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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!


  • Neill O'Reilly (View all users posts) 28 Jul 2015 7:54am ()

    Kia ora all,

    It is great to see so many working to enable our children as self directed / regulated learners. The reality is  this should be the case regardless if we are in a collaborative T & L environment or a self contained learning environment ( In PC talk thats a MLE or classroom)The challenge  for all in the context of noise and self management is how are the KC's modelled, encouraged, taught and made explicit in our school? Each school needs to take a very close look at the KC's (and not just Managing self) and reach agreement about what they mean to us, how children can develop them and what we all understand them to mean

    The second thing we need to consider (again regardless of collaborative or self contained space) is if our school is learner  (student) centred or teacher centred. There is a big difference. In a learner and learning centred school children are given the opportunity to progressively manage self, lead their learning, become self regulated and self directed. In a teacher centred school the teacher controls the child. I encourage you to look at Michael Absolum's work- it is very useful. Bottom line is we can have teacher centred schools that look like learning centred schools. It is just that the teachers are more subtle at controlling the children! Again have a look at the rubrics- they will really challenge you!

    If we are really clear that our priorities are in the order below any conversation with parents is much easier (be it noise, E learning, collaborate T & L spaces etc).

    Our educative purpose should be something like:

    Improving learning outcomes for learners, enabling self regulated learners, enhancing hauora

    and we achieve this by....

    1. A focus on quality teaching and learning

    2. A priority of a learning focused environment

    3. Teachers collaborating to do 1 & 2

    4. Effective and enabling use of resources to achieve our educative purpose (ICT, staffing, furniture...)

    5. Using our space to achieve our educative purpose.


    90% of what is proposed in a collaborative T & L environment can happen in a self contained learning environment. What is critical is that conversations we have with staff, parents, children, community are framed from our educative purpose and No's 1-5 (I call theses the building blocks for quality T & L). The 10% we get through a collaborative T & L space is powerful but be really clear, collaboration between people who are not sure what they are doing is really not productive. We need to have clarity of purpose, understanding about how we want the KC's enacted in our space, understanding about what quality T & L looks (and sounds) like and an understanding about how and why we might collaborate if we are to take advantage of a collaborative T & L space...



  • Geoff Siave (View all users posts) 28 Jul 2015 9:43am ()

    I really like your suggested five priorities, Neill. Simple and pointed.  

    I recently came across the concept of "the environment as the third teacher".  That works on different levels - the layout of the room is an obvious major factor - catering for a variety of teaching and learning needs - as in the oft-quoted MLE considerations of light, ventilation, acoustics, various learning spaces, etc.   

    Whatever we put on our walls is also hugely important.  We will have material which help our "soft systems" run smoothly, such as instructions, directions, learning reminders, behavioural reminders, in/out signs, groups for various parts of the programmes (usually these groups will have each child's name on a detachable label to allow for group flexibility from day to day), and other important reminders.  These will help the class operationally and also provide a reason to read or decipher language, symbols and texts (not all instructional signage will use text).  

    Of course a third major part of learning in the environment is the prevalence of material which contributes to - or is a reflection of - the learning.   Whether it's written or drawn, hand made or digitally generated, still image or moving, interactive or static, one dimensional or multi-dimensional.  The "share" component of the "learn, create, share" process is potentially a powerful celebration and application of learning which contributes to the environment being a valuable third teacher.  

  • Lynne Silcock (View all users posts) 28 Jul 2015 3:15pm ()

    I love the ideas shared in this discussion - especially the concept of explicitly teaching students about noise management as part of self management.

    I would add that for some students sensory overload can be an issue - this may a problem regardless of whether they are in a modern or more traditional learning environment. Some things I have seen used to cater for these students include:

    • having access to quiet spaces when they need them or at specific times of the day. This does not have to be a whole room - for example I have seen classes where students simply sit themselves inside a large cardboard box that opens on one side (thus reducing sensory input from three sides) or under in a desk
    • use headphones to reduce noise when it becomes overwhelming or again at specific times/when they need it (obviously this would not be a good idea for the whole day as it could isolate the student)
    • work with the student to identify the areas in the room that are best to minimise background noise, such as away from fans, heaters and road traffic.

    I would love to hear more ideas about how teachers and schools are catering for these students.



  • Sam Gibson (View all users posts) 05 Aug 2015 10:51am ()

    Hi Abbie, great inquiry. I have recently moved into a MLE and self-directed learning is one of our main focuses. I blog about what we do and my ideas at www.tomorrowslearners.com. Hopefully a lot of the posts will be useful for your inquiry.


    Sam Gibson


  • Stuart Priddy (View all users posts) 19 Aug 2015 8:44am ()

    Valid comments Neil. The role of the roaming or extra teacher is crucial to the success of a collaborative environment.  I believe it is also an opportunity for this teacher to do some great one to one when needed.  the problem is we have all jumped into this without any clear definitions of the roles, which is great on one level as it allows for schools to be creative etc.  It needs some one like you to come up with great models of expectations of the extra teacher.

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 20 Aug 2015 9:56am ()

    Hi Stuart,

    I'm not sure I agree. I don't think a roaming teacher is crucial to the success of a collaborative environment. But I'm thinking that I am assuming too much from your statement like Neill O'Reilly has done.  Great post BTW Neil  !!!  


    We have a group of 80 students, with three teachers, and if one of our teachers was roaming that would mean a significant loss of available workshops for students.   An example of one workshop that I have run is the following.   

    Subject: Enabling Resilience & Creativity

    Content: Programming and coding - Students are programming using GUI's to create a series of instructions.  End result will be a game where user actions enable the character to perform functions. 

    Outcomes: Writing Reading Math and science - Even though the content is coding, and outcomes are based around the curriculum 'subjects'.

    Once students have gained the content, they are then able to run workshops, demonstrating their knowledge.  This then means the teacher is free to run more advanced workshops.   I don't see where our teachers would have time to roam, as we don;'t have enough time in the day to run all the workshops we want to now.    

    We don't often facilitate a group of more than 7-10 students.  Sometimes a physical fitness session will consist of 25 students, but other than that its all workshops and focus meetings.


  • Stuart Priddy (View all users posts) 20 Aug 2015 10:05am ()

    Hi Hamish

    Thats fine.  What it probably should say is having an extra teacher and utilising that teacher effectively can result in some powerful gains / achievements / successes / engagements in the class.  As opposed to just having the extra teacher just roam without any meaning.

  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 20 Aug 2015 10:14am ()

    Yeah agree with that.  I have roamed when I finished observing and assisting a student running a workshop for the first time, and there is a place for it.  Its not something we do regularly and isn't embedded into daily or weekly routines.  Just something that has happened randomly. 

  • Sarkkunan (View all users posts) 24 Aug 2015 1:34pm ()

    Hi Sarah and all,

    I read this article on the Sudbury-model school recently and the sense of self-directed learning it espouses is quite fascinating. It is almost an ideal and it is hard to imagine if we take curriculum delivery and accountability into consideration. Nonetheless, hope it is a useful read.

    This is the first thread that I am reading since I joined VLN. I am really impressed with the comments and replies. It is extremely encouraging to see such a supportive community. Glad to be part of it :)

  • Mia (View all users posts) 27 Aug 2015 3:24pm ()

    Another interesting thread. I'm learning so much. Neill, your posts always get me thinking. I too have had concerns about the quality of activities for 'must dos' and can dos'. This is something I have thought a lot about when thinking about our environment for next year (and in my single class programme this year). I think a good way to think about it is to think if a kid asked me 'why am I doing this?'. My yr7-8 kids are happy to question and it makes me even more focused on the why of everything I do!

    I also really liked your thing about 'learning coaches' rather than rovers. This was already in my planning for next year, but I'm going to get my team to create a job description for this role. 

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