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Into The Virtual Classroom: Creating Student Buy-In

October 1, 2021
Author: Debra Kidder
What Is Student Buy-In?

Have you ever wanted to make your classroom feel more like a community? Do you ever wish your students simply wanted to be in your classroom instead of needing to be there?

How Do Teachers Create Opportunities for Student Buy-In?

Buy-in means students actively contribute to classroom guidelines, culture, and expectations. Students are more likely to remain engaged in an activity they helped build. Instead of a teacher dictating the rules and assigning the graded assessments, students with buy-in contribute to the guidelines that help run the class efficiently.

When students have buy-in, they have a choice. Basically, buy-in guarantees the students are seen and heard.

What Does a Virtual Learning Classroom With Student Buy-In Look Like?

That answer will vary from grade level and content area, but a few constants will remain. When students feel buy-in and shared ownership of the classroom space, students will be noisy but respectful, collaborative but focused, imaginative but content masters.

What Does Buy-In Look Like In Elementary School?

When schools were forced into the digital space in Spring 2020, many teachers clung to their training like a flotation device. Content became the primary driver. Engagement and buy-in took a backseat while teachers became acclimated to remote teaching. As virtual teaching lingered into the fall, engagement needed to return to keep students involved in learning. How do elementary teachers create buy-in with young students?
The answer is to teach in a student-centered style.

Even the youngest elementary students can make small choices around learning activities. When creating math word problems, students can choose his/her favorite animal, food, or game to take the place of a number. Small choices can make a big difference; they give students a sense of control and buy-in in the classroom.

For example, if elementary teachers are running a morning meeting, students can take turns choosing from focus activities like a show and tell, group drawing time, weatherman predictor, or dream share time.

When studying a unit on mammals, students can choose their favorite animal to study. Outer space, their favorite planet or body. Little choices will make a big difference. Students will feel ownership, and therefore buy-in, in your virtual classroom.

Elementary students have more tech skills now than ever before. However, plan to spend a considerable amount of time working on teaching little hands how to navigate the digital products you want them to master before beginning work on a virtual assignment.

What Does Buy-In Look Like In Middle School?

Middle schoolers have their own special energy. They are acutely aware of what their peers think of them, and getting their buy-in is trickier. Teachers need a pinch of pop culture knowledge and a way to connect their content area to that knowledge. If you can find a way to let each student shine, while connecting that shine to their classwork, you achieve buy-in.

What talent does each of your students have? Where do they excel? Learn this about your middle school students and create opportunities for them to display their talents and achievements.

Middle schoolers have good tech skills and are generally well informed about the digital products available to them. They may need some support choosing the best type of digital tool for the project, assignment, or assessment.

What Does Buy-In Look Like In High School?


High school students are young adults. Their personalities are more solidified, their learning styles have emerged, and they know how they learn best. Teachers need to respect the learning differences in their classrooms and give students the most room to demonstrate content mastery.

What does that look like? As the teacher, you determine what reaching mastery of an idea or unit looks like. Ideally, communicate these requirements through a rubric or more generally through your course outline or syllabus. Then, allow students to decide how to show they understand–a paper, a project, a poem, a slideshow, etc. HIgh school students have well-developed tech skills and normally need little to no coaching on how to maximize the great digital tools available to them.

How Does The Buy-In Experience Help Students In The Years Beyond K-12 School?

As students learn how to be productive learners in the online setting, they are also cultivating and curating 21st-century media skills. The pandemic not only changed the education system, but it also changed the ways companies conduct business. Digital literacy skills attained by students now will be marketable leadership expertise in future decades. Knowing how buy-in creates a student-centered, cooperative atmosphere will help students build a productive working environment moving forward.

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