Partners of Their Own Learning

Education & Technology learning Teaching Online

If you want to learn something, teach it!

Teaching motivates us to learn. Many teachers claim that teaching forces them to learn the material, so they can transfer the information. You need to master the information before you can teach it.  Teachers are expert learners who teach as a way to learn.  Students can learn to do the same.

Teachers and students have a common goal. They both want learning to happen. But, how does learning happen?  How can students become active learners and leaders of their own learning? Teachers can engage students in active collaborative learning by teaching them how to teach as a way to learn.

Student-led Learning

Ron Berger taught in the public school system for over 25 years before he got involved in research to find ways to improve the education system in the USA.  Ron initiated a program on how to evaluate students in school so they would learn from the experience. The program is called student-engaged assessment. Berger, Lea Rugen, and Libby Woodfin shared the process in Leaders of Their Own Learning: Transforming schools through student-engaged assessment book published in 2014.

Learning Outside of School

The idea of student-led learning is not new.  Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough“. Our natural instinct is to spread new information once we hear about it. People share things that make them look good to others. That’s how news becomes viral. It starts with one person. Jonah Berger explains this and other ideas about people’s need to share what they learn in Contagious.

The sad part is that most of our learning and sharing is done outside of school. Jerome Bruner claims that “human beings deliberately teach each other” (Bruner, 1996, p. 20). How do we get students to learn in school?

setting up video kid

Technology Helps

Technology helps spread information. The Internet and other web technologies are connecting people for learning. We share information on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, Vimeo, and the list is increasing as I write.  Why not share information in the classroom?

Teachers are Doing All the Learning

It’s a sad event when teachers are the only ones sharing information in the classroom. But then, isn’t that what they get paid to do? Teachers, instructors deliver information. They own the information and pass it on.

They are in the business of learning, but what about the students? Teachers are experienced learners. They are experts in specific content areas. Allow students to teach by facilitating the process or as Carl Rogers said, “give students the freedom to learn”.

Teach Students to ‘Teach as a Way to Learn’

Students can become the owners of the information too, by teaching it. Teachers can partner with their students for learning. In New Hampshire,  Jenny Wellington allows her students to teach as a way to learn. Emily Richmond, a writer for  The Atlantic describes the event in What Happens When Students Control Their Own Education?

students control learning
Taken from The Atlantic found on Google search as reusable.

Tools for Teaching

There are many web tools that can facilitate instruction and learning. These technologies are providing opportunities for teachers and students to collaborate and become partners of their own learning. The following tools are free:

  • Crocodoc
  • Google Docs
  • Movenote
  • Present Me
  • Screencast-O-Magic
  • SlideSpeech
  • WizIQ live class

Benefits to Allowing Students to Teach

We need to dare. We need to open doors for every learner. We need to let them do the learning and not learn for them. Let them experience learning as it is meant to be.

What will students gain from teaching? What will the school system gain? What will the community gain? What will the world gain from allowing students to teach as a way to learn?

Digital ELT Ireland

I would like to invite you to join me at the Digital ELT conference in Ireland and introduce you to two amazing plenary speakers, Gavin Dudeney and Syliva Guinan. I will be discussing and conducting a workshop on ‘Partners of Their Own Learning’.

Recommended Books

Berger, J. (2013). Contagious: Why things catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Berger, R., Rugen, L., & Woodfin, L. (2014). Leaders of their own learning: Transforming schools through student-engaged assessment. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons.

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Massachusetts: Harvard University.

Richmond, E. (2014, October 24). What happens when students control their own education? The Atlantic. Retrieved

Rogers, C.R. & Freiberg, H.J. (1994). Freedom to Learn (3rd Ed). Columbus: Merrill/Macmillan.



Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Dr. Nellie Deutsch is an education technology and curriculum consultant, faculty at Atlantic University in the MA transpersonal and leadership studies, teacher trainer, researcher, and writer. She organizes Moodle MOOCs and online conferences. She earned her doctorate in education and educational leadership with a specialization in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix Her dissertation research (available on ProQuest & Amazon) focused on instructor experiences with integrating technology in blended learning contexts in higher education around the world. Nellie offers free teacher training courses on teaching with technology, action research and Moodle for teacher courses to new, veteran, and future teachers who wish to teach online, face-to-face or in blended learning formats. She also provides online courses to teachers and ICT people on how to be administrators of Moodle websites. She integrates Moodle and WizIQ live virtual classes in all her courses.

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