Last year, our school implemented a Panda Portfolio, a student interest survey to give us additional information about children's preferred ways of learning. We wanted to incorporate their passions into our instruction in a meaningful way. This year, we are completing the Portfolios electronically to give us easier access to larger data sets for grade level or schoolwide program enhancements. We learned that student self-reporting of preferences about subjects, light/noise levels, ways of presentation, etc. could help us be more mindful of student learning styles, but that tapping into passions to significantly impact instruction was a little more complex.
Reading this post gave me an "aha" about one of the potential challenges of designing instruction around student passions. The author's first suggestion addresses my primary concern when encouraging teachers to let student interests and ideas drive the direction of instruction - meeting standards. Her suggestion is ridiculously simple. She advocates sharing the standards with students up front. Many project-based learning resources guide teachers in selecting/creating projects to to address standards without directing teachers to make the standards explicit for students. Educators have to resist the false assumption that structure and direction exclude creativity and innovation. We must be reflective and intentional as we approach instructional design to create opportunities for student passions to flourish as standards are met.