Building Self-Direction Skills in Students

By Sonthaya Chutisacha.

Sonthaya has been in the field of education - as a counselor, teacher and professional development coordinator -  for the past 15 years. Besides coordinating PD workshops for educators, she is currently the program director and Personalised Learning Coach at KSI Learning Center, a learning lab for personalised learning supported by KSIPD.

Two Important Ingredients of Self-Directed Learning That Can Be Implemented Online

Ingredient one - Coaching students to set academic and self-directed project goals.

Ingredient two - Coaching students to plan the day

Implementing Ingredient One - Goals

Individual meetings with students are recommended for setting academic and self-directed project goals.

How long per individual meeting?

A ten minute meeting slot per child works well.

How many individual meetings per day?

To ensure effective coaching, schedule not more than 6 individual meetings a day.

How often?

Depending on your class size and student needs, you could schedule these meetings once a week, twice a month or once a month.

Silver lining

This is a good time to implement individual meetings as the online platform makes it easy to find ‘the quiet classroom corner’ (without having to worry about the rest of your class).

Implementing Ingredient Two - Daily Plans

Small Group Meetings can be used for setting up plans for the day.

When should I conduct the small group meeting?

At the beginning of the day after all students have individually planned their day. They will be able to do so independently because of the individual meeting you have had with them.

How many per group?

Depends on your class size.

How long ?

This does not take much time (given that the individual meetings are up to date). You are basically checking what each student will do in a small group setup. If you feel a student is stuck you can schedule an individual meeting after the small group meeting.


What are self-directed projects?

Self-directed projects are passion projects. We work with students to uncover what they enjoy doing and how they could best showcase it. Along the way we monitor their progress and guide them to resources. Self-directed projects activate proactive learning skills which transfer well to other areas of learning.

Some students have strong areas of interest. I had a student who loved photography. In the course of the project, he completed an online beginner’s photography course, created a dark room in his house, joined the National Geographic Your Shot photo community we found together, presented his wild life photos of Africa…Another student has completed a novel via the NaNoWriMo platform we discovered together.

It is not always smooth sailing. With many students you have to work hard to uncover what they love doing and then grab the first thin thread you see.

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