By Erin Grisham
There is no specific right or wrong way to teach, but middle school teacher Sandy Merz set out to find a method that gets the best results from his students. In his Education Week article “Nine Do’s and Don’ts for Cultivating Student Autonomy,” Merz discusses his conclusion that encouraging autonomy is the way to go.
How does Merz set the groundwork for students to work independently? For starters, he gives his engineering students the opportunity to provide evidence that they have mastered a concept; he calls these “Build Your Own Unit” projects.
His students are given basic topic parameters, but they create their own schedules, groups, and game plans. “Students tell me what they're going to learn, how they're going to learn it, and how they're going to prove they learned it,” Merz said.
Ultimately, the goal is for students to express a deeper understanding about how something works as opposed to simply talking about facts they have memorized. If you’re interested in this approach, Merz gives some great do’s and don’ts that can get you started.