Teaching Students What They Want to Learn

I was the crochet teacher at a gorgeous yarn studio in Portland, OR called Knit/Purl, and I had a unique teaching situation: I offered student-driven classes  where I allowed students to pick any project they want. My students were often inspired to learn crochet because of a specific project.  When I encouraged students to start with the project that inspired them, they were more invested in the learning process.

There are three options for teaching a student-driven class. You can start by teaching basic stitches that are used in the student’s project, and then move onto the project after some practice with the stitches.  Another option is to dive right into the project, learning stitches while completing the project. Even with a difficult first project, it is still possible to work this way. A third option is to pick a particular type of project (hat, scarf, mittens) and have the students choose whether they want to work from a pattern you selected or bring in a pattern of their own. Many of the skills required for the patterns would overlap, and it would account for the different tastes of the students.

Another benefit to teaching student-driven classes is the effective use of time. Every class has pauses when the students have learned a concept and are practicing it. In a student-driven class, this time is filled. You can start a student moving forward on their project and can then move onto the next student. This also eliminates the feeling of being watched that a student may have in a more private class.

Teaching smaller classes can be compared to the “open classroom” style that was popular in elementary schools in the 70s. With a few students in one semi-private class, all working on their own projects, students will learn not just the skills involved in their own projects, but they will pick up skills from the other students. This can also inspire students to take future classes, in order to work on the skills that they saw their classmates learning.