyndale UCS. The Karen Hume text we use for that course includes "student choice" as a key factor in its model for DI.
At first, I struggled with the notion that our current public education system would be labled as "teacher driven".
I mean, aren't we all about being "student centred" these days? Surely my classroom is not teacher directed... is it??? My colleague, however, pointed out to me that even when we work with students in small groups, and teach responsively to data collected from TLCP baselines and so on, we, the teachers, are still driving the what. For example, he noted, the texts we select to read with students during guided reading, are still, well, teacher-selected.
We pondered what might happen if we allowed students to choose what they read, and when, and how. Might it be possible that setting up our literacy block, for example, in such a way that it is totally student-driven (with of course some explicit teaching in Sept and Oct of various centres and possible activities to choose from), would encourage our students to become very focussed on material of interest, and therefore more engaged in learning, rather than the current reality in my class, where many students seem bored or disinterested in the reading, even when I think I have pulled out an engaging text to read with a small group? And more importantly, might such a set-up enable us to meet more frequently and for longer periods of time with individual students, guiding them in their learning by providing descriptive feedback on a regular basis as they move through their own unique learning program?
Conceptually, such an approach both intrigues and frightens me, but already I am envisioning my revised "marks tracking sheet" -- instead of a class list, I have one page for each child, with sections for the reading, writing, oral language and media of the curriculum. In my head, I am writing each student's entire language comment when I do report cards, instead of inputting all the reading marks, then the writing and so on for the whole class at once.
It could work...
Maybe the "unschooling" movement is not so negatively "alternative" as I had thought. :-) I look forward to exploring this more for next school year!