I assign pupils into heterogeneous groups and ask them to talk about the topic we are covering and take notes. I usually ask them to write down what they already know and what they would still like to learn.
When planning the syllabus in the 6th grade of primary school I asked my pupils the following questions: What is the easiest way of achieving this goal? What is your favourite way to learn? How can you get the most out of this lesson? Their most common answers were that they love working in groups, solving exercises, working together, and helping one another. They wished for the teacher to be there for them and assist them. They wanted to learn at their own pace, keep track of their progress, and assess their knowledge (without using grades).
We had some problems with setting goals (because it was our first time doing it with this class) and forming a plan for language acquisition. When asked how and what they would like to learn, the pupils wrote down the following answers:
These answers made mapping out my next steps more challenging. I decided to use D. William’s technique of using behavioural testing methods for formative assessment purposes and chose one of my tests for the pupils to analyse. I asked each group of pupils to review the test and selected the exercises they would know how to solve then rank the exercises from easiest to hardest. When they finished their assessment, we discussed their answers and determined the pupils’ strengths and weaknesses. These were later set as our learning goals and addressed in upcoming lessons.
We organised our lessons according to the pupils’ wishes. We worked primarily in groups, the pupils could help and support one another during class, we spent a few hours playing didactic games in the classroom and in the computer room, and we evaluated what the pupils had learned and which goals they’d achieved (through quality feedback and advice, without counting points or assigning grades).
I hand out work sheets with questions that encourage pupils to talk about a certain topic and write down something they already know about it and/or something they still wish to learn.
Mutual goal setting and syllabus planning can continue in groups or together as a class. To help guide the pupils through this process, use questions such as: