The role of students in the Learning Lab

Students are an integral part of Learning Lab VT.

They have to be.

When educators sign up to host Learning Lab visits, this necessarily involves and impacts their students. We all want Vermont’s students to have and use their voices, and we hope that open classrooms give students more audience for those voices. You well know how much you depend on feedback from your own students to gauge the effectiveness of personalized learning. Now imagine how much more you could learn from hearing from other students.

Melissa Williams Learning Lab VT
Melissa Williams, a Learning Lab VT host from Crossett Brook, visited Orleans Middle School and had a chance to hear from middle school students there.

Students as hosts

When you arrive at a Learning Lab VT host school, prepare to meet not just amazing educators, but capable, on-point students, ready to share. As part of their prep, Learning Lab VT hosts work with their students and students’ families, to ensure visitors are a welcome addition to the classroom, not an interruption.


students as tour guides


Possible other roles students may play include:

  • Feedback Providers & Problem Solvers: serve as a sounding board as teams work together to make sense of the inquiry question findings
  • Moderators:  help facilitate discussions with peers about how things are going / what could work better.
  • Archivists: Take pictures, shoot video, and document the story of the Learning Lab progress

Students as embedded journalists

Marley Evans teaches 7th & 8th grade humanities at Charlotte Central School, in Charlotte VT. As part of her inquiry with the Learning Lab, she wants visitors to be blunt. She wants them to watch her students at work.

And Marley wants her students to provide feedback to her about their learning. She intentionally designs more choice in her humanities classroom. Students are jazzed about getting a say in what they learn and how they spend their time each week. And Marley is keen on learning from them to adjust her practice.

Visitors to Marley’s classroom are welcome throughout the week (book a visit online, please, be kind) but Friday afternoon visitors can spend time with students working on their Personal Interest projects.

Students continuing the work of Learning Lab VT

At each site, students take part in Learning Lab VT even while you’re not there. We know! It seems impossible, yet here we are.

Heidi Ringer, a 6th grade teacher at Warren Elementary School, Warren VT convenes her Learning Lab Site-Based Team every Tuesday at lunch. The group provides on-going feedback about their project based learning in an effort to make it more “kid-led.” Schedule a visit to learn more about their progress in personalizing project-based learning.


Proctor Elementary School teachers Corey Smith and Courtney Elliot share these Site-Based Team Learning Lab Roles with their 3rd and 4th grade students.

Engage all stakeholders

We believe a central tenet of personalized learning is engaging all stakeholders in co-construction of the learning environment. Zmuda and Kallick in The Four Personalized Learning Attributes speak to this:

Students have grown accustomed to being told what to do; what to read, what to think, etc. In personalized learning, every student is seen as a respected and valued participant. Empowerment comes from an environment in which students recognize the power of their own ideas and recognize the shift that can happen by being exposed to others’ ideas.

So grab a group of colleagues, and perhaps some of your own students, and hit the road.  Powerful learning is happening all over Vermont. Join a Learning Lab VT team and explore the bright spots and belly flops of personalized learning in action.

How else could you envision students sharing personalized learning in action?

Susan Hennessey

Susan Hennessey is a reformed librarian and current professional development coordinator with a particular interest in digital credentials and scavenger hunts. She's addicted to flavored almonds, salty, crunchy snacks, and Google Hangouts.

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