We have all endured boring lessons, pointless homework assignments and brain-numbing revision to try to score that top mark at the end of the year. But what if the syllabus could be flipped so you could choose your assignments, you were marked on your effort throughout the year and you have a choice over how you learn?
This is the vision of John Boyer, a geography teacher at Virginia Tech. Instead of having a set curriculum that follows the traditional lecture and exam format, he flipped the subject on its head to give students autonomy over how they learn.
Fed up with teaching in the exact same way every year, and recognizing students of different abilities and interests were uninspired by this way of teaching, he decided to do something about it.
Now students of his course at Virginia Tech can work their way up to an A through completing a range of social media assignments, online quizzes and showing their understanding of course content including live-streamed lectures, films and chapters from his comedic alter-ego’s book ‘The Plaid Avenger’s World’.
“If you try to have regimented exercises, every single person has to do the exact same thing. With nearly 3,000 students, it’s a logistical nightmare,” Boyer told EdSurge.
“There are people who have health issues and family issues and attention deficit disorder and they’re on sports teams. We learned you can’t do the same thing for everybody.”
After creating his entry-level geography class World Regions 20 years ago, his course has grown in popularity from 50 students a semester to an outstanding 3,000 students a year.
Boyer has now received the Students’ Choice Award as a Faculty Member of the Year for 13 years straight, reported EdSurge.
Innovative assessments, including mimicking a world leader on Twitter for a month, can gain you marks toward your end grade, which according to Boyer, is likely to be an A.
“I give out a whole lot of As. I can think of nothing worse than failing people on a topic that you’re so passionate about and you have dedicated your life to. I give people more than enough chances to succeed. Does that make the class an easy A? Hmmm? I guess,” he said.
“But if you ask students in this course, is it an easy A, people would say, ‘Oh yeah, it was an easy A. But you had to work your ass off.’ And I’ll take that compliment every day of the week.”
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