Painting a Big Picture by Connecting the Dots

The idea for Roadmap to Student Ownership of Learning came from working on my website for two years. My initial thought is to create a website that covers in-depth topics on teaching and learning, not just teaching strategies.

My rationale is to help educators see the big picture in the teaching process. Teaching is a complex work, according to Jim Knight. Knight notes that “Teaching, like raising a child, is a complex task, as there is no formula or simple set of steps to follow to a predictable outcome. Plus, every day (and every child) is different.” from Article: Why Teacher Autonomy Is Central to Coaching?

I taught English Language Learning at elementary and middle school for 19 years. During that time, I relied on books to help me understand standards, assessments, strategies more than anything else. I always thought books, authors who wrote them, gave different perspectives on standards, assessment, and teaching strategies. Books can help you see the big picture and connect the dots when you are confused.

Here are some books that help me connect the dots:

The Teacher Clarity Playbook helped clarify what Common Core Standards are about. I focused on identifying content and skills first, because this is where you start on the road to student ownership of learning. It is also the foundation of what you teach and what students can know and do. I spent some time understanding how to unpack the standards using various books to understand what students need to achieve and how to measure their success.

Learning Target, by Connie M Moss and Susan M Brookhart, breaks down how to make the lesson meaningful from students’ point of view. I dig deeper into Learning Target and its function. I believe it is important, because students will learn deeply about chunks of information and skills. I come to understand that each lesson’s learning target connects to the next lesson’s target, enabling students to master a coherent series of challenges that ultimately lead to important curricular standards.

Assessment is the next area I tackled using Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis. I learned that formative assessment practices can improve student achievement. The Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning Concept Map offers directions on how to meet conditions for improvement, phrased as questions from the student’s point of view:

  • Where am I going?
  • Where am I now?
  • How can I close the gap?

These three questions are important to remember when assessing students’ learning. It is a signpost that leads to student ownership of learning.

I slowly connect the dots using various books, and the one book that ties everything together for me is Developing Student Ownership by Jane Kennedy and Robert Crowe. Student Ownership of Learning is the ultimate destination on the roadmap. This book paints an overall picture of how educators can provide opportunities that focus on the 4 practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and climate for student ownership.

How do you reach this ultimate destination? The key is to understand the three legs of a stool concept:

According to the article “Empower Students Through Creativity and Choice”, the three key areas are academic knowledge, social and emotional skills, and transferable skills. These three key areas of support and empower student success, like the three legs of a stool. Without all three legs, the stool will not stand. However, with a strong foundation in each of these three areas, our students will have a stable base that can support and empower them throughout their college, career, and personal lives.

Empower Students means students own their learning. When students own their learning, they know how to apply what they are learning in different contexts and take responsibility for their progress and success. If students don’t own their learning, accelerating their learning will prove more difficult. Student ownership is evident when students can articulate what they are learning, why they are learning, strategies that support their learning, and how they will use these strategies in the future.



I am an education blogger and a contributor at Confianza. You can find me at where teaching process information is provided for educators.

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Maria Lee/Education Blogger

I am an education blogger and a contributor at Confianza. You can find me at where teaching process information is provided for educators.