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How can students take ownership of their learning?

By involving your students as co-creators, they could become more engaged and motivated to try out new ideas.
Child reading a book

To take the idea of student-centred design one step further, consider giving your students the space and opportunity to take ownership of their learning through creating, or working at their own pace, while keeping these guiding principles in mind:

  • Asynchronous design
  • Promoting independence and autonomy
  • Doing more with less
  • Identifying learning types

Involve your students in identifying topic, focus, or output

Students can be co-creators, in that they are more deeply involved in deciding what they’re going to learn. This might be through negotiating a project to work on, or by collaborating to choose ways they can demonstrate what they have been working on. By involving your students, they could become more engaged and motivated to try out new ideas.

Give ample space and time to create

Creativity involves taking what is known, what is presented and what has been explored – and recombining or presenting these ideas in new ways. To do this requires time – and it may also require structure to strike the right balance between creative freedom and support. Project or task-based approaches work very well asynchronously and offer lots of scope for autonomy and creativity, for either groups or individuals. The following stages could be negotiated with your students:

  • Break the task or topic into stages or chunks
  • Identify the learning types for different stages
  • Model or demonstrate possible outputs
  • Define success criteria (opportunity for collaboration and peer feedback)
  • Give guidance on group organisation (if relevant)
  • Clearly state times/deadlines for updating, presenting or submitting
  • Present all of this as an overview from the start – no surprises!

Be sure to leave a lot of time, room and scope for how the students decide to self-organise or approach the assignment. If planning a group or collaborative activity, things will take longer online, as your students are doing things at different times.

Martin Weller, OU: “…an online collaborative activity would take 2 hours, as in face to face, and in fact had to be extended over several weeks as people negotiated roles, etc.”
Another benefit of longer project/task-based approaches is that while you will invest time in the initial set up, you may need to spend less time ‘teaching’. Students are given the space and time to be creative and become more independent. Updates could come from students or their parents/carers with less frequency as the students have more time to spend on task.
Suzanne Mordue, UK British Council: “You can give your learners group projects and get updates via email.”


Which approaches or techniques to promote creativity could be suitable for your context? How might they increase engagement and motivation?

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