How to use a workshop model for full lessons, not just individual skills

Dive Brief:

  • The workshop model, which puts more learning into the hands of students and helps foster independent learning, can be modified for online environments, writes Paul Emerich France, a Chicago-based education consultant, for Edutopia.
  • When used in K-12, the workshop model has students working alone or in small groups, which is potentially more engaging than listening to a lecture given online by a teacher, France writes. The model also gives students more time to work with one another and encourages peer feedback as students share the work they’ve completed with their class.
  • But for this style to work successfully, educators may need to adapt their lesson plans, shifting from giving lectures to offering up guidance and direction instead.That shift can help students not just absorb academic information, but also teach them how to rely on themselves and their peers.

Dive Insight:

The workshop-based approach to learning shares many of the same characteristics as project-based learning, as both limit direct instruction or lecturing from teachers, and instead give children more hands-on time to master new skills and lessons.

Even amid distance learning, educators can put this style of learning into play by utilizing breakout rooms online as they do when initiating virtual project-based learning assignments. Online, teachers can drop into small groups, assess, and even provide immediate commentary to help guide students and keep them on-track.

Teachers can stretch the workshop model across not just helping students master a single skill, but across an entire lesson. That’s what the Teaching Channel models for educators who are eager to adopt this style. On its site, teachers can find a video, instructional plan and even handouts of a 7th grade English Language Arts class in employing the workshop model while creating an advertising campaign.

Sheboygan Area School District in Wisconsin also encourages educators to consider this style of learning, noting it can help teachers differentiate by supporting students along their individual learning paths.

Giving students more autonomy during a lesson also teaches them to rely on themselves, as well as their peers, and can help them develop executive functions, such as learning to follow through on completing a task. These skills, including collaboration, patience and adaptability, can play a role in future career success — particularly in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics realm — giving educators an opportunity to help students gain valuable soft skills, along with academic abilities, concurrently through their work.

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