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Let your students plan the semester

Many countries have education acts that say students have a right to participate. But how can teachers put this into practise? Kjersti Engelstad Stokke – administrative head of studies and economics teacher at Sandvika Upper Secondary School in Norway – lets her students actively participate when creating semester plans in itslearning.


Kjersti Engelstad Stokke at the Share & Use Conference in 2010.

The first time Kjersti involved the students in planning, she spent five with her students in a brainstorming session. Involving students in such a project requires careful planning – you cannot relax and leave everything to the students. For Kjersti, the preliminary work included mapping skill targets, the curriculum, text books and other relevant learning resources.

Highly engaged learners

Kjersti was nominated in the category Creative use of itslearning at the Share & Use Conference in Sandvika, Norway, in 2010. You can read more about the planning on Kjersti’s blog Ceteris Paribus (in Norwegian) where she describes in detail how she involved her students."In order to create engagement and stimulate the pupils' curiosity, I created a poll in itslearning a couple of days before in which I asked what part of the subject they looked forward to," says Kjersti.

The objective of the planning day was to let the students get to know each other, and find out more about the subject content and collaborative writing and discussion tools in itslearning. Another goal was to let them influence what training methods, assessment methods and tools to use in the course.

For the students, the main goal was to prepare a plan for the first twelve weeks of the course. They had their say in almost everything – not only what they should work with; but also how they should work, test dates, and even what kind of assessment to use.

Important discussion tool

The discussion tool proved to be important during the planning, and as an aid to help students get to know each other. Kjersti and her students wrote a short introduction about themselves, including their background and professional interests. After this introduction, the discussions focused on the plan.

"I divided my students into groups of four," Kjersti explains. "I made a discussion for each group and used the permissions to restrict other groups from accessing the discussion, because I believe that students express their opinions more in smaller groups."

The Sandvika teacher sees several advantages with the discussion tool. First of all, the students have to think about what they write – which helps them reflect on the subject content. The fact that other students can read makes them more aware of what they write. And it gives quiet and shy learners are less ‘scary’ forum to express themselves.
At the end of the day, the students evaluated the results with the itslearning survey tool. Kjersti says the results showed that the students appreciated that she involved them in the planning.

External tools integrated with itslearning

It's simple to integrate external tools in itslearning, and Kjersti used several handy tools during the planning. Mind maps – such as Mindmeister – proved useful to gather all the student’s thoughts and suggestions, or to "steer" the discussion in the classroom. Another important internal tool was Google Docs form tool – which can be added as links in itslearning.

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