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Innovation Classes: A Fresh Approach to Help Students Own Their Learning

Innovation Classes: A Fresh Approach to Help Students Own Their Learning

“What drives students to perform well?” This is a nearly constant question for educators. The desire to achieve good grades seems like a natural answer. However, research shows this is not the case. For students to perform well, intrinsic motivation is key. They need to approach learning in the classroom as something that matters, something they’re interested in, and something they enjoy.

So, how can we instill a sense of intrinsic motivation in students? How do we ignite their internal desire to learn? One of the most recent strategies educators are adopting is “innovation classes.” Imagine your students walking into the classroom and you asking them, “What do you want to learn?” This is exactly the premise behind innovation classes: students work on projects of their own choosing, in an area that truly interests them.

Ready to try holding your own innovation class? Here are three steps to get started.

  1. Start with the basics. Expose students to the concept of innovation, and share examples of great innovators throughout history.
  2. Once students understand what innovation is, help them set concrete goals for their own innovative learning. The SMART goal-setting approach is a great framework to start with.
  3. Have students submit proposals for their innovation projects. Help them use the goals they set as a guide for developing these proposals.

While these steps sound simple, this approach pushes students to think about what they really want to learn. In fact, for some learners (particularly high school students very concerned with earning high marks), just choosing what they want to learn about can be the hardest part. The goals of innovation classes are to overcome some of the pressures of our standards-based system, put ownership of learning back in students’ hands, and reignite their natural curiosity and creativity.  

No educator will argue with the value of empowering students to drive their own learning. However, there are accountability challenges associated with adopting any highly student-centered approach. Overcoming them just takes a little foresight and planning. Here are a couple of ideas to implement innovation classes without sacrificing student accountability:

  • Institute biweekly check-ins with individual students to monitor their progress and to talk through any challenges they’re encountering together. Take this strategy a step further by putting students in groups and having them hold their own meetings once a week to check-in with one another. Students will feel even more in control of their own learning, build confidence by sharing their own knowledge with their peers, and cultivate the ability to work collaboratively.
  • Have students submit formal, graded reflections on their projects. With any large-scale project, unexpected roadblocks are inevitable. For some students, the goals they originally set may evolve significantly throughout the project. Reflections help students explain the challenges they encountered and describe the steps they took to persevere and overcome those challenges. Plus, the reflection process helps students build valuable critical-thinking skills.

If you’re implementing your own innovation class, digital curriculum can be a helpful resource. Edmentum Courseware offers over 400 core and elective courses to fit all of your students’ interests, including diverse offerings like architecture, engineering, and gothic literature. Teachers can also restructure courses and add custom content to create unique and personalized assignments with a few clicks. Check out this blog post to learn more about Courseware’s customization, curriculum, and collaboration features.