Friday, October 19, 2012

The Expert Learner with Voice and Choice


Who is the Expert Learner?
Expert learners take responsibility for their learning. They view learning as something they do for themselves, not something that is done to them or for them. [Source: The Expert Learner]
"The more educators give students choice, control, challenge, and collaborative opportunities, the more motivation and engagement are likely to rise. The enhancement of agency has been linked to a variety of important educational outcomes, including: elevated achievement levels in marginalized student populations, greater classroom participation, enhanced school reform efforts, better self-reflection and preparation for improvement in struggling students, and decreases in behavioral problems." [Source: Motivation, Engagement and Student Voice from the research from Students at the Center]
The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) perspective for the Expert Learner is for a learner to be:
  • Resourceful and knowledgeable
  • Strategic and goal-directed
  • Purposeful and motivated
© CAST 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

In a personalized learning environment, the learner fully understands how they learn. With this knowledge, the learner is empowered to have a voice and choice with their learning. In personalized learner-centered and learner-driven environments, they can be active and engaged participants in their learning. They are no longer the vessels where information is poured into them, but are learners who are motivated and engaged because they have a voice, choice and can monitor their own learning.
"Promoting student voice can be of enormous benefit to the teacher’s craft as well. When teachers open space for voice in the classroom, a unique window into what the student thinks and feels about her learning also opens. When student voice is facilitated, the teacher can observe how the student is making sense of things and where that student wants to go with that knowledge. Such information is invaluable to the teacher designing instruction to meet individual needs." [Source: Motivation, Engagement and Student Voice from the research from Students at the Center. p.25]
Building Learner Voice and Choice
The Three Stages of Personalized Learning Environments provide the process to encourage learner voice. This process can guide the design of personalized learning environments that meets the needs of all learners. Traditional teaching practice usually involves explicit direct instruction. In this case, everything depends on the teacher, the hardest working person in the classroom. To really learn something, the learner needs to be challenged and motivated enough to want to learn. When a teacher moves to Stage One, they give over some of the responsibilities of teaching to the learners so they are more motivated and engaged in how and what they learn.


Stage One is teacher-centered and encourages learner voice and some choice. Learner voice is a critical first step. There are ways to do this and this table below describes how the teacher and learner roles change in this stage.


When you design a project where you want to bring in learner voice and choice, consider referencing the chart above and starting with  these steps:

  1. learn about Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to understand how your learners learn best.
  2. redesign the learning environment so learners have access to multiple strategies that best meet their needs and the way they learn best.
  3. encourage learners to create learning goals and a plan describing the strategies and resources that are appropriate to meet their learning goals.
  4. encourage learners to select how they choose to access and engage with content.

When learners have the opportunities to say what they think and be heard by their peers and others, they feel their opinions and perspectives are valued and appreciated. Think about yourself as a learner and what it might feels like if you have a voice in how you learn and even influence decisions about teaching and learning.


“If we all did the things we are capable of,
we would astound ourselves.”

Thomas Edison