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Choosing Classes

By Nathan Woods

I teach at a school that was established ten years ago to offer something different in New Zealand’s compulsory education sector. It is committed to a ‘student-centered’ approach to education, where students have more choice over what and how they learn. One feature of the school is that every five weeks students can select a new set of classes. The classes are based on topics thought to be relevant and interesting for high school students. Entry into classes is not restricted by age or ability levels. If there is nothing a student wishes to enroll in for a particular five-week block, they may choose to work on individual or collaborative learning projects out of class instead.

One of my roles as a teacher is to ‘help’ students in my homebase (similar to a form class) to choose their classes. Predictably, some students make better decisions than others. Students who are achieving well at school usually make ‘good’ decisions. They select classes that challenge them, and that meet their interests and their needs. Some students, however, seem to do the opposite. They choose the easiest classes, and try to avoid anything new and/or challenging. They fill their schedule with hours of ‘independent learning time’, but seldom complete any projects.

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