In my early years of teaching, occasionally I divided units up and assigned each mini-unit to a group of students who would later be required to teach the class. My directions were pretty simple: Your job is to present your material to your classmates in an engaging and exciting way and to create an assignment and an assessment to ensure they understand it. The student-led lessons usually took up the entire 45-minute class period.
Undoubtedly, some of the presentations were great, some were average, and some left much to be desired. But did the best student-taught lessons equal what I was capable of?
I surely hope not.
As a teacher, I—not the students—am the curriculum and pedagogical expert.
To teach, one must know.
We must be to translate our expertise and understanding of the subject matter into classroom practice so that it understood by our students. Terms like gradual release of responsibility, formative assessments, differentiation, and check for understanding are foreign to our students. As experts, we’re able to anticipate, diagnose and adjust our teaching to the fluid nature of our classrooms.
If teaching truly requires expertise—it does—we can’t relinquish that responsibility to our students. Surgeons, mechanics, CEO's, etc. never allow laypersons to take over, so why do teachers? It devalues our profession and cripples student learning.
This is not to say that students shouldn’t make presentations, nor am I saying that students shouldn’t work collaboratively to teach other. Both have tremendous value. I’m simply saying that delegating the responsibility to students to teach an portion of a unit should never occur.
When we delegate the responsibility of teaching to students, we diminish our value as educators and student learning suffers.