As I've mentioned before, my 7-year-old daughter takes piano lessons. One of the biggest challenges has been getting her to play for herself, not for her parents. Often I'll ask her how she thought she played a song and I'll get a shrug in return. She plays, but she doesn't listen to herself play. That lack of listening, I fear, is a sign that she's just playing because we're making her.
Many of the teaching tips I've suggested in this column have been meant to encourage your students to take responsibility for their learning. For active-learning strategies to really work, I've argued, we need students to buy in completely to our courses. They need to want to learn for themselves — not for us or a grade. To accomplish that, we can invite students to take some control over the syllabus. We can turn course policies into collaborative projects, in which students have an equal say in determining important aspects of the course. We can encourage students to articulate their goals for the course, rather than just expect them to meet ours. And we can design our courses to make sure we haven't foreclosed any of those possibilities.