What Are The Ingredients For Self-Directed Learning?

New Marlborough, Mass

What are the ingredients for self-directed learning?


“Grade-level” reading?

Peer-to-peer collaboration?

Project-Based Learning?

A Montessori approach?

What if it was simpler? What if it was just a matter of getting out of the students way?

I’ve always found this a fascinating concept. As a classroom teacher, one (of many) important epiphanies for me was the concept of simply getting out the students way. To shut up and support rather than explain and teach. In a standards-based public school environment of aligning, sequencing, and heavily scripting, I always felt “in the way” of not just “the brightest” students, but all of them.

We assume what appears to be apathy is for learning, but what if it’s for the process of learning?

What happens when students are left alone? Certainly they’d text, read comic books, and thumb their nose at authority, yes?

The Independent Project

Maybe not.

“The students in the Independent Project are remarkable but not because they are exceptionally motivated or unusually talented. They are remarkable because they demonstrate the kinds of learning and personal growth that are possible when teenagers feel ownership of their high school experience, when they learn things that matter to them and when they learn together. In such a setting, school capitalizes on rather than thwarts the intensity and engagement that teenagers usually reserve for sports, protest or friendship.

Schools everywhere could initiate an Independent Project. All it takes are serious, committed students and a supportive faculty. These projects might not be exactly alike: students might apportion their time differently, or add another discipline to the mix. But if the Independent Project students are any indication, participants will end up more accomplished, more engaged and more knowledgeable than they would have been taking regular courses.

We have tried making the school day longer and blanketing students with standardized tests. But perhaps children don’t need another reform imposed on them. Instead, they need to be the authors of their own education.”

YouTube video

The full article can be read here.