Pathway 1: Self-Direction a necessary foundation


Highly self-directed learners are typically the most successful of students. Self-directed behavior correlates more highly with student achievement than virtually any other learner characteristic. While some students arrive at school as self-directed learners, simple strategies can be employed to teach, scaffold and support skills of self-directed learning in all students. These strategies can be implemented in both online and face-to-face learning environments. The goal of those strategies is to help students develop as self-directed learners. 

Definition of self-direction. 

Self-direction in learning is defined as a process where individuals take initiative to determine needs, assess goals, and identify resources and strategies for learning. 

A student who is self-directed:

  • Owns her own learning and takes responsibility for results.
  • Believes in her own capacity to organize and execute the courses of action in order to meet goals (self-efficacy).
  • Believes that effort, persistence and strategy will get results (growth mindset).
  • Is open to new ideas and engages fully in learning.
  • Plans how she will accomplish all projects and assignments.
  • Manages her learning (avoids distractions, checks for understanding, uses effective learning strategies, knows when to ask for help, etc.).
  • Continually checks her work against established standards, adjusting when necessary.

As research has continually demonstrated, self-direction in students is malleable – with the right combination of instructional strategies, and an enabling, empowering culture of learning, all students can learn to be self-directed. 

Self-directed learners rarely emerge on their own. Rather they are nurtured and guided along the way. This master class is designed to help teachers become aware of the conditions essential to nurturing and guiding students as self-directed learners. After completing this master class, teachers will be able to answer the following questions:

Why is self-direction essential for today’s students? 

  • What is a self-directed learner and what makes them different? 
  • What types of learning environments support self-directed learners? 
  • How can technology be used to nurture and support self-direction in learners? 
  • How can self-direction be assessed?
  • What can teachers do to immediately begin developing self-direction in learners?