Friday, November 28, 2014

Self-directed learning


We've discussed self-directed learning in our school for some time.  Many of my colleagues have a variety of interpretations of what this means for their class. Students should have a voice in what they learn and how they demonstrate they have learned it. Unfortunately, this is rare. Students rarely have a choice in a traditionally structured secondary school.

A recent TEDx video got me thinking more about student passion, self-direction and student voice.

Next, I visited a website that had a great deal to say on the topic. Here's the website containing some information worth reading through: Student Voice by Jackie Gerstein, Ph.D.

Science education, where curiosity should be a primary objective, seems to set an opposite objective. Facts predominate the K-12 instructional and curricular landscape.  How many facts are really necessary post secondary school?  Which facts will each student need?  Many of the facts learned may be irrelevant (some may turn out to be wrong)!  Almost all students can access the facts, as well as some phenomenal explanations regarding it, through reliable sources on devices in students' possession.  With a web-enabled device, students can move at their own pace and in their own preferred style - video, verbal, print, visual.  Here's a great, free Biology text. 

I have relied a great deal this year on making Science Research Projects a significant portion of my instruction.  The students worked on brainstorming, collecting and evaluating reliable resources, and now, writing a Research Proposal on a topic of interest to them.  Students received personalized feedback and guidance.  They will be re-writing their proposals several times, relying on Peer Editing Feedback for a variety of aspects to the proposal.

I have also relied on using Google Forms as a student survey tool (here's an example) and as a pilot assignment that allows student voting on student work (such as pictures using a microscope).  It has been especially helpful to get individual as well as class-wide patterns from student learning (here are analytics for survey).  

Last year, I implemented a Socratic Seminar using the final chapter of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.  Socratic seminars in Science reinforce evidence-based argumentation.  Using Darwin's text, rather than summaries written in textbooks, allowed students to appreciate the words put to paper by the author and originator of what has been dubbed the single greatest idea ever proposed.  The following link provided me with some important guidance on carrying this out successfully.  I plan on using this format to address other concepts.

I hope that this post will motivate others to experiment within their class.  Know that you are not alone.


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