Responsibility for their own learning?

My senior Economics class left me this message for Valentine’s Day this week! It’s sweet and nice to know your students’ demand for you is completely inelastic and that they view you as such a necessity!

However, I always think about how much of what I’m doing is actually preparing students to be independent self-regulated learners rather than teacher-dependent spoon-fed learners… The IB is all about teaching students to be responsible for their own learning and to take initiative and seek knowledge rather than just passively receive it, to be self-motivated inquirers…

However, as an IB Economics teacher, I can speak for my subject and say that the IB Economics syllabus is HUGE! There are numerous learning outcomes in four different sections of the syllabus. Proper inquiry-based learning requires time and more focus on processes rather than content. However, the syllabus is content-heavy, and as a teacher I feel like I’m always time-poor!

So how does a time-poor teacher with a content-heavy syllabus empower students to be inquirers and take responsibility for their own learning? I’m not really sure, and I’m still figuring it out, but from my experience so far, I’ve devised a few strategies:

1- EcoNews blogging assignments:

Basically, every few weeks, I ask students to go and find a news article that relates to a part of the syllabus we have recently covered.

Students then post the link to the article and a short 250 word analysis/evaluation using the IA criteria as a framework. Basically it’s a mini IA so it trains them for their actual IAs, but also helps them link what we’re talking about in the classroom with the outside world and gives them ‘real-life examples’ to enrich their Paper 1 essay questions too! So many birds with one stone!

2- Student Teaching presentations:

Occasionally I’ll assign groups of students sections of syllabus (I give them actual learning outcomes screenshot directly from syllabus), and ask them to prepare a lesson to teach the class this content. The lesson needs to include the content assigned, 1 or 2 short YouTube videos, 2 or 3 discussion questions, and needs to end with a paper 1 or paper 2 or paper 3 assessment exercise for the class to apply what they’ve learned (there are lots of exam-style questions in IB Economics textbooks).

3- Economics inquiry blogposts:

Sometimes, I take a break from the syllabus completely and I remind the students of what I believe are the six main principles of economics: scarcity, choices, consequences of choices, opportunity cost, incentives, and economic systems…

Students then pick a few of these principles and formulate an ‘economic question’ about something from their daily life that they want to analyze economically… Then they write a blogpost about it: no diagrams, no definitions, no fancy shmancy models, just a short blogpost about an economic question using only simple economic tools!

4- Occasional flipped units:

So I have a Youtube channel of IB Economics videos for the microeconomics and macroeconomics sections of the syllabus. Occasionally I’ll flip a specific topic or section where students are assigned lectures to watch at home (research proves flipped classroom works better when videos are made by their teacher), then come into class and work on practice activities or blog about topic or exam-style questions. This does free up class time, but I would not advocate for a fully flipped classroom ALL THE TIME, because it gets monotonous too 😉

These are my strategies for engaging my IB Economics students in inquiry-based learning and hopefully instilling in them a sense of responsibility for their own learning so that their demand for me is not as ‘inelastic’!

My lunch table!

At St Timothy’s, we have a dining program (which serves great food by the way). We also have a pretty cool system for our daily lunches. Each teacher is assigned a table that is theirs, mine is Table 9, and every two weeks a different group of students is assigned to sit on your table, so that by the end of the academic year you’ve had lunch with most of the student body!

I love my table! I use those lunch time student rotations to get to know students I don’t teach or build stronger rapport with students I do teach…

About two weeks ago, a student I teach came up to me during lunch time saying “Mr Elashiry, quick quick tell me something good! I’m having a terrible day!”

I panicked and felt like I was put on the spot and I too was having a somewhat challenging day, but I found myself asking her “have you had bad days before?”, to which she replied “yes”… Then I said “sometimes these bad days turn into bad weeks or bad months even, but eventually you end up having a good day or good week or good month right?” She replied “yes!”

I said “and there’s something good for you! No matter how bad a ‘bad day’ is, eventually it’ll pass and you’ll have a good day!”

Another student heard the conversation and said “wow Mr Elashiry, you should write a book!” We laughed initially, but eventually this YouTube channel was born as a result: Table 9 – Conversations at Mr Elashiry’s Table!

Check it out! I’ve posted episode one and will try to post an episode weekly, focusing on the issues teens face in their daily lives and how we can give them a ‘positive spin’!

I’m excited about this project 🙂