Agnew is in its third year of implementing the Self-Directed Learning (SDL) principles and teacher Nicole Smith sees that the end result of such a system– preparing students for the world after school – is one of the benefits of this teaching mechanism.
“Within the OneSchool teaching and learning framework, SDL promotes students toward a more ‘workplace ready’ position at graduation,” says Nicole. “They’re more likely to be intrinsically motivated with strong goal setting practices.”
At a more fundamental level, it also makes students incorporate structure into their lives, an essential life skill to have once they graduate. There are many facets of SDL that students learn and can incorporate into their lives outside of the school environment.
“Effective use of term planners, subject overviews and course outlines are central to successful SDL,” says Nicole. “Students need to prioritise the course requirements and learn to use a home study schedule that supports the SDL program at school. Planning ahead and time management will factor in to a more successful SDL experience.”
It also teaches students themselves to take the lead, not only with learning but making sure they use techniques that suit their learning style.
“Students need to have an awareness of their personal or preferred learning style and they should ensure that their learning environment is conducive to achieving their learning goals,” says Nicole. “The use of checklists across each of the learning areas and an assessment calendar will facilitate stronger organisation of resources and meeting due dates.”
But it s not all plan sailing for those involved. Teachers, students and parents all have to embrace the concept for the benefits to come to fruition.
“Some students are short of the maturity required to see the benefits of SDL. They remain heavily dependent on staff for direction, external motivation and regular feedback,” says Nicole. “More training of students and parents, along with recognising that there has to be a commitment of time and effort at home to support successful learning at school, will make a difference.”
Technology is a key area in the SDL environment, and like a lot of teachers at schools throughout Australia, Nicole sees both positives and the odd pitfall with the modern way of teaching.
“Technology lands at both ends of the spectrum,” she says. “Sometimes it can be a distraction to learning. Students are sometimes off task. However, the introduction of devices, access to the internet and ability to communicate directly with students has been beneficial. The students are able to receive regular feedback, support and guidance using the school email system. They are self-paced and able to access resources, assessment and materials using the Learning Management System.”