Pathway 2: Instructional Strategies to Support Self-direction


There are four cornerstones to anchor instructional strategies that are tied to the development of students as self-directed learners. These include strategies directly related to student agency, self-efficacy, growth mindset, and self-evaluation and reflection. 

Introduction to Instructional Strategies 

The following provides an introduction to the instructional strategies that support self-direction, answering the key question: “How do I help students develop as self-directed learners in the classroom?” This section of the course is meant to provide you with quick access to a research-based understanding around the characteristics of a self-directed learner in the classroom and how you can build on work you are already doing.

In considering the four cornerstones, few teachers or schools are starting from scratch. Most have already done some work to move students to self-direction. These are the cornerstones of self-direction (see the graphic below to see how they all connect):

  1. Student agency
  2. Self-efficacy
  3. Growth mindset 
  4. Self-evaluation and reflection. 

Your school or district may already be addressing one or more of these cornerstones through initiatives focused on personalized learning, hybrid or blended learning, differentiated learning, project-based learning, individualized learning, and/or adaptive learning. Schools and teachers should consider such initiatives as on-ramps to developing self-direction in students.

A first step is to choose one of the four cornerstones your school or district is already working on, or one that is a high priority for you. The intent would be to assess your progress with that specific characteristic and then build a plan for intensifying and accelerating that work with students. 

To get started, choose one of the cornerstones that is a high priority, a gap or a new idea in your school or district: Student agency — Self-efficacy — Growth mindset — Self-evaluation and reflection. Also, keep in mind that while these cornerstones of self-direction may not rely on technology, they are facilitated by teaching strategies that are amplified with technology. More importantly, they are fundamental to students’ abilities to thrive, achieve and contribute in a rapidly changing, technology-infused world.