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The Self-Directed Learning Handbook: Challenging Adolescent Students to Excel

ISBN: 978-0-7879-5955-5
208 pages
October 2002, Jossey-Bass
The Self-Directed Learning Handbook: Challenging Adolescent Students to Excel (0787959553) cover image


The Self-Directed Learning Handbook offers teachers and principals an innovative program for customizing schooling to the learning needs of individual students-- and for motivating them to take increasing responsibility for deciding what and how they should learn. Whether the students are struggling or proficient, the program is designed to nurture their natural passion for learning and mastery, challenging them to go beyond the easy and familiar so they can truly excel. The program can be introduced in stages in any middle or high school classroom and enables students of diverse abilities to design and pursue independent course work, special projects, or even artistic presentations, community field work or apprenticeships. Using this approach, the students take on an increasingly autonomous, self-directed role as they progress. The heart of the program is the action contract (or learning agreement) whereby the student sets challenging yet attainable goals, commits to a path for achieving them, and evaluates the results. Special emphasis is placed on developing skills and competencies that can serve the student well in his or her academic and career endeavors.
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Table of Contents



1. The Case for Self-Directed Learning.

What Is Self-Directed Learning?

How Does Research Support SDL?

The Major Principles of an SDL Program.

The Essential Elements of SDL.

Approaching SDL in Stages.

2. A Framework for Teaching SDL.

Defining the Course.

Expanding Learning Options and Environments.

Building Independent Thinking Skills.

Negotiating Student Learning Agreements.

Establishing Assessment Processes.

3. Rethinking Student Coursework.

Essential Planning Steps.

Understanding the Stages of SDL.

Linking the Stages to Grade Levels.

Designating Course Outcomes.

Developing Self-Managed Course Units.

Student-Planned Coursework and Projects.

Focusing on Competencies and Challenges.

4. Planning Lessons and Projects.

Principles for Planning Lessons.

Designing Learning Episodes.

Creating Experiences.

Promoting Study.

Encouraging Productivity.

Involving Students in Project Planning.

5. Teaching Independent Thinking.

Inviting Inquiry and Initiative.

Developing Problem-Solving Skills.

Using Process Frameworks: Investigation and Action.

Cultivating Process Thinking and Attitudes.

6. Negotiating Student Learning Agreements.

The Learning Agreement or Contract.

The Elements of a Contract.

Negotiating Contract Agreements.

Sample Contracts.

Tracking Student Progress.

7. Motivating and Empowering Students.

Encouraging Students to Pursue SDL.

Motivating Students to Motivate Themselves.

The Working Journal as a Motivational Tool.

Dealing with the SDL Crisis.

Working with Difficult Students.

8. Assessing Student Achievement.

Promoting Student Self-Assessment.

Assessing General Skills.

Assessing Coursework.

Evaluating Projects and Assignments.

Portfolios for Personal Learning.

Passage and Graduation Criteria.

Demonstrations, Celebrations, and Conferences.

9. Pursuing a Path of Excellence.

The Teacher Is the Key Person.

Making a Difference to the Student.

Starting an SDL School.

Administrative Support for SDL.

Creating a Shared Vision.

Resource A: How Much SDL Are You Teaching Now?

Resource B: How Self-Directing Are You?

A Self-Assessment Instrument.

Resource C: The Passage Process.

Resource D: The Integrated SDL Unit: The Kinds of Activities Involved.

Resource E: Inner States for SDL.

Resource F: Sample Process Templates.

Resource G: Guidelines, Traps, and Boosters.

Resource H: The Support Group or Triad.

Resource I: Samples from a Student's Working Journal.

Resource J: Some of the Many Ways Students Can Learn.



The Author.
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Author Information

Maurice Gibbons is education professor emeritus, Simon Fraser University, British Columbia and a former teacher of grades 4 through 13. In his university position he specialized in the development of innovative educational programs, including the internationally celebrated Walkabout program for the transition of youth to adulthood. He has written books and journal articles on innovative education and self-directed learning and currently speaks and consults throughout Canada and the United States Contact Self-Directed Learning at www.mauricegibbons.com.
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"This is a how to book for adventurous teachers who understand that learning is an integral component of teaching." (Education Review, December 2, 2003)

"When Maurice Gibbons introduced his Walkabout model a few years ago, he opened exciting new possibilities for relevant, meaningful, and challenging learning to take place in high schools. In this new book he provides teachers with a comprehensive, step-by-step process for realizing these possibilities in their classrooms."
— Ron Miller, executive editor, Paths of Learning magazine

"This book offers thorough and detailed instruction in the creation of self-directed learning environments. It's a much-needed 'how-to' manual for classroom teachers who want to motivate and empower their students to flourish as learners."
— Karen Fernandez, teacher, Denver Public Schools

"Will help teachers and administrators implement a vision of schooling that will revitalize their professional lives while providing avenues to success for all their students. I have seen the successful application of his vision for over twenty years, and this handbook is a practical guide for expanding the possibilities to any school that wishes to challenge itself to become the best that it can be."
— Arnold Langberg, educational consultant, former principal of Jefferson County Open High School

"This is one of the most practical, wisest, and most upbeat books I've encountered in thirty years of teaching, and working with teachers. Educators who want to do SDL will find this an extraordinary valuable resource, one they use over and over again."
— Joe Nathan, director, University of Minnesota Center for School Change

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Related Websites / Extra

Dr. Maurice Gibbons' web siteVisit author Dr. Maurice Gibbons' site for more information about his ongoing work in Self-Directed Learning.
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