An Experiment in Learning

An Experiment in Learning

Student led learning

I recently conducted an experiment in learning and with minimal direct instruction  gave my geometry students their choice of six circle properties to present to their classmates with the goal of each student developing a basic understanding of the properties by the end of class.

The students formed teams and spent one hour preparing a presentation plan with the use of 1:1 Mac Airs. The plan could include a PowerPoint, a video, or the whiteboard as well as a detailed explanation of the property, a review question and a quiz question.

While the teams planned, I conferred with students. Most questions and comments were good and showed genuine interest in the topic. I overheard one student say how much fun it was to figure out the properties. (SCORE, right?)

Each of the six 5-10 minute presentations were made during our next class meeting. A few were excellent, most were above average but some were average with one or two leaving a little to be desired.

During each presentation, students were encouraged to take notes that could be used on the unit assessment. Using rubrics, students also assessed each team as well as one another individually. Overall scores ranged from 70%-90% and were weighted as 33% of a test grade in the grade book.

To say it was an experiment in learning is not an overstatement.

There were a lot of teachable moments. Two teams had to shift to a Plan B due to the absence of the team member in charge of the video or PowerPoint. Other teams included students who were absent on planning day but wanted to be a part of the presentation. I have no idea how it happened, but somehow one team managed to present on the wrong property.

As a silent observer, it was amusing to this teacher to hear presenters ask their classmates to be quiet and pay attention. (One presenter even asked me how I did it.)

I think most educators would agree an experiment in learning implies letting go of complete control and allowing the learning to be loud and messy.

But, as today’s learning paradigm continues to shift from direct instruction to student-led learning, the Circle Property Presentation is one experiment we will repeat.

For more information about this idea, please email me at and I will send to you the directions and rubrics.

Feel free to share your thoughts on how to improve upon this plan!


About barbarawmadden

I began teaching in 1981, but after a few years decided staying home with my children was what was best for my family. After almost 20 years raising four children, I returned to the classroom in 2005.

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