Good morning Neosho! I hope everyone is enjoying the start of the fall season and the cooler temperatures that come with it.
As we come up on the end of the 1st quarter of the year the focus is on student achievement and the accomplishments students have made to this point in the school year. As I thought about what to share this week the topic of self-directed learners just seemed to fit. This thought process, while not new to some, is extremely new to most.
Research has stated that parents and schools must take deliberate actions to teach students to become responsible for their own learning. The capacity for self-direction is the foundation for learning. Students who develop a sense of responsibility for their own learning are better prepared to master rigorous academic content, think critically and analytically, communicate effectively, and collaborate productively.
Traditional expectations of teaching and learning must be challenged and changed. Expectations of learners must change. Rituals that have been a part of learning for so long must be challenged as to their merit in the learning process and success of students. Students must learn to manage projects and assignments, seek feedback, revise learning, and reflect on what they have learned. Passive learning must give way to attitudes and behaviors required for self-directed learning. School must become a place where learning just doesn't happen...but the responsibility for learning is expected from everyone.
The school culture must be one that promotes self-direction. The district, its schools, staff and students must walk the walk. Students must understand that they are at school to be successful. Success must be the only option and achieving success is a partnership between the student and the school.
Staff must put into place actions that help students learn to direct their learning. Students must be provided with extensive feedback and opportunity to revise their work, along with time to reflect on what they've accomplished and how they might use it to improve on the current assignment or project as well as those they will have in the future. For this to happen the teachers can no longer be the "sage on the stage" but have to back away so that students can take responsibility for their learning.
Teachers must make the standards of quality work transparent by showing students examples of work such as essays, projects, etc. produced in class accompanied by the rubrics used to assess student work. Hopefully this approach to learning will teach students that learning requires long-term effort where they must persevere until they have done high-quality work and can reflect on their growth as well as their challenges.
The purpose of school is learning and the understanding must be that the process of school is about revision.
Page 2 of 2 - Helping students become responsible for their own learning is an incredibly challenging task. It will require transforming their previous passive "sit-and-get” learning style into a "go-and-get style.”
As we move ahead in education I hope our focus will be on developing our students into self-directed learners who realize the importance of education and the part they play. Have a GREAT week!
Dan Decker is superintendent of the Neosho R-5 Board of Education.