What We Learn When We Listen to Students

Our students don’t speak edubabble. Don’t ask them about blended learning or growth mindsets. Definitely don’t use the word pedagogy! Instead, get them to talk about a new experience and why it matters to them and you’ll get a between-the-lines lesson in what matters most with teaching and learning today.

While in Beijing last week I had the chance to sit down with a few of our students at two of our member schools: Beijing #4 International High School and International School of Beijing. With close to 1300 students at 65 schools in 13 countries, meeting with our students is always special. When we meet with our students we always ask some common questions. Here are my favorites:

  • Why did you choose to take this course?
  • What’s a project or activity that stands out for you?
  • What’s different about this class from others you’re taking?
  • How has this class impacted you?

Two conversations on this visit really stood out. Yuli, from Beijing #4, who is enrolled in GOA’s course Music Theory and Digital Composition, told me about her Catalyst Conference project where she is one of 300 students advocating for change in her local community. Student projects are designed to to raise awareness, promote grassroots action, or to catalyze institutional change.

Yuli explained to me that every morning students sing their school anthem, Song of Hope and Ideal, which was composed by Shi Guangnan a few decades ago. For her project, she plans to compose a new school anthem that better represents today’s students. Aware that she hasn’t learned everything she needs to know to complete this lofty goal, she talked about having to learn some new skills herself, and acknowledged that there’s enough of a foundation and practice applying new skills to real world challenges that she feels confident she can get it done.

I also met with some students at International School of Beijing who talked about the impact their GOA classes had on them. They were enthusiastic about being able to dive into topics that interested them and said the applied nature of assignments felt dynamic and relevant. One student who is taking our Computational Thinking course was excited to talk about a coding project where she created a function in Python that uses the quadratic formula to solve quadratic equations. She loved that she could use her program in a math course she’s taking on campus!

Without using the lingo, these kids are talking about meta-cognitive skills and learning how to learn. They’re talking about project-based, experiential, blended, online, and technology-enhanced learning.

Listen to your students talk about what their learning means to them, and you’ll hear stories that affirm the great work happening in your classrooms that would make any course about teaching proud.

We want to hear from you. What are powerful ways to ask questions and learn from your students? Follow us on Twitter and share @GOALearning.

Global Online Academy (GOA) offers high quality online, blended and in person teaching and learning experiences for students and educators. Professional learning opportunities are open to any educator. To sign up or to learn more, see our Professional Learning Opportunities for Educators offerings or email hello@GlobalOnlineAcademy.org with the subject title “Professional Learning”. To stay up to date on GOA opportunities, sign up for our newsletter here.

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