My goal for my students and my own children is to help them grow into self-directed and self-motivated, life-long learners. I often ask myself the question, "Would my students or my children know what to do if I or a teacher wasn't there to show them?" I want the answer to that question to be a resounding "YES!"
In order to achieve that goal, I think we need to deliberately design our curriculum and our "instruction" in ways that provide students with opportunities to learn and practice these skills. That not only requires a shift in thinking for our students, but also for us as educators.
I ran across an article by Gerry Sexton that really made me think about the qualities of self-directed learners and what I can do as an educator and coach to help students and teachers address these qualities. He identifies six characteristics, or "invisible assets" that define people who successfully take responsibility for their own learning:
1. Self-directed learners work with an underlying sense of purpose.
What can we do to grow students into self-directed learners?
We can lead students to discover within themselves these assets by asking them questions related to each of Sexton's characteristics prior to learning:
We can give voice and choice in learning.
Do all students have to always student the same topic in the same way and present information in the same way? This is the easiest way to differentiate for students' interests and skills. Allow students to bring ideas to the classroom instead of being directed from above.
We can change the way we instruct to give students authentic reading and writing opportunities...writing blogs for real audiences, finding and reading articles related to current trends.
Allow students to use technologies they will use in "real-life." Social media, web 2.0 tools, and smart phones are used outside of our school buildings every day. Why not allow students to see that they are great tools for learning?
These are just a few ideas of many. Every step we take to provide opportunities for our kids to become self-directed, aka "life-long learners" is a step in the right direction, no matter how big or how small.
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