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Teaching History Blog

Student Generated Learning -- Let Students Lead the Way

Most instructors require some sort of text book or reading materials that are quite thorough and provide a good overall understanding for students on the people, places and events of history. Then instructors plan a series of lectures and assignments that compliment and expand on the readings to meet the competencies of the course. We also want our students to be life-long learners who find content relevant. However, our format of read the text and then listen to my lecture sometimes falls short with students. The lecture we have perfected over the last 5 years may be quite interesting and demonstrate the best of story-telling, but not relate content to our students’ lives and ultimately is a passive experience. What if we let students direct the content of the lectures and discussions rather than having a preset agenda when the term starts?

Title: Student Generated Topical Discussions

Objective/s: At the beginning of the course, learners will review the topics to be covered in the course and select their top 10 that they would like to discuss in depth during the term and share those in an open discussion.

Assignment type: Formative

Assignment Details: 
1. Student will review reading material and course outlines. (Bonus: This provides a great overview of the course content and get’s students familiar with their resources.)
2. Student will compile their top ten list of topics they would like to discuss and explore in more depth during the term.
3. Student will submit this list to an opening discussion with classmates and the instructor.
4. Students will also comment on classmates top ten lists and they may discover other topics they would really like to discuss.

The instructor will participate in the opening discussion and compile the top ten lists from the students and pick a diverse set of topics to be covered in more depth by lectures, discussions, and assignments. Instructors can give the text reading purpose by highlighting content that explores the concepts students find most relevant. This will take more planning time and energy by the instructor each semester. However, instead of blank faces staring back during a lecture or online discussions falling flat, students will be more actively engaged by knowing the classroom interactions with the topics originated with them.

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