Speaking of Students as Experts | Hooray For Monday

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. Prefer audio? Listen to the Hooray For Monday podcast! Available on your favorite platforms here.

March 18, 2024

By Jenna Fournel, Director of Teaching and Learning

Listen to today’s Hooray for Monday Podcast for additional conversation from DC high school students and Speak Truth participants Kanishaka, Kaiden, and Xavier about Student Expertise.

For nearly a decade, Inspired Teaching’s Speak Truth program has provided a powerful example of our teaching philosophy in practice.

Over the next several weeks we’ll be looking at how giving students the reins when it comes to conversation in the classroom can boost engagement and lead to learning at a level you and your students never imagined. If you’re curious to learn more, join us for our March online Inspired Teaching Institute for teachers (3/19 at 7 PM ET) which will focus on bringing the Speak Truth model into all classrooms.

When my first child was born several years ago, I remember watching a video over and over again that was designed to teach you how to “decode” your baby’s cries so you knew what they needed without guessing, and could meet that need right away.

I’m not sure I ever learned as much from the video as I did from simply observing him and getting to know him as a human. Then, faster than I could ever have imagined, my almost-16-year-old pushed me to shift my role from knowing how to read his cues to meet his needs to knowing when to give him space to figure out how to meet them himself.

That approach is at the heart of our Speak Truth program, though it takes time for high school students to trust their emerging expertise. For a variety of reasons including safety and content expertise, high schools tend to center teachers as information providers, so that is what students are used to.

When we prepare students to lead Speak Truth discussions there is foundational information about structure and strategy that we do provide. But we also use inquiry to spark students’ own ideas about:

  • what kinds of questions will resonate with their peers,

  • what angles on a topic will spur the most discussion,

  • and what opening activities will garner the best engagement.

Students soon learn to take the foundational information we start with and build on it through their observations, instincts, and expertise.

In today’s resource section, you’ll find a few ways you can help students of all ages cultivate emerging expertise. The more opportunities students have to take the lead in their learning, the more you’ll be able to observe what’s possible. Each experience builds their confidence and sets the stage for independence beyond the classroom.

For additional insights, resources, and information on Inspired Teaching teacher and youth programming, subscribe to the Hooray For Monday newsletter!

Hooray For Monday is an award-winning weekly publication by Center for Inspired Teaching, an independent nonprofit organization that invests in and supports teachers. Inspired Teaching provides transformative, improvisation-based professional learning for teachers that is 100% engaging – intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Our mission is to create radical change in the school experience – away from compliance and toward authentic engagement.

Listen to This Week’s Episode of Hooray For Monday

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