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Deeper Learning Blog Series: How to Integrate Deeper Learning into Your Classroom (2 of 6)

Dr. Tim Hudson shares great insight on Deeper Learning and the six competencies that create great learners, both inside and outside of the classroom, in his recent white paper, Algebra Readiness through Deeper Learning in Middle School: How Teachers Can Empower Students to Achieve with Confidence. My first installment of the Deeper Learning blog series provided real-life examples of implementing the first competency. This week, we move on to the second competency: Self-Directed Learning. I will share my personal experience and ideas on how to incorporate this Deeper Learning strategy into your classroom.

Competency 2: Self-Directed Learning

strategy2Self-directed learning is when students set goals, monitor progress, and reflect on their own strengths and areas of improvement. As Dr. Hudson mentions in this white paper, utilizing self-directed learning helps students, "… see setbacks as opportunities for feedback and growth. Students who learn through self-direction are more adaptive than their peers." As I discovered with my students, putting each individual in the driver' s seat of their own success by empowering them to write their own goals, monitor their progress, and reflect on what they've achieved is critical to their Deeper Learning experience.

Strategy: Put Each Student in the Driver's Seat

When students write their own goals, they exercise autonomy and feel as though the goals are important. The challenge is teaching them to write realistic, specific, and attainable goals. During my time in the classroom I saw students write goals such as, "I will get an A in math" and "I want to improve my Number Sense grade." Most of the time, however, these students couldn't validate what getting an A in math meant or how they were going to reach that goal.

Setting SMART Goals

My first step in clarifying student-driven goals was modeling a specific form of goal writing called SMART goals (S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely). Each quarter, my students assessed, monitored, and reported on the SMART goals they wrote and, depending on their progress, either continued to pursue these goals or wrote new ones. I first encouraged them to review, revise, and evaluate their goals with classmates, and then share their specific goals with both me and their parents. This significantly and collectively changed the mindset by focusing classroom conversations and parent/teacher conferences on the specific set of personalized, self-directed goals that each student had committed to working on. It was well worth the precious class time and made a huge impact!

Learning to Self-Monitor

Providing my students with the tools to correctly monitor their outlined goals was an important part of their self-directed and Deeper Learning experience. Online grading websites have made it easy to stay up-to-date on grades, but are students really checking?

Self-monitoring academic progress goes deeper than simply knowing scores on quizzes and assignments. Students must be responsible for linking back to their established goals and use evidence from their assignments, assessments, and class work to form valuable insights. To help bookmark their successes, my students used a math journal to make graphs about their individualized progress based on the class's overall learning targets and their own personalized goals.

Taking Time to Reflect

Finally, I believe students' self-reflection, which is greatly undervalued, is the most impactful piece of the Deeper Learning process. I provided time for this activity by shutting down the classroom so that my students could produce a plan of action by thinking about their goals or life skills, and then asking the following question: What did you learn from your reflection and how do you want to utilize it or change it in your daily life?

As Dr. Hudson's white paper describes, Self-Directed Learning is about guiding students to become lifelong learners. Try putting your students in the driver's seat by helping them set their own goals, monitor progress, and reflect. Utilizing this strategy in your classroom can provide students with a deeper understanding about themselves and create a stronger desire to achieve on a deeper level.

Read rest of the series

Kelly Urlacher

Curriculum Designer at DreamBox Learning
Kelly Urlacher began her career as a sixth grade teacher in Sammamish, WA in 2002. Shortly after, she received her Master’s in Education with an emphasis in Technology and Curriculum Development. After years of dedicating herself to students and education within the classroom, she earned her National Board Certification in 2009. Kelly currently works as a Curriculum Designer for DreamBox Learning and continues tutoring high school students in mathematics.