Tag Archives: learning

How Did We Get Here? A Moment to Reflect

Reflecting takes guts. I mean real reflecting. Not just the “that was a (fill-in-the-blank) experience” kind of reflection – anybody can do that cheap seat reflecting. I mean the authentic, deep, squishy, tingly reflecting. When we reflect, we need to do serious work, to learn from experience. If we succeeded, let’s learn so we can repeat it. If we failed, let’s learn so we don’t repeat it.

What To Reflect On

The act of truly, deeply reflecting isn’t easy. By “reflect” I mean to think deeply about something from the past. And through these reflections, we get a better understanding of how we made it to where we are in the present moment. That is a powerful, VERY powerful, gift we can give ourselves. One of the hard parts of reflecting is to know what to focus on. We all make mistakes. Lots of them! You know you do – own it, be cool with it, share it, learn from it. When reflecting, the most powerful lessons can be gleaned from the most uncomfortable and awkward experiences. Go to the dark corners of memories and experiences that scare you. Find where you took risks and failed, or where you succeeded but the goal was disingenuous. That’s where the gems are – go searching for them, and bring them into the light.

On the fun side, it is also powerful to reflect on the questions we ask. The learning that paves our life path comes from the questions we ask. Therefore, reflecting on that life path requires us to reflect on those questions. Think about why you asked those particular questions. What was so important about that question at that time?

My Reflections

I am not good at reflecting. I do not spend much time or energy looking back, but instead choose consciously to look forward. I often tell myself that’s because looking forward is more intriguing. But honestly, I think it’s because my past frightens me. Some of the choices I made, and the resulting consequences, are scary. Reflecting on those is quite emotional, and I don’t like emotions, I don’t like feeling them, talking about them, or confronting them. But I know I need to get more comfortable with this.

Because I don’t like the icky side of reflecting, I start with the questions. I ask a lot of questions (at least the voices in my head have lots of question-based conversations). When I was younger my questions had to do with hustling. I wanted to know how to get more drugs, quicker and cheaper. I wanted to know who could help me with this singular purpose. My questions were very shallowly focused on this pursuit. As I got older, my questions switched focus from destructive to more constructive, from self-focused to other-focused.

As I emerged from my drug fog, I began to ask questions about how to help others, about how to balance the karmic scales that I put well out of balance. I asked about my career path and other self-focused pursuits, but they were productive pursuits, not destructive. Once my wife helped me find my career path and pushed me down it, my questions focused on disrupting education. How can I enrich the classroom experience of students? How can I expose youth to entrepreneurial thinking? How can I destroy NCLB and Common Core and other destructive efforts? Why do we not let students have a voice in education? The questions are endless (it’s really a hassle sometimes!) I work every day to collaborate with others who can help answer these questions. It’s a grand existence!

But that existence is tempered during those few times when I reflect on the dark corners of my past. To be honest, it’s not often I go there. I don’t like to; I am scared, but I also do not see much point in that. I stole from many people, I cheated people, I lied to people, I manipulated and conned people. I was selfishness and greed defined. I sold drugs to many people – from very young children to very old adults, from people who had never used to people who desperately needed to stop using. I didn’t care who I sold to, as long as they had money. Period. Some of those faces I can still remember. That’s scary. But what happens when I reflect on these times in my life is that I become more passionate and energized about my current state and my current path in life. I do not do what I do because of my past, but my past does help fuel my desire to make a positive dent in the universe. I can make that dent through infusing entrepreneurship into education, at every single level. My reflections remind me of why I do what I do. They scare me into staying on this path. They are good and bad, they are light and dark.

My question to you: What do you reflect on? How does reflecting benefit you?

And the Purpose is . . .?

My purpose here at Illinois State University is to spread entrepreneurship across campus. I’ve struggled to engage young women students and women business leaders in the community in the classes and programs. The more I talked to colleagues and looked into research regarding entrepreneurship, startups, and innovation, the more glaring became the gender gap. This always bothered me, but around the holidays, I decided to do something about it.

Purpose is Central

Since the holidays, I’ve been a networking tornado – blasting through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and any other outlets possible to connect with women who have experience with entrepreneurship and innovation and wouldn’t be shy about sharing their honest feedback. It has been extremely easy to get hundreds of women to spend 20 or 30 minutes chatting with me. My secret? I let them know I want to empower young women through education, and that since I’m a dude I am clueless about how to do that effectively, so I need their guidance. That vulnerability and humility and transparently sharing my purpose seals the deal. These women have all sorts of perspectives, from different industries, roles, generations, geographies, and any number of other differentiating factors. A few things are common to most of the feedback I have received.

The one thing every single woman has urged me to do is to focus on purpose

They urge me to get young women to think about their purpose (generally and specifically to any number of slices of life’s pie)

They urge me to encourage young women to own that purpose, and to share that purpose with anyone and everyone.

They urge me to facilitate young women connecting with others around their purpose.

Purpose has been on my mind lately, and I couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that presents me.

The Purpose of Education

Education needs a purpose. Administrators could be so much more effective if they focused on purpose first and outcomes second (and less on quantitative results and more on qualitative results). We as educators need to re-examine our purpose.

Why are we in this career? Research? Teaching? Service? A paycheck? Seriously think about it. I’m here to impact young people and help them uncover and get started down their desired career path.

Students could improve their experience if they explored their purpose for continuing their education. They choose to be in college, they choose which college. They make daily choices to engage with their educational experience. To what purpose? Owning that purpose would create much more impactful moments. I’ll bet that would leak into the educators’ experience and the administrators’ experience, and would begin to infect these stakeholders’ purpose.

What About You?

What’s your purpose? Think about it. I mean really think about it. Think beyond specific roles in your life (as a parent, spouse, employee, boss, leader, whatever). Think holistically. Why are you here? What, really, is your existence about? Think beyond the “what do you want you epitaph to be” sort of exercises. Dig deep. Get uncomfortable with yourself; be vulnerable. Own your purpose, whatever it is. Then live it. The world will be better for it. Your world will be brighter for it. The impact will be awesome!

I’d love to hear what your purpose is, and to help you accomplish your purpose. Share by commenting here, or by emailing me at dwinkel@ilstu.edu.

The Unimaginable is Not Only Possible but Likely

This is a guest post by Gary R. Tipsord, Superintendent of Schools, LeRoy IL

Almost 60 years ago, the Russians put Sputnik into space and instantly the United States had a perceived crisis in Education. From that moment to present day, our government and the reformers have been trying to “fix” our nation’s schools.

Fast forward through numerous reforms to NCLB in 2001. This was a bipartisan piece of legislation designed to make schools more accountable for positive student outcomes. These outcomes were to be measured by multiple-­choice tests with results posted for all to see and potentially tied to school funding. While the premise of legislation was promising, the actual metrics of the administration of the assessments led some schools to be designated National Blue Ribbons Schools one year and then not meeting AYP (annual yearly progress) the following year.

It has always been clear that the measures of NCLB would ultimately be unattainable.  It would be wonderful if we could legislate away cavities in the teeth of our children, but a variety of factors beyond the control of the dentist probably make that impossible. Likewise it is impossible to say that all students will achieve to a standard unless that standard is set low enough to in essence make it meaningless.

It seems that every reform begins with the presumption that our system is inadequate or failing in some form or another. So, why not ask those who have identified the gaps to express their desired state for education? Why not embrace the conversation about education coming from the corporate world? Why not listen to the manufacturers and the construction trades? Why not engage with higher education for a conversation beyond ACT scores?

The change in perspective for our district’s thinking came from authors Sir Ken Robinson and Tony Wagner. Robinson challenged our current state of thinking about creativity and the ways that public education can either stimulate or suppress those skills and Wagner challenged our thoughts on essential skills, not just the knowledge that students need to be successful after they leave our doors.

We are charged with preparing our students for a world of unknowns that we cannot imagine. This is unknown territory and the fact that knowledge and technology are increasing at an exponential rate, we cannot possibly assess students abilities to cope with changes five, ten, especially fifty years from now with multiple choice, essay, or Scantron evaluations.  With the current economic realities, it must be acknowledged that the students of today will likely be working and required to learn new skills even decades after graduation.  This is unchartered territory for society and yet schools are charged with the initial preparation for this ability to cope with change.  So, how can K-12 education possibly remain stuck in a 1950’s model of teaching and learning.

We began to look for partnerships everywhere we could, with an emphasis on information and ideas rather than money and things. We wanted to hear the desired state for our students from those who would employ our students. We wanted to know what they needed our students to know and be able to do. This journey has involved conversations that ranged from Google and State Farm to our local flower shop and city hall.

These conversations have led us to make three very intentional leaps:

1.) Listen and engage with everyone we can about what they desire from education,

2.) Engage specifically with our students about their desires,

3.) Consider nothing as impossible if we believe it better for the future of our students.

We are endeavoring to create an environment that endorses risk and celebrates failure as a critical learning opportunity. One that capitalizes on the passions and talents of our students and our staff, and one that gives our students the opportunity to experience the real world application of their learning. While Sputnik may have led to a manufactured crisis and NCLB an ill-­fated effort to solve a perceived problem, to ignore the flattening of the world economy and to resist the evolution of a 1950’s model of education, the failure to innovate in education may lead to the first real crisis in education. We desire to selectively forget the past, in order tobetter define the future.  We choose this statement intentionally, “We are at a place in time where the unimaginable is not only possible but likely.”

So what is different, maybe nothing, maybe everything, in time we will know the true fruits of our labor?

Please visit: http://vimeo.com/72110555 and http://www.leroyk12.org

Learning Is . . . #!%$#$!

I’m Learning, They’re Learning, We’re All Learning Together

I spend a ton of time learning with students. Let me make sure you heard me: I spend a ton of time learning with students. I’m not paying lip service here, I learn so much every semester as a new batch of my students create their own learning experiences. I talk to them at length to unearth their feelings about previous time in the education system.

Learning Has Not Been Positive

The kinds of words I hear as my students describe their previous experiences in education:

Learning Sucks

pointless, boring, sucks, dry, OK (with a shoulder shrug), typical, awful, irritating, flat, hollow, unproductive, false, f**ked up, annoying, a waste, nonsense


The kinds of words I don’t, but long to, hear:

Loving Learning

fun, invigorating, challenging, awesome, killer, fantastic, orgasmic (OK, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch but it would be cool!), addictive, brilliant, epic (I hate that word, but the kids sure do love it), useful

Peeling the Learning Layers Back

We need to change the vocabulary.  The best way to do that is to talk to students.  Don’t let a bunch of old folks continue to develop and deliver a model of education that was meant for a society over 100 years old.  We live in the 21st century and our education system needs to reflect that.  Do administrators really understand how students today learn?  I sure as hell don’t, and I spend my time with college and high school kids, and with an 8 year old at home.  Their brains develop in a different age than anything I could have comprehended as a kid.  It’s digital.  It’s flat.  It’s magical.  It’s overload. It’s plugged in. It’s opportunistic.

How absurd, ignorant, and egotistical of those of us who design learning experiences to think we know what that experience should be for a generation of kids that we never take time to understand? Giving the students a voice can’t make it any worse! It would by nature create more relevant content, more relevant tools, more relevant experiences.  And the vocabulary would change. Instead of “yeah but” we would hear more “yes, and”.  Instead of silence in classrooms, we would hear cacophony.  Instead of defending education and learning systems, we could all focus on building them.  Together.  With students.

I’m so tired of the negativity.  Of kids counting down to the last day of the school year.  Of teachers celebrating as much as students for snow days. I want the potential of impact that I see in the students and in the system to be blatantly obvious to everyone everywhere.  Wishful thinking, perhaps.  But I do know one way to start down that road is to let the young guns have more control and put the old thoroughbreds out to pasture.

Creativity and Passion: Ingredients for a Cure

As last night unfolded, two things happened simultaneously that created some connections I couldn’t ignore.  One was the Grammy Awards.  The other was that my son’s school district cancelled school today, and then my university cancelled school today and tomorrow.  Seemingly unrelated, right?  Bear with me while I tie them together to form the basis of a new education approach that I will expand upon later.

The Music Never Stops

Why are we as a society infatuated with musicians?  Sure, part of it is jealousy and fantasy – wanting what they have that we never could.  But look and feel deeper than that.  Their music inspires us, is the thread that weaves through the stories of our life, connects us to each other.

creativity and passion

Imagine a world without these musicians and the music they produce?  So why are we so engrossed with it?  I think it is because these individuals are showing us a raw mix of creativity and passion.  They are passionate about the music they create – as passionate as anyone could be about anything (watch an old Jerry Lee Lewis clip).  Have you ever really watched the facial expressions of musicians?  In any other setting, those facial expressions would be seriously awkward, would be ridiculed.  But for a musician, we expect it.  We permit it.  We embrace it.  Why?  Because it is their passion resulting from their creativity coming through in it’s purest, rawest form.  It’s not just passion – we all have that for something.  It is the passion for creative expression.  That, to me, is the key.  That is what is so infectious, so contagious about music and musicians.

music passion storytellingThey are sharing their experiences through creativity and passion-laden stories.  That we all can understand and identify with.  We want to know more.  We want to share more.  We want to feel more.  Shouldn’t education be the same way?  Shouldn’t learning evoke the same glorious reactions?

The School Does Stop

My university and my son’s school district cancelled school.   I’ll give you one guess what the students’ reaction to this was.  Elation!

ElationCan you guess what the teachers’ reactions were?  Scanning through social media, emails, etc. I see teachers who are equally as pumped about school closing as students.  This is for another soapbox moment, but that reaction from teachers tells an awful lot about the state of education.  Back to the issue.  Why are students not mad about missing school?  Because they don’t like it – they have a better alternative.  Why don’t they like it?  What is their alternative?  It is creativity and passion – the things that we provide at home or elsewhere away from school.  They can use their imagination, they can explore their surroundings, they can develop their own stories.  They have the opportunity to engage their creativity and to feel and share their passion.  The students don’t miss anything about school because they can’t be creative, because they can’t explore or express their passion, because they cannot share and explore their own experiences.  That doesn’t fit in a box or map onto some standardized test, so the school don’t let them (for the most part – of course there are some that do).  Some will argue that students can do this within the framework of the common core nonsense.  Yes, but they have to do it within that box.  If we took the box away and allowed them to explore, to be creative, to share and live their passion, I think students would be pissed when school was cancelled.  How happy would we be as parents if our children were upset when school was cancelled?

AngerHow happy would we be as educators if our students wanted to engage in class, and were telling us how pissed they were when class was cancelled?

Creativity and Passion

As with most problems, the path to a solution doesn’t have to be difficult.  It just takes a little bit of innovative thinking, creativity, and passion.  Look at musicians.  As we’re cutting funding for music and other self-expression outlets in schools, let’s think about what we’re doing.  Are the people who fit into boxes contagious, infectious?  Are they telling stories we want to hear and share?  Are they the role models that effectuate positive social change?  A resounding NO!!!!  Musicians hold part of the promise for education.  In their passion and in their creativity.  It is through that mixture that children can once again love learning and the environment where they learn.  Think about the last time your children were truly engaged, were being thrilled, were laughing contagiously.

JoyI’ll wager those moments had something to do with being creative and had something to do with something the child is passionate about.  We need to get back to the power of creativity and the power of passion.   I’ll explain how I see that happening in a future post.

Education: Fixing a Broken System

Every morning I put my son on a bus literally across the street (talk about poor use of resources!) and a little piece of me dies.  The experience he has each and every day destroys his creativity, his natural curiosity, his imagination, his self-confidence, his individualism.  Need I go on?

Deliver Children to Their Educational DoomOur education system is broken.  I’m not one of those who gets on a soapbox and blames others.  I don’t care whose fault it is.  No Child Left Behind.  Common Core.  The list of people and programs who have contributed is endless.  Including every parent who never spoke up.  I can’t stay silent any longer.  The system needs an overhaul.

Education as a Process

I view everything as a process.  Including any educational system, or any component within the educational system.  And any process can be split into smaller (more manageable!) parts.  With the educational system, I’m looking at teachers, administrators, students, and resources as the big building blocks.


Teachers are the foundation of education.  They should be the co-creators, the facilitators, the guides, the mentors.  They make it happen.  They have been relegated to delivering packaged content, to helping aggregate big data, to creating robots.  It really is depressing.  Just as students do, teachers need the freedom to design and create.


Create opportunities for students to love learning.  Create content delivery systems based on individual needs and capabilities.   Create a community where parents send their children to blossom, not to be crushed.  Teachers want this.  If they don’t, they’re just perpetuating the destruction of our youth.


In any process are gatekeepers.  In education, the gatekeepers are administrators.  They need to protect our school communities like they would their own children.  Not only keep them safe, but enable them, empower them, mentor them, encourage them to fail.  They need to encourage teachers to create, encourage students to experiment.  They need to enable teachers to innovate and take calculated risks, enable students to enjoy education and find their natural love of learning.  Their job is to champion and permit the transition from standardized factories to individualized laboratories.   This comes from creating cultures of student-driven learning and of curiosity and of experimentation and of fun.


Students are the heart and soul of education.  Although the heart barely beats, and the soul is certainly shattered.  Students need to regain their voice.  This means taking back control.  Education is their experience.  It is meant to help them grow, to prepare them for an uncertain future, to provide a safe place for them to experiment intellectually, socially, spiritually, athletically.


Education cannot happen without students.  Transforming our education system can happen most effectively by students believing their voice matters, building a collective voice, and reclaiming their ownership of the educational process.  Students need to be able to make things.  To code programs.  Education needs to be learning by doing.  Most importantly, education should allow and energize students to learn to learn.  Learn how to ask questions, and how to answer questions.


Resources are the least important of these building blocks.  The resources that we typically think of are so irrelevant.  Buildings that decay.  Desks that confine.  Books that are outdated.  Resources students need are easily accessible in today’s world.  Education resources should include those that allow students to self-organize, to engage, to be curious, to be motivated by their peers, to collaborate.  A computer, tablet, or some device that gets them connected.  Internet access.  Writing materials.

The New Education System

Teachers need to create.

Administrators need to protect.

Students need to love learning.

Resources are already there.

Everyone involved in education should have fun.  If you touch or are affected by education, are you having fun?  I mean really having fun?  I doubt it.  Let’s create the future of learning.  How?  Put entrepreneurs in charge.  They can transform cities.  They can transform communities.  They can build ecosystems.  They can certainly redesign education – because they are lifelong learners at their core, and they engage in learning more effectively than anyone else.  They have to.  Let’s give them education to rebuild the broken system.

Education In The Hands of Students: The Learning Contract

I’ve been tweaking the concept of learning contracts for a number of semesters now.  Thanks to some tremendous feedback from scholars must smarter than I, I think I’m almost where I want to be with it.

Education the Right Way: Learning Contracts

My take on learning contracts is that they are a contract the student makes with himself/herself.  It takes me completely out of the picture in terms of grading/assessment.  That’s a powerful statement if you think of it – to tell the student that the assessment of their learning is completely up to them.  And that it’s contractual.  It really does work (trust me!)  I’ve had students fail themselves and show up next semester.  I’ve had students give themselves a D or a C when they richly deserved it.  I have yet to need to adjust a student’s grade down.  Did you read that?  I HAVE YET TO ADJUST A STUDENT’S GRADE DOWN!! I have occasionally had to adjust grades up because students are too hard on themselves.

The Best Education Gift

Giving students this sense of ownership is, in my opinion, the best gift an educator can give a student.  Control.  Autonomy.  So, how do I do it?

I outline the A-B-F grading plan that they must abide by.  I think the C and D grades are bullshit.  I mean, really, what is a D?  Sort of failing?  Nonsense, either you failed or you didn’t.  That’s like sort of drowning or a sort of heart attack.  And a C?  That’s mediocre.  And mediocre should not be rewarded.  It won’t be in my class.  I explain that an F means failure (they did not meet the obligations in their learning contract).  I explain that B means competency (they met a minimum bar).  I explain that A means mastery.  This, to me, means their body of work can be used by me and others as an example of the goal that should be achieved.  I want them to understand it is not just going through the motions (to me, that’s a failure), but that it is the best business experience – one that I want to share with subsequent classes as an example of what an A looks like.  Something that sets them apart, something that job interviewers want to know more about.   Something that is contagious, infectious, deliberate, and glorious.

I then provide them this form: Learning Contract Winkel.  I walk them through it:

1. the objectives are some general objectives I have set for the course.

2. They need to develop some strategies to achieve the objective, and some resources they need to be able to achieve the objective (I will give them a generic choice or two)

3. They need to decide what to assess (this takes the place of the traditional assignments).  Let them choose!!!  I promise it won’t hurt to give up this control (in fact, it’s liberating).  Again, I will give them a generic choice or two.

4. They have to figure out how to assess the work they complete.  Maybe they want me to assess it.  Maybe they want peers to assess it.  Could be objective, or subjective.  Lots of different ways to assess things!  But part of the process is they have to deliberately think about what assessment means and how to enact it – because that results in much more impactful “assignments”.  And much more tailored to the individual student, so the impact increases geometrically!

After explaining the learning contract, I have them work in small groups to fill out a learning contract.  Then the small groups share with the class what they came up with.  This way, the students are working together to give each other ideas of assignments, of assessment techniques.  They know what to do, they are capable, and they love the ownership!  Honest – let go and let them have at it.  It’s brilliant.  They listen to each other so much more than to me.

After sharing from groups, I tell them that each one of them must fill out a learning contract by the end of the first class.  I collect them, and deliver feedback to them by the 2nd class.  My feedback consists of pushing them further – they generally come up with vague assessment techniques, bogus assignments, etc. so I push them to think deeper, to push themselves to set the bar higher, etc.  It’s motivation I provide, really.  And permission.  They turn in a final draft in the 3rd class.  They sign it, and I keep one copy and they keep one copy.

At the end of the semester, I ask them to write a one-pager stating what grade they give themselves according to what they agreed to in their learning contract and justifying it.  I tell them they can turn in as much material as they need to for justification (but all they ever turn in is the one-pager because all throughout the semester they are basically keeping me updated so I know what’s up).

It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that.  At the very beginning, we work hard to understand and put together learning contracts.  Then grading, assessment and all that interference is off the table.  They don’t think about it.  I don’t think about it.  We all focus on learning.  And doing.  And isn’t that the point?

So why don’t you give up control?  Try it one semester.  See what happens.  I promise you’ll feel better.  And so will your students.


Education Needs Entrepreneurship

Our education is a broken system.  At least it is in the United States – I know nothing about education systems elsewhere.  I grew up with a father deeply ingrained in and passionately working to disrupt the education system.  I experienced it through a multitude of perspectives (in K-12 I attended public schools, private schools and boarding schools, and in college/graduate school I attended public schools, private schools and state schools).  Very few times did I feel intellectually challenged.  And never (that I can remember) did I feel inspired by any part of our education system.  That’s why our education system is broken – it doesn’t inspire the students.  It needs entrepreneurship to regain that inspirational quality – I’ll come back to that.

Fuck The Blame Game

I’m not interested in blaming anyone for why it’s broken.  The finger pointing accomplishes nothing.  I’m not interested in figuring out how it got this bad (that would just end up finger pointing at a bunch of dead folks who can’t defend themselves).  I’m interested in being part of fixing it.

Fixing Education

How can we fix it?  Ask 100 people and you’ll get 100 answers (again, most of that turns into blaming others).  Not interested.  Here’s my thought (this thinking is reflected in how I run my classrooms, how I interact and talk to other educators, how I engage with organizations like USASBE and NACCE).

Education Is a Process

Let’s simply look at the education process.  There are educators and students involved in an experience where learning should happen and should be assessed.  I know it’s significantly more complicated than that, but that basically covers it.  Four main components:

1. Educator

2. Student

3. Learning

4. Assessment


So how do we fix what’s broken?  We take an entrepreneurial approach to each component.  Education need entrepreneurship.  Educators need to be entrepreneurial if we’re ever going to dig this system out of the garbage dump it’s buried in.  We need to think differently, to challenge ourselves to experiment, to fail, to engage our customers (as much as some hate that, this is what our students in higher ed are).  We can’t keep regurgitating the same old material in the same old way.  Try new technologies.  Try changing something (flipping the classroom, hybrid courses, whatever it is, no matter how small, just try something new).  Be an edupreneur!


We can’t forget that our students are individuals, and that they are capable of great things.  We need to give them a chance.  We can do that by giving them ownership of their learning process.  Let them find their own content.  Let them decide how they will digest content.  Let them decide how they can evidence their learning process.  They really are capable of this (I see it every semester in my course!)  Help them enjoy education.  Help them understand the value of education.  To do so, they need to experience education on their terms.  Allow them to do that by making the educational experienced customized to each student and owned by the students.


Learning traditionally happens through the sage-on-the-stage model where the teacher talks at the students from the front of the room and disseminates information.  I never understood this model. I typically have 30 students in my classes.  That means 30 individuals, with 30 different agendas, 30 different learning styles, 30 different schedules, 30 different personalities, and the list goes on.  It is so egotistical of me to think that my opinion of what to learn, how to learn it, when to learn it is what is best for each of these individuals.  I don’t know a damn thing about them!  So I let my students own their learning process.  I set up the goals and objectives of the course, I give them the structure of the education experience, and then they get to decide what they want to learn, how they want to learn it, when they want to learn it.  And ultimately, they assess that learning.


Seems to me that learning is typically assessed in one of two ways.

1. Standardized testing.  Don’t even get me started on how destructive those are.

2. Educators take the easy way out and create assignments that are simple to grade.

Obviously, there are folks who don’t do either of these, and I strongly applaud those folks.  As I connect with more educators, I learn of more folks who don’t, so maybe I’m wrong in my perception.  I break this cycle of poor assessment strategies by giving students ownership over their own assessment.  They write up learning contracts at the beginning of the semester that illustrate what they are going to accomplish and what each grade looks like.  At the end of the semester they grade themselves based on that learning contract.

Don’t Be Lazy

Education needs to be fixed.  It’s not an easy fix.  It’s not a quick fix.  But it is fixable.  Students want it fixed.  (Most) educators want it fixed.  (Most) administrators want it fixed.  Best way is to start experimenting with fixes.  Like I do.  Change how we view our role as an educator (not as a content deliverer but as a guide/mentor).  Change how students engage  in their learning experience (flip your classroom, flip your experience, ask them what they want to learn and how they want to learn it).  Change how the learning is assessed (not by us but by the students).  It’s not hard to give up control.  In fact, it’s extremely easy, and empowering!  Give it a try.  Seriously.