“We noticed that unfortunately students were tending to come into class and they were a little bit bored with the general English class. They weren’t really connecting with it. So we wanted to find a way where students felt more comfortable, they felt more at home, they felt more likely to want to engage in those disciplines that we’re teaching.”
Sound familiar? Substitute “attendees” for “students,” and “meeting” for “class,” and you’d have a pretty good summary of the problem of attendee engagement. The person talking is Jason Augustowski, a seventh-grade language-arts teacher at Belmont Ridge Middle School in Leesburg, Va., and he’s addressed his students’ disenfranchisement in two ways, News4 reports: He’s switched up the furniture in his classroom, replacing desks and chairs with sofas, coffee tables, and rugs. And he’s changed his teaching method, allowing students to work at their own pace, tackling material in the order they’d like and taking tests when they feel ready.
Students love the autonomy — the feeling of being in charge of their own learning. As one of them says: “It’s not really about the couches. It’s more about how the class is now. It’s more student-centered.”
It’s a great story, right? Here are a few related Convene links: Barbara Palmer’s masterful article about online learning models, many of which prioritize self-paced learning; a Room Set spotlighting a meeting with lounge-style seating at its education sessions; and an interview with Drive author Dan Pink about the power of autonomy in motivating people.