What Do Students Want?

One of the lessons that I’ve learned over the years at Christmas is that despite all my good intentions, all my research into what makes a great gift for a child, the gift that my children play with the most tends to be the thing they asked for in their letter to Santa. It doesn’t matter if what I bought was recommended by teachers and parents from around the world, if it wasn’t what they asked for, it often ends up in a corner. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t had times where we’ve explored new games or activities with success, but over time I’ve learned to expose my children to the possibilities and then listen.

Maybe that’s why I like this article by Lannie Kanevsky so much. In the Fall 2011 Gifted Child Quarterly, Dr. Lannie Kanevsky of Simon Fraser University asks 646 grade 3-8 students how they like to learn. She compares the responses from 416 students identified as gifted to the 230 responses from students not identified as gifted to see if there are any significant differences. The results are interesting. There are certain things that all students want, differing only slightly in degrees. And then there are the things that gifted students want significantly more than other students.

So what did all students want (or as she puts it, really like)? Here are the top ten:
10. Doing activities that have more than one right answer and more than one way to find it.
9. Working with kids who learn as quickly as I do when I’m learning in a group.
8. Knowing how I will be graded before I begin.
7. Using computers to find new information through the internet and databases.
6. Learning with a partner who learns as quickly as I do.
5. Learning when I get to choose the way I learn (from books or experts; groups or alone; worksheets or projects.)
4. Doing projects in a group when I get to choose my group.
3. Learning about topics I choose. It might be ANYTHING!
2. Doing projects with a partner when I get to choose my partner.
1. Learning at my own speed.

What did gifted students particularly like? (More than a 10% difference.)
8. Understanding the way ideas are connected.
7. Choosing the way I will show what I’ve learned.
6. Understanding things the way experts do.
5. Working in groups sometimes, working alone sometimes.
4. Finding creative solutions to difficult or weird problems.
3. Understanding complicated ideas and problems.
2. Doing activities that let me learn something new that is different from what anyone else in my class learns.
1. Learning about weird topics that I wonder about. They are things that we don’t study in school.

There you have it! Pared down from a list of 110 possibilities it’s great information for those of us who are working to engage students in meaningful learning as we move into a new year! I hope 2012 is a great learning year for us all!

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One response to “What Do Students Want?

  1. Thanks for the great list. It’s always good when someone takes the time to summarize information for those of us with good intentions but not enough free time.

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