Interest-based learning is an educational approach that allows students to explore their personal interests as a way for them to learn and gain skills. This article answers some of the questions you may have about how to make this work for your students!
Like most middle school girls, Madeline and Megan have various interests. They love singing, dressing up and especially, makeup! Many would consider their interest in makeup as a hobby on the side or typical coming-of-age behaviour, but educators at William Monroe Middle School viewed it differently. Recognising the learning potential that could exist, the school provided the girls with the space and time to explore their passion for it. This resulted in higher engagement and meaningful learning, as Madeline shares:
| “I like makeup, I like playing around with it, so getting to have that interest in class was really fun because I got to explore what I really like and what could be a future profession,”
This is one example of how Interest-based Learning (IBL) can be implemented in a class. For those who are new to IBL, Interest-based learning is an instructional approach that allows students to explore their personal interests as a means of acquiring knowledge and skills. Learning more about what you’re already interested in sounds interesting, don’t you think?
This pedagogy has been around for years but perhaps has been identified by different names such as Montessori and Project-Based Learning. It has been practised by international schools, early childhood centres, and even at home. But no matter what name it goes by or how it’s done, Interest-based learning pedagogy is all about providing students with the opportunity to explore their interests as a means to lead their learning experiences.
Here’s a quick guide to help answer some questions you may have about it:
Is there a problem they want to solve? A cool hobby? Or maybe a celebrity they admire? Ultimately, the goal is for them to explore a topic of their choice, learn more about the area they're interested in, and have agency over their learning experience. The possibilities are endless.
Engage in what your students are passionate about and learn alongside them! The key is to ensure that they understand what they're doing, and act as a facilitator during this process. When all of the research and execution is done, it's time for show and tell. It can be in the form of a vlog, a short video, a written journal, or even a stage play. Let their imagination take the lead.
Coming back to Megan and Madeline’s school as an example, the school allocated a specific time and space for students to explore their interests. Similarly, you can try taking an hour out of the school day to let your students explore their interests - some teachers call that the implementation of "Genius Hour."
Another suggestion is that you can also ask parents to get on board with implementing IBL outside of the classroom. Maybe they can explore their interests at home in their day-to-day activities or during their playtime? For instance, allowing students to play video games within a period of time could spark their interest in game-design, which could then be translated into understanding how game-design works, coding, graphics, and so much more!
Hopefully, this guide inspires you to adopt Interest-based learning wherever you are. No matter how you apply it, Interest-based learning enables learners to have freedom to explore their passions as a means to drive their learning. Just like Megan and Madeline's experience, this can lead to truly inspiring outcomes.
Now that we know students do better when they're motivated by their interests, why not see this as a stepping stone for students to start dreaming about the future they want? Maybe your students’ dream is to become a medical scientist? A space explorer? Or an AI engineer?