Friday 4ALL: Building Self-Directedness in Students

Decisions Decisions

A few weeks ago we looked at ways to promote self-directedness within ourselves.  We shared thoughts about developing your own PLN (personal learning network) to promote your personal growth and development.  With the school year just around the corner, you may be thinking, “What might my classroom look like with self-directed students? What positive outcomes might we experience if students learned how to be more self monitoring, managing, and modifying?”

Imagine a classroom were students are self-directed with their learning, behavior, and thoughts?  As a teacher, how might you play  role in and promote self-directedness in the classroom?

Encouraging students to be a part of the process when creating classroom norms is one way teachers can promote self-directedness.  Allowing students to reflect on what they need to do to be a successful learner and member of their classroom community is another way to support students in the process of learning to be self-monitoring and modifying.  How might reflecting on experiences from the previous school year assist them with identifying the past way they learn?  What they need to be successful in a group?  What strategies do you envision using to assist students with creating and being respectful of group norms?

Another area for promoting self-directedness comes in the form of assessment.  Helping students create learning plans based on a pre-assessment of knowledge helps them be realistic about what they know and what direction they may want to focus their learning on.  When working on long term projects, allow students to be part of the creation of the scoring guide developing descriptors for what makes a good product/project.  Another idea is to present students with the standards or objectives for a project and ask them what the learning criteria should be.  You can also present students with a rubric that is partially filled out perhaps with the descriptors in place and have students work in groups to decide what an excellent project would look like vs a needs improvement project. Through self-assessment students learn to look at their work with a critical eye, they reflect, and make decisions about their learning all the while giving them the opportunity to learn the skills needed to be self-directed.  Self-assessment encourages students to take pride in their work.  For additional ideas on a variety of ways to assess with students check out the Intel Assessing Projects, Intel’s Library of Assessments, a tool for creating assessments of 21st century learning. An account is required but it is free and easy to set up. Once you have an account you will have  access to the application which includes pre-made assessments as well as a tool to create your own customized assessments to meet the needs of your unique students. Watch this video to see how it works.

Another resource you may want to consider is Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick’s Habits of Mind. Habits of Mind are 16 characteristics to help students be successful.  The Habits of Mind provide guidelines for working successfully and interacting with others.  Teaching students the Habits of Mind and then asking students to identify Habits they might draw upon or need to complete classroom projects successfully can help them become thoughtful learners.  Students also become reflective and self-directed as they use the 16 Habits to navigate problems and challenges in the classroom in an appropriate manner.

As the school year draws near, you might take some time to revisit the Hallmarks of an Effective eMINTS Classroom, a matrix that can outline the progression of changes in teaching practice often observed as teachers complete eMINTS Professional Development. The Hallmarks can be used to assess where a classroom is and can even be used to set goals for teachers, students and classroom community. An Effective eMINTS Classroom promotes students being self-directed and as your classroom transforms into a Constructivist Learning environment, it is imperative to encourage your students to self-modify, self-monitor, and self-direct.

Carmen Marty, Terri Brines, & Brooke Higgins are eMINTS Instructional Specialists and Cognitive Coaching/eMINTS Agency Trainers. For more information about Cognitive Coaching and related seminars visit the eMINTS National Center events page.

Bert Werk (Photographer). (2007). Vijfsprong/forked road/crossroad. [Web]. Retrieved from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bertwerk/2821951515/