I have been working with my Lights Academy students on innovation projects — projects that are designed to build on something already created or solve a problem in a new way. This is a concept that is often a challenge for juniors and seniors. Their typical school experience through the years comes from absorbing the information shared by others. Therefore, the shift to seeing a problem and seeking to solve that problem is a significant one. Of all the projects we complete in Lights Academy, thinking like an innovator is the most difficult challenge. Students are often out of practice in this type of thinking.
One thing I have noticed is that there is typically a path for a good project idea and learning activity when I hear the phrase, “I’ve thought about…..” If there is a thought, there is often a dream or aspiration behind it. This phrase means that they likely have done some thinking outside of a standard academic construct as well. In other words, “I’ve thought about….” is a clue to an interest to pursue — and interest of which the student themselves may not even be aware.
Have you heard “I’ve thought about” from your students? Have you pursued a larger conversation with them about their thoughts? Are the allowed and encouraged to pursue these ideas, guided by the teacher? Or is the response, “That’s not what we are working on right now”?
As I lead a project-based learning academy, I have increasingly noticed that it is essential to listen carefully to students to identify their yearnings and help them unlock their potential by pursuing their partially stated ideas. Just as formulating ideas to solve problems takes practice for students, so do educators need to practice intent listening to identify potential paths of inquiry for their students.
So when you hear a student say “I thought about,” make sure you are ready to listen, respond and guide.