Self Managing Learners

I had an interesting discussion with one of my students today.  He had given me feedback outlining some difficulties he had been having, most notably with actually understanding what to do.  I take a modular approach to course design where students work through a two week block of learning with a set of tasks to complete in that time.  You can see an example here.   I like to keep things reasonably open ended and avoid being too linear, but this can cause problems for students who are used to being directed.  My student’s comment was he was used to going to class and being told what to do and when.  He found it difficult to know what to prioritise when he can choose between tasks.

This is one of the problems with out current model of schooling.  As long as we continue to control when, where and how students learn, they won’t develop the skills necessary to manage their own learning (which is what they will be doing when they leave secondary school).  Perhaps we should skip the learning intentions / outcomes at the beginning of every lesson, the starter, the plenary, the timed activities, the structure and look to a more fluid way of approaching learning.  Would it really be that difficult?  When are we going to stop managing the learning and let the students have more ownership?

For me, this is one very real reason to enrol students in online course through the VLN or to take a blended approach where students spend sometime working independently.  Forget all the other very good reasons (subject choice, timetable clashes).  How about doing it because it forces students to take responsibility for their learning and manage themselves.  The key is putting in place systems that support them in this, rather than hoping they will develop the skills.



  1. Yes Darren we have made our students this way – they don’t naturally come to school with this disposition. So not only should students be given the opportunity to be supported in managing their own learning, as you say by having the opportunity to learn through the VLN in online and blended learning environments; but also if all teachers could teach through the VLN they would learn that their pedagogies and practice would need to change.

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