October 1, 2017

Personalized Learning Plans are all the rage connected to students’ academic goals. They are an easy way for students to engage in goal setting that leads to self-directed learning. Computer controlled plans are nice start, but miss the real value of personalized learning plans for enabling self-directed learning!

Teachers at Forrest Hills Academy, a last chance alternative high school in Atlanta, are taking a different path by tying SDL to helping their students, the hardest to reach in the Atlanta, Georgia system, to become self-directed learners in more ways than academics.  

When middle or high school students are adjudicated to Forrest Hills, an entry team asks each to make exit goals in three areas: pro-social behaviors, academic skills, and learning to learn skills. The student prepares a personalized learning plan (PLP). The PLP will be the center of the student’s exit portfolio which determines readiness to return to the home school.

In each class, the student will complete a PLP...

April 26, 2017

“Oh, my students are all self-directed learners!” Mr. Simpson beamed.  “They all choose to do exactly what I say.”

I smile. I have heard this point time and again from my colleague. I don’t buy it. I have seen too many examples of profound self-directed learning from pre-kindergarten up to graduate school and beyond to accept his opinion.  


So what do I think it takes to earn the self-directed learner label in today’s classroom?  That requires a change in the classroom culture and a switch from teachers like Mr. S who rely on fear and punishment so that students depend on them as sole sources of wisdom-- to teachers who build a climate of mutual trust and respect in which students are empowered to choose their learning paths—who learn how to determine what, when, where and how they will learn.

1.  From A Culture of Rewards or Punishments. When the classroom is a place where “I talk, you listen,” “I give directions, you follow directions,” students make...

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