Glasser and Responsibility for Learning

Responsibility for LearningSome teachers are in perpetual motion.

There is a whole lot of talking, cajoling, directing, instructing, and chastising.

The teacher has assumed full responsibility for learning within the walls of the classroom.

That's not good.


Who has Responsibility for Learning?


I am sure the eyeballs of some students are spinning in some classrooms.

In an effort to get everything done, teachers are inclined to over-teach. These teachers are inclined to overdo everything.


  • Over talk,
  • Over help,
  • Over demonstrate.
  • Over everything.

These teacher assume complete responsibility for learning and everything else.

Well guess what? Glasser found the following.

We Learn . . .

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what we discuss
  • 80% of what we experience
  • 95% of what we teach others.

Read more of Glasser's work.

So all the talking, guiding, reminding, directing, and advising will count for zip unless you give kids a chance to connect with their learning.

For that to happen, the teacher must take a back seat.

The kids need to

  • do for themselves,
  • think for themselves,
  • create for themselves and
  • assume responsibility for learning - their own learning.
What you do is important but what you DON'T do is equally important.

It is common for teachers to be critical of parents who "baby" their children - and rightly so.

It is equally common for teachers to "baby" their students.

You can create needy reliant and dependent students if you don't step back and give your students are chance to explore, create, succeed or fail on their own.

If you talk too often, you voice can blend into the background noise. You students will become so accustomed to hearing the sound of your voice that it may not have the impact that it should.

Worse than that, if you over-support the students, they will use you as the first point of call to solve all their problems. That will become burdensome for both you and them.

Let Students Assume Responsibility for Learning.

Don't be in a rush to solve their problems; their academic or their social dilemmas.

There is a NEED component in a teacher-centred classroom. Unfortunately sometimes it is a teacher need. The need to be needed.

It is common for parents to create ties to their children. I have seen this time and again when parents drop their kids off for their first day at school. Parents make it difficult for their children to leave them. It seems as if there is a competition to make their children cry or become upset.


Some teachers create the same situation. They are very happy if their children NEED them. If fact, this type of teacher has created a teacher-reliant student. A student who will seek teacher support any time a difficult learning situation is created.

Of course, the best situation is to create a self-reliant student who may go to the teacher for feedback but will look at other avenues for the solution.

The most difficult student in the class to manage is the one who is continually waiting for your input to get started. These passive participants will drain your energy.

The easiest student in the class to manage is student who will independently pick up a challenge and become excited about the learning opportunities.

In reality, you are more likely to be somewhere along this continuum.

Students may enjoy your support until the time for them to explore of their own.

Just make sure you give them their exploration time so that your students accept responsibility for learning.

10 Tips to Develop Responsibility for Learning.

1. Don’t make all the learning decisions

Once you take all the decision-making responsibility, students will lose the motivation to learn. After all, you will override any option they chose, so why bother? Some students already know how they learn best so allow them the chance to explore different options.

2. Accept more than your answer

Some problems have more than one solutions. Don’t assume that you have the only answer. Some teachers play the “guess what’s in my head” game and only accept answers that match their thinking. Some students may have excellent ideas so accept all those presented.

3. Talk less

Every time you talk, you are taking away valuable student thinking time. Stop talking. You will be surprised what a valuable learning opportunity is available if you talk less.

4. Show yourself as a learner.

Kids love to see their teachers learning. By presenting yourself as a learner, you are demonstrating the skills to gain knowledge. Learn something together. Let the students know that you are learning new material as well.

5. Provide opportunities to Connect Learning

Kids needs to make connections with what they already know. Allow students the time to

  • create mind maps,
  • present their new knowledge to another group,

There are hundreds of ways to help students make connections. Explore what is available

6. Evaluate rather than Test

Don’t just test to create a mark. Evaluate the effectiveness of your learning opportunity.

7. Set Goals.

Everyone needs goals. You would have them for your teaching. Do you students have them for their learning? Students also need the opportunity to measure their success against the goals. Feedback provided by the teacher will enable their goals to stay dynamic.

8. Allow for deviations from your plan,

Planning is one thing. Never stick blindly to the plan at the expense of a valuable learning opportunity. Some of the best learning comes from unplanned experiences. Learn to go with the flow.

9 Avoid busy time.

Learning needs to be your number one focus. There is no place for activity without learning. Don’t pad your lessons with busy work. You will find these periods will invariably lead to behaviour problems.

10. Conference often

Meet with your students either formally or informally and ask how they are going. Your job is to LISTEN not dominate the conversation. After the conference, write down what you heard and what it means for how you are going to support the student in the future.

If would love to hear your thoughts on helping students accept responsibility for learning.