Thinking Space - The Self-Directed Learning Handbook

The Self-Directed Learning Handbook: Challenging Adolescent Students to Excel by Maurice Gibbons
Interview of Maurice Gibbons

Notes and Quotes

  • "Nothing is so natural as learning and accomplishment"
  • I would add making to that list.
  • The degree may be biologically different for exploring and trying new things and taking risks. This cam also be nurtured to a degree or nurtured out of a kid.
  • "SDL is any increase in knowledge, skill, accomplishment, or personal development that an individual selects and brings about by his or her own efforts using any method in any circumstances at any time."
  • "Teacher-directed learning (TDL) by contrast is any increase in a student's knowledge or skill brought about by initiatives taken by a teacher, which includes a selection of the learning to be accomplished, presentations about it, assigned study and practice activities, and a test to measure mastery."
  • "The choice, of course, is not simply between teacher-controlled and student-controlled learning. There are many stages between"

  • "TDL is important because it is an efficient way to present new bodies of knowledge and practice."
  • "SDL is important because it enables students to customize their approach to learning tasks, combines the development of skill with the development of character, and prepares them for learning throughout their lives."

  • "In SDL, students gradually take over most of the teaching operations that are traditional in TDL until they are designing as well as executing their own learning activities."
  • The other Gradual Release of Responsibility
  • "Teaching SDL requires a full professional repertoire of instruction, including training, coaching, guiding, and counseling skills."
  • "... metacognition is the key to SDL. Students learn to think for themselves, make plans, and take action. They think about their thoughts in order to make good decisions and about their decisions to ensure successful action. They think about the process they will follow, solutions to problems that arise, and ways to improve their performance."

  • "... these benefits cannot be enjoyed by simply grouping students. The essentials of cooperative learning must be in place. Teachers have to teach students positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, individual accountability, cooperative skill, and group processing."
  • How much of cooperative learning is natural to most students and how much needs to be taught, practiced, and internalized?
  • As Lev Vygotsky said, "What students can do together today they can do alone tomorrow"
  • Is part of this due to students having conversations with their partners that we hope will become internal dialogue later?
  • "goals lose their potency in the absence of clear and informative feedback"
  • Feedback from themselves, peers, teachers, the tools ...
  • "SDL thrives best when the setting is expanded to include a broader range of people to learn from and places in which to learn."

  • "Challenge requires reaching for a new level of performance in a familiar field or launching an adventure into a new field of interest. It means setting the standard of achievement a step higher than one can readily achieve. Challenging oneself means taking the risk to go beyond the easy and familiar. For those willing, it means reaching regularly for performances that demand from them the very best they have to offer. The challenge is to go out far and in deep. It is the challenge of the journey heroes take"

  • "In SDL, choices and freedoms are matched by self-control and responsibilities."
  • "Such freedom of movement and the exercise of new responsibilities in a more open environment can be successful only under a new order in which students accept responsibility for self-control and self-management. Such responsibilities flourish best in an atmosphere that combines personal safety, mutual respect, and industry with an expectation of success."

  • "Many programs permit self-direction; too few teach students how to be self-directed."
  • Catch 22
  • "Increasing the learning options for students requires more teacher preparation, but it also creates time and opportunity; while students work independently, the teacher has the opportunity to provide many new forms of instruction and guidance that can significantly improve student performance."
  • The cost in time is up front, the payoff in time is clear if you stick with it.
  • "Students stand before an audience and present what they aspired to and what they achieved. Through exhibits, testimonials, and performances, they prove their accomplishments."
  • Is this preceded by ongoing presentations to their peer group in critique like sessions?
  • "An important part of learning to think independently is being able to stand back and see the larger picture."
  • Will most students do this on their own, or does the disposition to do this need to be scaffolded in through teacher directed procedures? (Journaling)
  • "Contemplation, or more simply, inner dialogue, is an essential skill."
  • Conferences and journal reflections get at this a bit. Requires a lot of modeling.
  • "By the time students write up contracts, their ideas have usually been reviewed and discussed in their advisory groups and support triads"
  • "Students submit their contracts and negotiate the final design of their activities with their teachers."
  • "may become the basis for renegotiation later,"
  • "IMPORTANCE: Why is this goal important to you? What is the picture in your mind of how you would most like to be different a year from now? What will you be like and be doing? What will you know and be good at? Where will you be and with whom? Where are you headed? Toward what wonderful vision of excellence?"

  • "Baseline Measure: A clear demonstration of how much you know and how well you can perform in this activity now-the base against which your progress will be measured."
  • Hasn't fit with Thinkering Studio projects yet. Maybe for core subjects.
  • "The statement is critical and should be precise, but it is also problematical. Goals are set with limited knowledge about them and what is involved in achieving them. The reality may be very different from what the student imagined in conceiving it. Goals may turn out to be too difficult to achieve, and circumstances may make pursuing them impossible. Or students may get bored or come to despise the goals they chose. Minimize these dangers by encouraging students to do an exploratory probe into the activity first"
  • Exploratory probe -catch 22 is similar to that of coming up with research questions when you don't have enough background knowledge
  • "pathway planning," which means planning the first few steps and then, from that experience, planning what the next few steps should be."
  • This definitely fits with Thinkering Studio and helps address the difficulty mentioned above.
  • "The pursuit of any goal that involves a risk of failure • Any move from the easy and familiar toward the difficult and new • Any provocation to engage, compete, or become involved in a worthwhile activity • Any attempt to achieve excellence

  • "The theory is that having described an ordinary performance, they will avoid it in favor of pursuing the excellence they have defined."

  • "Teachers are used to telling and directing, but in conferencing, the key skills are listening and asking. In the beginning, the main task is to help students to clarify the goals they intend to pursue and the plans they intend to follow. This means asking many questions and giving few pointed answers. The idea is to help them think and decide, not to think or decide for them."
  • Too true, and not always easy to live up to.
  • Problem solving - "It is tempting to use a short-cut and solve the problem for them, but rescue is disempowering"

  • add

  • add

  • The dreaded deadly plunge
  • The long, desperate wait
  • The search for someone to please
  • That empty, helpless feeling
  • The greasy slide to failure
More Traps
  • The curse of knowledge
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Losing focus
  • Failing to learn from failure
Ways To Learn (there are more listed in the book)

  • selfdirected1.jpg


  • To what degree can students develop self-efficacy if they don't choose challenges that are much of a challenge? Mundane to Epic. This requires the teacher, in the role of a counselor, to help the student find a passion or curiosity they can explore.
  • What is built into the system to help students find recognition for their effort and achievement?

Connections To Thinkering Studio

  • Start the year with Resource B, self assessment instrument?
  • Ways To Learn(there are more listed in the book)
    • Learn by being told/shown - online videos or DVDs
    • Learn by taking an online course
    • Learn by reading
    • Learn by doing, trial and error, experimentation

Related Resources: