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Self Directed Learning in MLE

Started by Sarah Quinlan 08 May 2015 2:40pm () Replies (29)

Hi, I am currently doing an inquiry into self directed learning within a modern learning environment. I'm really keen to learn more about how students (particularily young ones) are encouraged to self direct and how this is effectively managed and controlled in an environment with large numbers. Any help or advice would be greatlty appreciated!


  • Abbie (View all users posts) 08 May 2015 7:54pm ()

    We would love to hear the results of this inquiry!

    We have a teacher aide (until lunchtime for whole class purposes) cave teacher (small group teacher), action station teacher and 'learning support' teacher. We are a 3 teacher teaching team with yr0-3.  

    The action station teacher (works in the main room where most of the self-directed learning currently happens) runs the programme for students not having group/one on one teaching. 

    From 9-9.50 the action station runs a whole class programme with fruit and fitness in the middle and shared reading. A values talk is usually given at this time and sometimes a song. 

    Once action stations begin (about 9.50-lunchtime) students follow the action station board (a whiteboard with tasks depicted by words and symbols. Early finishers can do the can do activities (with a couple of exceptions). There are a few 'target' children who don't self-manage yet, and these ones are more closely monitored. The teacher aide is a part of this between 9.50 and 12.00 to provide support for the larger numbers. 

    Most of our new entrant/year one students have their group times timetabled for this first block so the action station teacher can ensure the older students are fully up and running.

    Students also have licences they can earn: seed, sapling, tree. Everyone begins as a seed. When certain qualities are displayed they can become saplings. They then have the option of working out of the main room e.g. in the corridor and old resource room. When further qualities are displayed they become trees. They can then work outside e.g. on the playground or just outside the door. They can take a sapling with them (but not a seed). They have the option of taking seeds/saplings with them into the corridor etc, provided behaviour does not become an issue. Students can lose their licences. Tree students can also do tasks in any order they wish, including do can dos before must dos.

    This is a developing programme as we just began this year. 


  • Sarah Quinlan (View all users posts) 25 May 2015 3:37pm ()

    Hi Abbie, 

    That sounds really interesting in fact following your reply my colleague and I have decided to focus our inquiry on the independence license you mentioned. I was wondering if there was any chance i could speak with you a bit more about this. Where are you based in NZ it would be great to see this in action it sounds fabulous. 

    Many thanks 


  • Abbie (View all users posts) 25 May 2015 9:24pm ()

    Dear Sarah, 

    I work at Tapanui primary school, Tapanui, West Otago. I'd be more than happy to talk to you about this, or could work via a Google hangout. If you email me at abbie@tapanui.school.nz we can work out further details. 


  • Johnny Zondagh (View all users posts) 10 May 2015 6:23pm ()


    I thought you might find the following TED Talk quite interesting:




  • Geoff Siave (View all users posts) 25 May 2015 10:46pm ()

    That's a goody Johnny.  And thanks Abbie for the info and Sarah for the question.  These are exciting times!

  • Cheryl (View all users posts) 25 May 2015 11:05pm ()

    Hi all,

    Sounds exciting reading your posts. I team teach with 50 year 3/4's with one other teacher.

    We are currently building new classrooms where we hope to be in next term. Meanwhile we are in relocatable rooms which are quite large with a door separating the two rooms which we took off so children can go between.

    We run groups/or workshops with one teacher whilst the other roams. Students have a license too like you Abbie which they earn once they show certain independent learning skills. We have laminated them and students wear them around their necks. These students can learn wherever they choose, they can move within the two rooms, they can go outside on the deck area and we know they are there as they have to put a magnet beside their name on the board. We have some students on temporary licences so they are students who we feel are showing these qualities but we need to be sure that they can sustain the skills needed to be independent.

    We are on a new journey with this and the students love the licences. We have must do mustards, may do mayos and catch up ketch up through the day and we did have independent timetables but we have since stopped these for now as it was a little early for this group of students but we will be working towards bringing that back in later in the year.

    Sounds like there are similar schools doing similar things which is exciting to know.



  • Neill O'Reilly (View all users posts) 19 Aug 2015 6:10am ()

    Hi Cheryl,

    Great to see what you are up to!

    Just re the 'Roaming teacher" I note a lot of schools around NZ are using this name, I hope it really does't mean roaming for roaming sake...

    Here is some thinking for you:

    If schools need a teacher to 'roam' to manage behaviour then they need to examine the culture they are creating, In a quality collaborative teaching and learning environment the students should be learning about how to self manage and self regulate (this will be taught explicitly and related to the KC's). This includes goal setting, self monitoring, reflection etc... In other words they should for the most part be able to self manage or be learning how to (not there just yet for some!) and both teachers can focus on teaching.

    Another option:

    One teach, one assist. One teacher is teaching a group (typically guided teaching) and the other teacher is a "Learning Coach". The role of the Learning Coach is to workshop with students, support children with "Just in time" learning, challenge children in their learning and support those who are struggling etc. The teachers in a collaborative space, or the school if you have more than one collaborative space, should come up with a job description for the Learning Coach.

    This is important for a number of reasons:

    It keeps teachers and students learning focussed

    It defines the job of the Learning Coach

    It communicates to parents and one another we are collaborating to enhance learning outcomes, to improve self regulation and to support hauora.

    Bottom line- Roaming is random!

    Must do's and Can do's

    I am also seeing evidence of "Must do's" and "Can do's" really just been low quality busy activities done with worksheets (and in some cases with no feedback for the student....) So,  making sure "Must do's" and "Can do's" are quality learning not just busy worksheets  will impact on the child's ability to self manage (I would be disruptive if I had to do busy activities).

    The question we should be asking ourselves all the time are:

    Is this quality teaching and learning?

    How do I know? (what evidence do we have that what we are doing is making a difference for learners?)

    Are we collaborating in ways that enhance our teaching and maximise our skills?

    Does our collaboration produce a benefit for learners? (Improved outcomes, self regulation, hauora)?


    Hope this helps


  • Cole Paige (View all users posts) 20 Aug 2015 8:52am ()

    Hi Neill

    Congratulations on contributing to this discussion with 'balance'. Through asking the questions around the purpose of our actions/learning plan/ etc we can identify if they are being implemented for the acceleration of student progress and achievement or an adult driver (evidence of impact).

    Thanks for keeping it real.


  • Sarah Quinlan (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 4:31pm ()

    Hi Cheryl, 

    Thanks for your response we would love to find out a little more about how you run your licence system any chance i can flick you an email? 



  • Sam Harrison (View all users posts) 10 Jun 2015 7:42pm ()

    Hi all

    I work with a fellow teacher and we run a MLE with 48 Year 4 and 5 students.  We run a contract system where we create tasks for the week, can do's and must do's .  The students then plan what they are doing each day, at the moment we give them a list of activities to do for the day, they put them in, noting when their groups are etc.  uring the day they write the goals on their plan and at the end of the day they reflect on three parts of their day using the hats.  We don't have a license system but most students are deciding what learning they do.... our next step is for the students to decide which way they want to go and how ...

  • Elicia Pirini (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 11:18am ()

    Kia Ora all

    I am at a school which is at the very beginning of the journey and during the holidays I totally immersed myself in MLE.  I watched videos, I read articles, I found out about things like Variability Matters, Universal Design for Learning, designing spaces for learning, John Hattie's Metaanalydis and so on.  I was hooked but the first issue that came up from others I talked to was; ' But what about the noise.' I wanted to talk big pedagogical ides and didn't even think about the 'devil in the detail'.  So tell me all those who are further down the path. 'What about the noise!'  Is it an issue?  Is it something that is a day to day dialogue within teams? Do you timetable/ organise so that there isn't a noise clash?  I'd love to hear your responses, thanks!


  • suevy (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 4:28pm ()

    Title: Modern Learning Environments


    Hi Elicia
    We are in our second year in an MLE and although it is not purpose built it is slightly better acoustically than some retro-fitted classrooms.
    However, both years we worked really hard on noise expectations and with a consistent approach there are very few times when it is an issue. Visitors frequently comment on the "quiet, learning noise". We have noticed when other children visit we need to spend time going over our quiet learning behaviour expectations. 
    As well as practising transitions and setting the standard early, we found that we needed to be careful with the way we used our spaces. Moving reading games (or any other activity requiring more noise) away  from our teaching spaces was one change we made early on. 
    We also have areas of "no-talking". These are silent individual learning spaces - if you need to talk you need to move to another area.
    We also mix things things up a bit - transitions are followed by a couple of songs. This pulls everyone back together and then off we go again - quiet, focussed learning.
    Hope this helps. Good luck - it's a great way to teach.
  • Elicia Pirini (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 7:51pm ()

    Thanks Sue,
    This seems to be a real concern with a lot of our staff. To hear from teachers that are already working amongst it is reassuring. One of our ICT expert teachers has used an app (in a single cell situation) called Silent Light it has different noise level settings and you can negotiate with the students about what noise level is appropriate and for every unit of time you choose,, this is sustained the class gets a point. If the noise goes over the level a warning alert sounds. If anyone is interested look on the App Store.

  • Charlotte Verity (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 11:34am ()

    Hi Elicia

    I am working in a collaborative year 3-4 class, with one other teacher/class in a traditional separate cell block.  We are part of a 5 class team, with the other three in another hub. Noise was an issue, especially in term 1, and given we are working in old style buildings with none of the MLE acoustic controls. We found it very noisy when we have both classes together, partly because of the increased numbers but also because some children weren't as able to self-manage (voice, sitting still etc) with the increased numbers. To this end, we have several students with Autism and other characteristics (dyspraxia, behaviour issues etc) - we found that this children often found it particularly tricky.

    What has helped us progress to a positive working noise level now:

    * Shared understanding of expectations for behaviour whether students are in a small or large group, and follow-through by both teachers

    * Focusing on the positive - those children demonstrating self management, and using lots of peer prompting

    * Rewards/consequences e.g. class points and reward when children settle quickly

    *Having a self-management ' mountain'  on class walls - children have a level and each level and move up/down when demonstrating more self-management

    *  A big focus on showing we care for others and ourselves (by managing our voice, things, showing kindness, working with others outside our friendship group etc) with weekly reflections on this


    We are very much on the learning curve though and I am always keen to hear strategies others are finding effective.  

  • Elicia Pirini (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 12:14pm ()

    Thanks Charlotte. I can see that it will be something that will needed to be discussed. It sounds as though you explicitly taught Noise Management as part of Self management/self directed . Maybe the discussion we could have is what will the students need to learn to self manage. We definitely need to ask the students as well. Thanks you've set my brain going.

  • Charlotte Verity (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 1:39pm ()

    Great idea re asking the students and focusing on 'What do we need to self-manage?' - we have tackled this and come up with: voice; body/moving around safely; tote trays; bags.

    We've also focused on 'How do we work together?' - ensuring we share our ideas; co-operate; look out for/after each other; ask questions/share our learning.


    Have fun, Char

  • Karen Paterson (View all users posts) 26 Jul 2015 11:38am ()

    We are in the very early stage of moving to MLP. With building remodelling still 6 months to a year away we have a new team member and are keen to start making changes to our teaching practice sooner rather than later. We would be keen to contact and visit a school that already has this up and running with a junior team.We are a yr 0-2 team of approximately 60 in Blenheim. Thanks for all the sharing of your journeys so far.


  • Norrie Mailer (View all users posts) 27 Jul 2015 8:20am ()

    HI All,

    I'd be interested to hear feedback on how this self-directed aspect of the child's learning is positively impacting on their 'every day' behaviour. Is there encouragement to continue this self directed learning outside the given classroom experience? Are there strategies to reinforce this behaviour outside the class; at home for example, and is there any feedback from parents/caregivers/Whanau?


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