Increasing Student Voice at #BPLC18

Had a great morning of learning at the Blended & Personalized Learning Conference in Providence Sat. 4/7 (#BPLC18). 


Sessions I found myself in the most focused on increasing student voice in learning. Today’s learners are experiential learners who learn by discovery rather than being “told.” They like to interact with content to explore and draw their own conclusions (Hart, 2008). They also like playing different roles in their learning, either as a student, or even as instructor or facilitator or supporter of others, and switch between them (Hart, 2008). We need to create classrooms where students are the ones who must defend and explain their ideas as opposed to regurgitate facts.  Giving students a list of options from which they can choose, whether it’s a book to read in language arts, a topic to research in history, or a business to create in math will increase engagement and retention. Project work will give students a menu of options that they can choose from to show their learning. This strategy will allow them to operate in a learning space where they are comfortable and self-motivated.

Key: We need to understand who our students are and how they learn.

Erica DeVoe (@Mrs_DeVoe) and Amanda Murphy (@abmurphy22) shared wonderful suggestions about student voice through questioning techniques. Check out their session material at  The share how to transform a classroom to a Questioning Culture.

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I also attended a session by Tiffany Ott (@TechieTeachOtt) learning how she uses Learning Mastery Grid planning and instructing to increase voice and choice in learning

Two other sessions I read about at break are below

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I also heard many times at #BPLC18 that students must put learning into practice to increase content retention, so at the lunch break, I wanted to write a quick reflection to put my learning on paper. I also want to share because there was no way for everyone to be at every session.

A few common themes …and just good ideas

Create ongoing projects.

Leaders can encourage teachers to promote projects, not just lessons. The key to projects is to provide plenty of real-world choices that enable students to demonstrate what they are learning. Many stand-alone objectives or state standards can be met in one well-crafted project that allows students to decide what the final product looks like. Ongoing projects stimulate collaboration, the environment upon which the student-centered classroom is built.

Make Your Projects Simple

Not every project has to be a grade-level collaboration like the Shark Tank project. Instead of the traditional paper or PowerPoint presentation, give your students choices in how they show their learning. They may choose to make a video, act out a skit, or create a painting.

Be flexible with learning spaces.

I attended many sessions expressing that students learn best when their physical space matches their mental space at ASCD and then again, I heard that here at #BPLC18. Take a model of flexible instruction and think about your school or classroom and how to maximize learning space or mobile learning. Let students move, let students work in groups, or work witting on the floor. Students want more than the “sit and get” classroom—they want to be actively involved in their learning.

Questioning students by and asking challenging questions

Utilizing discovery learning engages learners first by asking to solve a problem or create a solution, then the teacher can ask probing questions to spark further discovery learning. Some that I like to use are:

  • Could you elaborate further on that point?
  • Can you create sketch notes of that speech?
  • Can you show your thinning in a graphic design?
  • Could you give me an illustration?

  • Could you research more details?

Allowing critical thinking and digital tools for discovery learning will enhance student learning and voice in classrooms.

Redesign Lessons

Share how you normally teach a topic to your students and invite them to help you redesign how you teach the topic. Tell them you want them to have a say in redesigning how they learn, what the classroom will look like, and your role as a teacher. This will show them you value their input and learning styles. Let them know that for this topic, you’re going to need their help in coming up with the questions, that they will be able have a place in the class and online to ask questions, ask for help, give feedback, and maybe help others in the classroom.

Brainstorm together

Brainstorm questions about the topic with the whole group. You can project your computer and use programs like Google Docs or other tools like Mindmeister. Start with one big question focused on the standard or objective. Encourage students to use “how” and “why” questions to dig deeper into the idea/question. Be sure to tell them that there are no stupid questions.

Flexible Grouping

Ask students to work in pairs or small groups to select a big question about the topic they want to explore. Students can choose a group based on the question they want to investigate.

Try some of these activates and check out all resources on #BPLC18 and watch students take responsibility in their own learning by giving them their own. Try is and if you take a risk, you will be amazed what happens. 

Less teacher talk and more student-centered learning makes for a happy, healthy, and productive learning environment. Share ways you include student voice and student choice in your curriculum on twitter. Share using #BPLC18 and we can all continue to learn.

Off to my session at 2:15: Check out the session and material at

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