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.
“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.
THE SELF-DIRECTED LEARNER LABEL
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...