Me Learning: A Student-Centered Learning Model

meLearningcropped-fiIntroducing MeLearning: A Student-Centered Learning Model

by Terry Heick

A couple of years ago, I developed a kind of self-directed learning model.

At the time, I thought of it as a way to support students in understanding how to learn. It was designed to let students identify–on their own–what to learn as the critical core for understanding how to learn, while also requiring them to design when and with and through what means–learning strategies, technology, alone or together, project-based learning vs academic study, etc.

Teaching students to think and learn isn’t simple–nor is it a matter of process. This is a concept that can get complicated in a hurry as we run into issues of semantics and form–self-regulated learning vs self-directed learning vs heutagogy, and so on.

Beginning with a single student and extending outwards as a matter of interdependence, legacy, and ultimately citizenship is an ambitious and “costly” undertaking. In most public schools, choosing what to learn and why isn’t a big priority. The what is decided by Common Core, the when by curriculum maps and pacing guides–and all of it by anyone but the student. Which kind of makes sense–how can the student choose what to learn when they have no idea what’s out there?

But that they don’t is also a symptom of the problem. Learning first is, always, a matter of self. Who am I? What do I know? What is required of me by those I love? What do I need, want, and dream of? How do I relate to the world around me? Through what means, ways, and possibilities?

Without that as a context, the “learning” is merely academic training.


The Industry Of Learning

The current education form–aptly labeled as industrial–is very good at certain things: alignment, distribution, measurement, data collection, and reporting. These are necessities when trying to get thousands of schools and tens of thousands of teachers and tens of millions of students “on the same page.”

But it is problematic for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it decenters students. Students must adjust to it, rather than the reverse. When 70,000 fans are entering a stadium, there is a required sacrifice of personalization. Scale, pace, and efficiency are the goals, and set the tone for everything. When you enter someone’s home–or a classroom–it can’t be that way.

So then, something like “Me Learning” might be useful in seeing what a student-centered learning experience might look like.

The Goal

The goal of the model is a student-centered learning experience that yields self-knowledge.

The System & The Parts

As a system, it is designed to begin and end with the student and their identifying their own knowledge demands.

There are two sides to the model–Wisdom and Experience.

The key question of the Wisdom side is, “What’s worth understanding?”, and the key question of the Experience side is “What’s worth doing as a result?”

WISDOM: Choosing what’s worth understanding, and is broken down into two parts–Content and Design.


This is a knowledge category–where I choose something to study or learn based on one of the five following ideas.

1. Citizenship: I want or need to learn something based on some matter of family, citizenship, community, or legacy I am a part of

2. Curiosity: I want to know more about something.

3. Priority & Need: There is, for whatever cause or reason, a more general sense of priority for me to know or be able to do something.

4. Creativity & Expression: As a matter of pure creativity and self-expression, I want to learn about something.

5. Academic Need: As a matter of academic performance–a test, certification, or related external benchmark that relates to something I want.


How should I design my work? This is a category that helps better understand the nature of my work–a series of checks for my ideas.

1. Quality Criteria: What should the quality criteria of my work be? What standards? How will I know if it’s “good enough”?

2. Scale: What is the best scale for my work? What scale will allow me to do my best work with the resources and knowledge I have?

3. Duration: How long should my work “take”?

4. Depth: How deep should I go? How complex should I get?

5. Purpose & Function: What goal makes sense for me? What should my work “do”?

EXPERIENCE: Choosing what’s worth doing, and is broken down into two parts–Connectivism and Learning Frameworks.


Who should I connect to, work with, and consider a primary audience for my work? Who can help me, and who can I help?

  1. Collaborators: Who has the ideas, resources, or affection to share in my work?
  2. Audience: Who wants or needs to know or receive the product of what I do?
  3. Mentors: Who has done something like this in the past and can support me somehow?
  4. Roles & Perspectives: What roles is it possible that I take? What do people do in the “real world” in these situations?
  5. Compelling Models: What’s already out there that I can study and learn from?

Learning Frameworks

What approaches to my learning might I take?Below are five possibilities, but many more exist.

  1. Model-Based Learning: Learning through the study and subsequent iteration, transfer, or mashing of existing models.
  2. Inquiry-Based Learning: Learning through a formal system of inquiry.
  3. Project-Based Learning: A process of learning facilitated by the design and execution of a project.
  4. Challenge-Based Learning: An approach to learning that is a mix of PBL and problem-solving.
  5. Maker Ed: Learning by a hands-on approach to making

The Student Agreement

This is where student clarify exactly what there plans are. This should be shared with a teacher, family, collaborators, mentors–anyone that can help the student narrow, broaden, deepen, simplify, or otherwise improve their plan and execution of learning.

Similar to our recent Principles of Genius Hour, the end result should be a student plan for their own learning. A few simple examples could be:

My plan is to:

To study _______ (topic) by ______ (learning framework) for _____ (number of hours or days)

To make a _______ (authentic product) for _______  (audience) for _______ (desired effect)

To change ________ (social challenge) by ________ (verb) with _________ (collaborators)

To design a _______ (product) using______ (technology) for use by _________ (audience)

Learning How To Learn: A Model; gif attribution Jon Durr Photography; Introducing Me Learning: A Student-Centered Learning Model


  • Who among us is willing to go first? How thoroughgoing and transparent am I willing to be in examining my own learning objectives to consider applying this model? I think it would be an awfully eye-opening experience. How reflective am I currently in my approach to learning a new skill or adding a different approach to my facilitation repertoire?
    My point is that before I can engage my students or even my own child in this type of deliberately immersive experience, I need to own up to my own insecurities, fears, perceived limitations. Then, in creating an offer for a student or students, I can allow myself to join their learning in a much more honest and real way. When I can admit to myself and my kids, “I don’t think I’ve ever tried learning this way” and together we can decide to give it a go – well, I can imagine something very powerful taking place. In this model, we are all “the student” and truly, that does have potential to change everything.
    So maybe I’m ready to sign myself up. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for the nudge,

  • I’m a homeschooling mom and I love the idea of this kind of learning. I admit – it’s SO scary to move away from what is traditional or “expected” when it comes to learning and teaching. There some great ideas here. I’m going to keep thinking on this and see how I can continue to try and apply it to our learning times here at home! Thanks for the post!

  • Abandoning leadership in search of acceptance

    Search the net on comments from business owners / employers about the characteristics of millennial’s poor work habits and general unpreparedness, and you will find the fruit of this Me-Centered learning paradigm. When teachers turn the student into a self directed instructor, we are missing three things.

    1) We are abandoning our responsibility as leaders, and at the same time not teaching the importance of authority, respect and responsibility to the next generation. This paradigm jettisons the teacher’s required responsibilities. Is it any wonder why our classrooms are becoming behavioral nightmares.?

    2) We’re not teaching any more, because students don’t know what they don’t know. Who would purchase services from a doctor who “taught himself, and designed his own learning framework.” At some point we have forgotten that while learning isn’t completely defined by the facts and stuff that students know, learning includes mastering mandatory facts and stuff. Otherwise, our students get older, but remain fuctionally ignorant. How many studies over the past 20 years have cited that our students are graduating without knowing how to read, do life-skill level math and science, etc. This is our problem, not the administrator’s, politicians’ or accountants’.

    3) Most importantly, we’re kidding ourselves. When a car company changes their design scheme, they can tell quickly whether or not the change is an improvement. Change the amount of sugar in a recipe from 2 tablespoons to 2 cups, and you will quickly know if it was a good idea or not. However, when we change our teaching paradigm from learning and mastering knowledge to “feeling good about yourself while you experience new things and gain undefinable wisdom within a self-defined learning framework”, we don’t find out if our innovations have any merit for 4-6 years, while a student moves through a few grades, and begins to use the skills and knowledge we’ve given, or not given them.

    Some of the work of learning is fun. Some of the work of learning is interesting. Some is monotonous and some is hard. When we abandon the latter for the former, we risk continuing to educate idiots.

    • I don’t think your argument has weight. You say search the internet for companies who will tell us the ‘Me learning’ paradigm is the fruit of all problems; I find this to be the opposite. From reading research I have found companies say pupils are unable to take creative direction or think creative thoughts and I fear this is from the spoon-fed nature that education has become. Education adheres to top down pressures, which over the course of many years has resulted in teachers taking the learning and structuring it around exam board specifications, not real life models or concepts. By structuring the learning of pupils around specifications of exam boards, this has taken away true learning for pupils in education.

      I believe behaviour issues rise, as learning isn’t relevant and pupils more than ever refuse to be bored in the classroom. We live in a technological age and some, not all learning isn’t led or aided by technology, which pupils are now exposed to on a daily basis. This lack of compatibility with pupils everyday lives is fracturing their learning experience, as it is not connecting with their real life experiences; this I believe leads to lots of behaviour issues. Research says and so does experience that pupils like learning that has context, context that they could apply to the real world; how much of that really goes on in classrooms.

      I very much doubt the article was asking teachers to abandon responsibility, but making the pupils a central part in their learning. If you are not central to your learning you are simply taking information as it is presented by someone, this isn’t a way to get deep learning that will be permanent. How the ‘Me Learning’ model is promoting a lack of respect or authority is something I fail to see. By making the learning more student-centered you are trying to reach for a state of flow, where the pupils take ownership of their learning and our engrossed in their work. This level of engagement rarely meets with behavioural issues or lack of respect. Lack of respect is usually a learnt behaviour, it can come from their social or cultural background.

      The statement you made is open to so many greys areas. I find that the reason pupils aren’t prepared for the world of work is because learning isn’t student centred. If learning was student centred doesn’t it appear they would be, that seems like an easy conclusion to me. From experience teachers have been hounded to reach targets for league tables that are unrealistic, asking of their pupils grades, which many are unable to achieve. This hounding of teachers to reach unrealistic targets has diverted away from student-centred learning and instead focused on exam-centered learning, where students become secondary to the learning experience. The exam-centred learning approach has led to a spoon-fed generation of pupils, unable to enter the work place cognitively equipped. If we were more student-centred and we facilitated learning and did not plan outcomes so clearly, would we achieve a more decisive, reflective, ready for work type of pupil; I believe we would.

      Student-centered learning is not about devaluing the teacher and promoting bad behaviour. Me Learning is an approach to learning that encourages the teacher to change teaching techniques and strategies to ensure progression within the pupil, where pupils are central to their own learning experiences.

  • Sound’s interesting. Good Experiment for the better growth of
    students and creating interest in studies. As now the current generation
    is tech savvy they need everything quick and convenient to access and
    work on it.

    I have also come across with one app which has been
    developed in India for Education purpose, this shows that how education
    is rapidly adopting technology. This app is known as Flinnt which share
    resources to the learners through which an institute shares with the
    students. This app is well-structured and easy to share learning
    resources with the learners.

    This platform is purely based on
    education, where only an Teacher can post and the Learners and parents
    can receive the resources what ever has been shared according to the
    subject and courses wise. Wherein for institution have to pay for it and
    its free for there educators and learners.

    You visit it on and you also can download it from Play-store or App-store.

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