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November 2008 | Volume 66 | Number 3
Giving Students Ownership of Learning Pages 32-37

Releasing Responsibility

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

We must transfer responsibility for learning to our students gradually—and offer support at every step.

There is no shortage of teachers assigning students responsibility for their own learning. Who isn't familiar with the following scenarios?

  • In a 1st grade class, students independently complete practice pages from a workbook.
  • A teacher gives her 4th graders a writing prompt and allows them 30 minutes to respond.
  • Students in 8th grade are told to read Chapter 12 and answer the questions at the end.

Yes, students in these situations are responsible for their own work, but are they really learning? Students who do well in these kinds of activities are usually those who already understand the content. It's not hard to fill out a worksheet (or "shut-up sheet" as one of our colleagues calls it) when you have already mastered the information. Nor is it hard to answer end-of-chapter questions when you read well and are familiar with the genre of questions asked in textbooks.


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