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5 Creative Strategies to Facilitate Student-driven Learning

Generation Z is finally entering our high school classrooms: 21st century learners who are digitally literate and determined to take charge of their learning. Consequently, teachers need to adjust their strategies and give students more voice and ownership.

When the classroom moves from teacher-centered to student-centered, more learning takes place and students tend to be more engaged in the lesson. The student-centered classroom allows for more differentiation and personalized learning.

Making the transition into a student-centered classroom can be a challenge. Below are some strategies for getting started with creating a successful learning environment:


Give students choice in their learning by allowing them to explore their own passions through a Genius Hour. With this strategy, students choose the topic they would like to research, and then decide on a final project through which they will showcase their work. The teacher becomes the facilitator in this process, and deadlines are very lenient, or in some cases, non-existent. The students are given a certain number of days or weeks to research the topic and design a final project.

When the students are truly interested in the topic, they are more motivated to learn. You can learn more about Genius Hour here. For younger students, read Don Wettrick’s post about Genius Hours in elementary schools.


Some teachers find it difficult to step aside and allow students to lead the discussion, but with Socratic Seminars, the entire discussion and learning process is student-centered.

In my classroom, I provide students with a list of dates for Socratic Seminars. Students must prepare in advance by coming to class with at least five questions/insights that they would like to discuss about the reading. In addition, they must provide evidence from the text to support all thoughts and opinions.

On the day of the seminar, one student begins by posing a question and giving his or her thoughts. The rest of the students begin to respond through a round-table discussion. After the seminar, I have students reflect on the class discussion and their personal contributions to it. To view the reflection sheet, click here.

There are two ways to do Socratic Seminars:

  1. The entire class can be a seminar and the students arrange their desks in a fishbowl setup—two circles are set up in the room and the inner circle faces the outer circle. Those in the inner circle lead the discussion for the day by posing questions and directing the conversation, while those in the outer circle respond throughout the discussion. Halfway through the class period, the circles switch roles and the outer circle leads the conversation while the inner circle responds.

Note: To ensure that all students are focused throughout the discussion, I grade the students on their level of contributions/insights and classroom etiquette during the Socratic Seminar. It is also helpful when students grade themselves throughout the discussion and maintain personal records of their contributions to each Socratic Seminar.  

  1. The other method is to have students work in small groups of four or five and hold their own mini Socratic Seminars. For this, I allow the students to choose their own groups, as I believe it is important for students to be with the ones whom they would enjoy discussing the text.

If you’re interested in implementing Socratic Seminars at the middle school level, check out Socratic Smackdown.


The jigsaw strategy is still one of my favorites for student-centered instruction. Students are originally placed into small groups of three or four, and then each student is assigned a topic to research. The group then separates, and each student joins the other students in class who are assigned the same topic. They work together to research the topic and to become “experts.”

Once they have finished their research, students go back to their original groups and each shares what he/she has learned. Through this method, students teach each other, and as the research proves, students learn best when they teach their peers.


Similar to the regular jigsaw method, I often separate the class into small groups and assign each group a different reading. The students in each group work together to read and analyze a passage or article and then discuss it.

At the end of class (or even the next day), all of the groups come together as one and share their readings and small group discussion with everyone else. The other groups then respond to the small group’s discussion and add their own insights, allowing for a large class conversation.


Teachers are often used to being the ones to call on students for answers, but in the student-centered classroom, students should be allowed to run the discussion. To do this, it is important to do away with calling on students, and giving that right to them.

In other words, the teacher may pose a question and then call on a student to respond, but once that student speaks, he or she calls on the next student (with a hand raised) to join the discussion. Suddenly, the students are calling on each other, allowing for the teacher to serve as the facilitator rather than the lecturer or leader. This is a such a simple strategy that really shapes the classroom setting.

Student-driven learning requires learners to properly read, assess, evaluate, and communicate text. Imagine Easy Scholar supports students develop these skills through its cloud-based technology and Google Apps For Education integrations.

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Amanda Lentino

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