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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk: At-promise students thrive with interest-based learning

As the principal of Big Picture Ukiah @ South Valley High, I always strive to improve the quality of education for our At-promise students. One of the most crucial factors in achieving this is creating an environment that stimulates engagement and curiosity among students. One way to accomplish this is through interest-based learning, which is a crucial tool for engaging modern-day students. (At-promise describes students who have the potential to achieve at a higher rate than they are currently achieving.)

Interest-based learning is an approach to teaching that involves designing a curriculum and lessons based on a student’s interests. Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, this method emphasizes individualizing the learning experience for each student. This approach allows students to take control of their learning and become active participants in the process. When students are engaged in what they are learning, they are more likely to learn and remember information.

Here are a few reasons why interest-based learning is crucial for engaging modern-day students, especially At-promise students:

Interest-based learning motivates students. When students are interested in a subject, they are more motivated to learn about it. This motivation can be internal, such as a personal investment in the topic, or external, such as the promise of a reward for achieving a particular goal. Motivation is essential in engaging students in their learning. For At-promise students, who may face additional obstacles in their education, interest-based learning can provide a way to feel valued, supported, and motivated to succeed.

Interest-based learning helps students discover their passions. Students are more likely to discover their passions when they are free to pursue their interests. This is especially important for At-promise students, who may have limited exposure to various experiences or career options. When students have a passion for a particular subject or topic, they are more likely to pursue it further, possibly even as a future career. Interest-based learning can help students to discover these passions and develop the necessary skills to pursue them, irrespective of their background.

Interest-based learning fosters creativity and critical thinking. Interest-based learning goes beyond just absorbing information; it also involves developing critical thinking skills and creativity. For At-promise students, who may face additional challenges in their education, interest-based learning can provide a more engaging and accessible way to develop these skills. When students are encouraged to explore their interests, they are more likely to develop these skills. They can problem-solve, think innovatively, and develop new ideas. These skills are essential in today's ever-changing world, where creativity and innovation are highly valued.

Interest-based learning creates a sense of ownership. When students have a say in what they learn, they feel a sense of ownership over their education. For At-promise students, who may lack autonomy or control in other aspects of their lives, interest-based learning offers an opportunity to take control of their learning and feel a sense of agency. This can be incredibly empowering, motivating students to push their learning to the next level. When students perceive that they have control over their learning, they are more likely to engage, take responsibility for their success, and become more responsible in their education.

Interest-based learning fosters a love of learning. Interest-based learning can facilitate a positive relationship with learning for At-promise students, who may face additional obstacles in their education. When students are actively engaged in their education, they are more likely to appreciate the value of learning. They will be more inclined to pursue knowledge for its own sake and continue learning long after they leave school. This love of learning is essential in today's world, where knowledge constantly evolves and lifelong learning is more crucial than ever.

At Big Picture Ukiah @ South Valley High, we have seen firsthand the benefits of interest-based learning for our At-promise students. Almost every student has the opportunity to express their interests, although it can take some time for them to realize and communicate with our teachers. Hundreds of students have launched headlong into their areas of interest with incredible success.

For example, one student found himself interning at a specialized auto repair shop outside of town, which he loved. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to make the commute twice a week and had to quit. This was a hard truth, but it was met with understanding and grace. However, he didn't give up on his passion for cars. Instead, he built his own vehicle from scratch and fixed many other people’s cars. We are excited to find him interning at Ukiah Unified’s Bus Barn this year, where he is now helping our amazing district staff with their important work maintaining and fixing our fleet of vehicles.

This student's story is just one example of how interest-based learning can inspire our students to pursue their passions and develop the skills they need to succeed. At Big Picture Ukiah @ South Valley High, we are committed to providing our At-promise students with the support and resources they need to thrive. Interest-based learning is a crucial tool in achieving this goal, and we are proud to see our students achieving incredible success as a result.