Education Opinion

Student Feedback Regarding Independent Learning Projects

By Tamara Fisher — July 03, 2013 6 min read
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In my last post, I shared with you some images of my students showcasing the self-directed independent learning projects that they worked on for my class. Today, via their end-of-the-year self and class evaluations, I have reflective feedback from them in their own words. While final product is important, one of my goals for the students through all of this is to help them understand the importance of PROCESS, especially a long-term process. So often in school, bright kids can “whip it together” the night before something is due for a class and still earn a good grade. What they (mistakenly) learn from that is serious effort isn’t necessary, combined with the resulting belief that they will always be able to toss something into place at the last minute and still get a high grade. But Life doesn’t work that way. Additionally, the long-term hard work and grueling trial and error that are necessary for Life’s innovations and masterpieces is rarely seen and even unknown. But I want my students, especially in our modern fast-food immediate gratification society, to begin to develop an understanding of just what it takes - what it takes of the person - to produce those ideas and products. The class is a chance to “muck around” with their own grand ideas and to see something big through to fruition. While I explain all this to them at the beginning of the semester, they don’t truly believe and understand it until they’ve actually been through the beginning-to-end process, including all the ups and downs, of their project. But they do come to understand it, and I find they are sooooo much more independent, self-reliant, responsible, hard-working, and innovative as a result. Their big dreams that were once some-day-aspirations become real, tangible, and within reach... because they have a better idea of just what is and will be necessary to accomplish them.

The following statements are a selection of their own thoughts on the process and lessons learned.

“The most important thing I learned this year is that I need to be more responsible and not balance too many things at a time. This is important because it’s a life skill I will need to have.” (9th grader)

“The purpose of this class was to challenge me and to make me learn about how to cope with a wide variety of problems. I think differently now because I carefully consider the outcomes and consequences before I act.” (7th grader)

“I have become more patient and analytical than when I started. I learned this semester how long it takes to compose music. Listening to songs, I’ve started to separate parts and admire how complicated it is. I’ve developed a greater appreciation for music that I didn’t have before.” (8th grader)

“My favorite part of this class was the structured freedom.” (8th grader)

“I learned that my actions are important, and if I wanted I could do something BIG!” (In addition to writing an anthology of dozens of her own poems, this 8th grader organized and hosted a community poetry reading and art show at the park, dubbed “PoARTry in the Park.”)

“This class is a great opportunity to explore the options you have after high school so you know what you want to do.” (8th grader)

“I am far less discouraged after the accomplishments I have achieved in my project. The most important thing I learned was my view on ‘what it means to be human,’ which means so much to me since I hadn’t developed this philosophy before.” (8th grader)

“The most important thing I learned is not to underestimate challenges because I will never succeed if I downplay what I must face.” (8th grader)

“I experienced a very surprising moment when I realized that I would be able to finish my project with ease instead of rushing to complete the final product. This came as a surprise to me because I was much stressed last semester to finish my project. But this semester, I felt confident because of my hard work.” (7th grader)

“I had my project at the back of my mind constantly this year, always thinking of ways to overcome obstacles.” (11th grader)

“I learned that brainstorming can and should take a long time because a good idea is not always the right idea.” (8th grader)

“I have discovered patience buried in a place I hadn’t thought to explore.” (7th grader)

“I applied a good amount of effort to my project. It took some time and I’m gladly pleased with the result. The most important thing I learned was that computer programming and electronics in general is fun, and that changed my point of view because now I’m considering a career with something involving computers.” (10th grader who created a website for his grandfather’s business.)

“I learned that if I make a commitment, I must live up to it. I learned that sometimes ideas and plans change, and just because something isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t GOOD.” (7th grader)

“The most important thing I learned was how to learn and have fun. This is important because if you don’t enjoy something, then you won’t want to continue to do it.” (10th grader)

“I think the purpose of this class is to motivate people to believe in themselves through their projects and interests.” (9th grader)

“I am less laid back now, which is probably for the best. The most important thing I learned is to stop procrastinating! This class is thought-provoking, personalized, encourages creative thought, and encourages learning from mistakes.” (9th grader who wrote and self-published a 188-page novel over three total semesters)

Regarding the class discussions, “It is always great to see that others have similar viewpoints on common issues.” (9th grader)

“I believe I have a little more respect for large projects and the time necessary to do them. I was humbled by this project!” (7th grader)

“The most important thing I learned this semester was being able to know that some things don’t work out, and that’s okay.” (8th grader)

“I learned how I can be more patient, and that’s important because I can apply it in other areas.” (7th grader)

“I now think with extreme creativity, and I’m way better at using critical and flexible thinking. I’m also much wiser than I was and more responsible. I learned to not procrastinate and to never, ever, EVER give up. I learned how to be independent, hard-working, and responsible. This is all important because in the real world, you have to learn to do things yourself.” (7th grader)

“I am more focused on priorities now.” (8th grader)

“I learned that doing things ahead of time gives you more free time in the future. This is important because I am usually a horrible procrastinator. Now I have motivation to overcome it.” (7th grader)

“I learned that when I push myself to do something, I can do it. I can use this in later years when I feel like giving up.” (9th grader)

“I learned to carefully think before doing and to thoroughly evaluate things. I learned to compare and contrast and figure out which thing I like best, or which one is more beneficial. I learned that it’s alright to have a change in plans. Just because this happens doesn’t mean you’re falling apart! I learned to examine carefully and inquire. You might learn even more about something and become better.” (7th grader)

“My least favorite part of this class was having to solve problems that in a normal classroom setting the teacher would solve for you. But I guess that was kinda the point...” (11th grader)

“I didn’t really learn anything ‘the hard way’ this time... However, that’s only because I learned from the mistakes I made during last year’s project!” (8th grader)

“I learned that I was underestimating myself. When I discovered the things I was capable of, I was so surprised! That inspired me to do more, which I am grateful for.” (7th grader)

The following images are a few of their responses to the request, “Please illustrate your overall experience with this process.”

Two close-ups of the above image:

Think of a time in your life when you had to undertake an involved and complicated process. What did you learn from the experience? How can you create or re-create a similar opportunity for your students?

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.