Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

Stifling Ownership

FreedomE.M. and I were talking recently. We both think we’re rather smart. If you need advice, come to us. We know what’s right and can make good choices for you. Imagine how orderly our classrooms are. Here are some of the rules we follow.

1. Make as many decisions for students as possible.

Be the one voice in your classroom. Don’t ever ask students for input about course setup and assessment or classroom rules and consequences. Also, never give students choices about how to complete tasks or homework assignments. No matter their age, level, or background, they’re not capable of making wise decisions, so don’t bother giving them voice.

2. Keep the students’ focus on you at all times.

Do all the speaking; lecture in fact. If students happen to speak, try very hard not to listen to them. It’s better to tell them everything instead of eliciting their perspectives. If students do start sharing their ideas, even if they are on topic, quickly pull their attention back to you and invalidate whatever they came up with. Construct their understandings for them, layer by layer, rather than encouraging them to figure out new information independently or in collaboration with others. Learner-centered teaching leads to self-centered students.

3. Do everything for your students.

Make it a habit to feed students knowledge spoonful by spoonful. Occasionally, bring tools to class, explain their components, and show how they work, but don’t give students any opportunity to try them out. If you ever let students attempt anything, hold their hands the entire time and make certain they do it right. If they somehow get distracted trying something out autonomously, whether individually or in a group, don’t let that kind of chaos go on for more than a few moments.

4. Disconnect learning from real life.

Don’t try to motivate students by showing them the relevance of what they are learning and how they might be able to use it out in the world. Never, ever, tie course content to a value or bring up a related moral principle and set learners a task that will encourage them to take personal responsibility.

5. Establish a negative classroom culture.

Create an environment where learners feel insecure and are afraid of making mistakes. Certainly, don’t encourage them to take risks. You’re aiming for an atmosphere where your students feel defeated and make claims like, “I can’t do it, so why even try.” You don’t want them to feel empowered and declare, “I may fail, but because I feel safe here, I’m going to try anyway.”

I hope you’ve read my sarcastic tone in the words above. What E. M. and I were, in fact, talking about is how we’d like to be less preachy. Instead of telling, we’d like to listen more and ask better questions, allowing people to come to personal conclusions and make their own decisions. Our experiences (both failures and successes) tell us that they’re then more likely to take ownership that brings about real change.

Isn’t ownership a goal the Master Teacher has for His students too? He equips us to take responsibility for our faith.[1] He takes us into His confidence[2] and give us the task of reconciliation.[3] Unfathomable, but He both expects and offers trust.

[1]   James 1:3.
[2]   Proverbs 3:32, New International Version.
[3]   2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

Further exploration

What’s your perspective?

We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.

  • When you read the first part of this post, how did it make you feel?
  • How would you use the highlighted words in this post to describe learner ownership?
  • How does the Master Teacher encourage you to take ownership?
  • What questions do you have about learner ownership?

Try it out: Guidelines for Supporting Ownership

This post uses sarcasm to present rules for how to stifle ownership. In a table like the one below, rewrite them so that they are guidelines for supporting ownership. Then, assess how well you follow the guidelines. Give yourself a grade (A, B, C, D, or F; or 🙂 , 😐 , or 😦 ). Finally, write comments to yourself about why you’ve received a particular grade. Encourage yourself with examples of how you follow a rule, or make suggestions about how you could do better. (You can also use the printable version of this activity: Guidelines for Supporting Ownership.)


Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

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This entry was posted on October 10, 2018 by in autonomous learning, learner ownership, Melissa K. Smith.



Photo Credit: Eric Fischer via Compfight cc
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