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How to empower self-directed learning in the classroom

July 27, 2022


DreamBox Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ programs can help students effectively practice self-directed learning.

When teachers, students and learning guardians shifted to virtual learning, they faced a learning curve. For the first time, students of all ages were responsible for getting online, completing their assignments and managing their learning goals. This shift required teachers and students to rely on self-directed learning to navigate this new learning environment.  

In this blog, we’ll discuss the benefits and barriers to self-directed learning and explore how combining an intelligently adaptive learning tool into regular classroom instruction can provide the necessary structure to facilitate students’ practice of self-directed learning.

Want to learn more about the value of self-directed learning? Discover research-informed strategies to help students build the skills they need to compete in a global economy in our white paper, Putting each student in the driver’s seat: Fostering a culture of self-directed learning. 


Why are today’s classrooms relying more on self-directed learning strategies?

While self-directed learning strategies have been used in the classroom for decades, the global conversation around it has changed. Now more than ever, educators are turning to self-directed learning to increase limited bandwidth and support within classrooms while simultaneously accelerating learning for all students. 

Every student deserves a learning experience that is engaging, personalized and effective — and when paired with the right tools that target the right skill-building practice, self-directed learning is  an effective way to personalize and accelerate students’ learning. In this blog, we’ll explore some challenges students and educators may face as they shift to self-directed learning, and how the right tools can make this transition easier than it may seem. 


How can educators address the challenges of self-directed learning?

Self-directed learning isn’t intuitive to every student — it requires motivation, self-management and discipline. For some, self-directed learning tasks can appear to lack structure, which can be overwhelming for new learners or learners who simply get stuck. Some students may lack the focus to complete self-directed assignments, while some feel unmotivated to solve a problem without direct guidance. Fortunately, with the right tools, guidance and practice, students can begin a lifelong journey toward self-directed learning.  

Challenge #1: Relying on adults to manage learning.  
Many models of classroom learning set students up for sit-and-get instruction. This approach trains students to wait for an adult to provide direction before they can begin learning. Students have been taught that it’s the adult’s responsibility to enable learning for them, and often they feel they must follow a  predefined path to achieve mastery.  

Solution: Encourage students to own their learning journey. 
When students have the freedom to learn their way, they understand concepts better, increase confidence and are motivated to learn more. DreamBox Math and Reading programs empower students to take ownership of their learning. They can get started with personalized instruction in just minutes and independently work through the content with as much or as little guidance as they need. Each program sets up a range of appropriate parameters for learning and then encourages students to explore the content that interests them without limitations on how they experience learning. 

Challenge #2: Information paralysis 
Technology is a transformative tool for self-directed learning. With immediate access to worlds of information, students can learn about anything at any time. In some cases, this can be intimidating for students. They may be overwhelmed with too much information and fall behind because they aren’t sure where to start.  

Solution: Develop learning frameworks that offer the right guidance and content at the right time.  
Fortunately, self-directed learning does not happen in isolation. Learning can be collaborative, as educators gradually shift more responsibility to the learners. Education technology can support this work by supplying the structural framework needed to help students organize and progress through their self-directed learning journeys. DreamBox Math and Reading programs put students in the driver’s seat and provide thousands of personalized pathways to help them learn and progress at their own pace.   

As a student works within DreamBox, its intelligently adaptive software adapts lessons to accommodate their learning style and offers in-the-moment scaffolding to help unpack information in a way that makes sense to them. Meeting students at their unique level, DreamBox encourages productive struggle through individualized instruction that ensures both growth and engagement.  
Challenge #3: Student motivation and engagement 
For students to effectively self-direct their learning, they need to feel motivated. Students should be empowered to learn the content that sparks interest and is delivered in a meaningful way. When students find satisfaction in what they’re learning, the more academic success  they’re likely to achieve. 

Solution: Allow students to engage with content that interests them and helps them feel successful and empowered. DreamBox immediately engages students with an advanced level of individualized math and reading instruction. The DreamBox math program is goal-driven and applies  gamelike experiences and interactions to make learning fun. The DreamBox reading program offers a diverse content library that gives students the freedom to explore and choose the texts that most interest them. This carefully curated content offers mirrors and windows that allow students to see themselves and learn about others. 

DreamBox highly adaptive programs are designed to keep students engaged at the right level because they are motivated by the challenge, but not too challenged that they give up. As students use DreamBox, its innovative technology captures data across student’s behavior and analyzes areas like strategy, time spent on a question and the answer selected. Then, it dynamically adapts the learning path to ensure every student encounters the right content at the right time. This personalization helps students stay within their zone of proximal development. They’re never bored with content that’s too easy, nor discouraged by content that’s too difficult. This just-right instruction keeps them motivated and driven to persevere and progress.  

Challenge #4: Progress monitoring 
In order to measure the success of any learning initiative, educators track and monitor student progress. However, unlike other learning models, self-directed learning empowers students to drive the journey. Therefore, it’s imperative that students have a voice in defining their learning goals and tracking their progress. Educators can use self-directed learning as an opportunity to help students understand the value of self-discipline, self-management and tracking goals. 

Solution: Empower students to set goals and track their progress, increasing their awareness and investment in learning. 
From day one, DreamBox empowers and enables students to set their own goals and track progress on their dashboard. As students explore their personalized lessons, they have fun and take pride in their growth. With each completed activity, students can look back on their individual stats and achievements, see where they are in their learning journey and how much farther they have to go.  

These dashboards shift responsibility to students, but educators can also oversee progress and participate in the platform, stepping in when necessary. With DreamBox Math, educators can watch a playback of a student’s interaction within a lesson, see where they struggled and provide targeted support in person or online to close instructional gaps. Additionally, educators can access real-time data and reports of student usage and growth as well as lesson recommendations to help them deliver the next best lesson for students struggling in a certain area. 

What is the best tool to empower students’ self-directed learning skill-building in the classroom?

Classroom management doesn’t have to be, nor should it be, something educators decide or handle on their own. Students should be invited into the process of managing learning in the classroom. Educators can spend hours creating task lists, checklists and rubrics, time management logs, goal-setting discussions worksheets and more. But what if there was a solution that could simultaneously streamline educator’s planning and evaluation process while effectively engaging students in self-directed learning skill-building? 

Educators who leverage technology are better equipped to promote many areas necessary for self-directed learning including building confidence, facing challenges, setting goals and adopting a level of ownership and agency over their learning experience. Although many education technologies tout adaptivity, there’s only one dual-discipline solution that creates the most personalized learning experience, with efficacy backed by third-party research.  

DreamBox is the most intelligently adaptive digital solution to foster effective self-directed learning in the classroom. With DreamBox math and reading programs, each student’s experience is uniquely tailored with the right lessons, sequencing, support and scaffolding. Rated ESSA-STRONG and proven to drive results for every student in any learning environment, DreamBox has already helped thousands of districts support and accelerate learning for millions of students. Both supplemental programs offer fast, easy implementation to accommodate every teacher’s schedule, strategy or skillset and engage and motivate students in their own self-directed learning paths within just a few weeks. 

Learn more about how DreamBox Math and Reading can support and accelerate students’ self-directed learning this school year. 


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