by Terry Heick
ed note: This post has been updated and republished from a previous post
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 whenby 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 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?
- Collaborators: Who has the ideas, resources, or affection to share in my work?
- Audience: Who wants or needs to know or receive the product of what I do?
- Mentors: Who has done something like this in the past and can support me somehow?
- Roles & Perspectives: What roles is it possible that I take? What do people do in the “real world” in these situations?
- Compelling Models: What’s already out there that I can study and learn from?
What approaches to my learning might I take?Below are five possibilities, but many more exist.
- Model-Based Learning: Learning through the study and subsequent iteration, transfer, or mashing of existing models.
- Inquiry-Based Learning: Learning through a formal system of inquiry.
- Project-Based Learning: A process of learning facilitated by the design and execution of a project.
- Challenge-Based Learning: An approach to learning that is a mix of PBL and problem-solving.
- 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)