Students Can Teach Themselves – Clare Dempsey

As a student of RE, but also someone who has done work experience within several RE departments, I feel as though I have seen something of how learning works from both sides. Though I definitely do not have quite as much experience on the teaching side as I do the student side, I do have one piece of advice that I think could be both a help – and relief – to some teachers: letting students teach themselves.


Now, I don’t by any means suggest giving a specification to a student and telling them to get on with it for the rest of the year. However, something useful to try is to allow students the time to create their own resources. From my perspective as a student, this has certainly proved both effective and enjoyable.  Of course there may be issues relating to lack of lesson time or lack of practical resources (such computer suite availability). That said, I don’t think it would be unfair to set this type of task for homework, giving students the opportunity to work on it in their own time.


So, what sort of task did I have in mind? Within reason, I think the kind of resource that you, as a teacher, would create yourself should be the aim of the activity.  If you had a GCSE class, for example, which has just completed a unit, why not ask the students to create a revision PowerPoint for the end of the unit? Or why not ask them to create a revision guide, which they can customise with images, or colours that will help them to remember quotes or key facts based on their individual learning styles? The process of creating a resource can be an important part of revision, which may highlight misunderstandings or trigger new understandings of concepts that students may have struggled with while in class.


If a PowerPoint isn’t to a student’s style, artistic students may prefer something like creating A3 mind maps or creating YouTube videos may be an option for a media-smart, or ICT savvy pupil. If a student creates a virtual resource that they are willing to upload to sharing websites, their learning could even help out students from other schools in the local area – even nationwide. I myself had experience of this in my school, where we all uploaded a video online to revise for a specific unit, which eventually attracted viewers from other schools. Even if the resources aren’t uploaded online, they are still a huge benefit to the student who makes them. If your school uses a VLE, then online resources could be put into revision courses, so there’s always a hub of revision material available.


To encourage students to truly put effort into the resources there could be prize-incentives, where members of the class vote on whose resource they would find most useful. This resource could then be distributed to the class, or uploaded for students to download it onto their home computers. We did this while we were in year 10 – and the prizes, with some friendly competition, really managed to increase interest in the task!


What’s more, another great benefit of having students create resources for themselves is that, instead of one teacher creating one resource for a class, there will be up to 30 resources being created.  Producing materials with a wider audience in mind and sharing work, can be an invaluable part of collaborative learning. While doing my GCSE, if ever a class member thought of a memory hook to help with a difficult concept, or set of key words, it would be shared so the whole class could benefit. After all, a classroom is the ultimate environment for sharing knowledge.


In this academic year, why not give your students a chance to ‘teach themselves’?


Clare Dempsey

Autumn 2012