Self-directed learners all have a running inner dialog about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, what they’re going to do, and, when they get stuck, they ask themselves a series of questions to help them get unstuck.
This is what most of us just call “thinking” but it seems that too many children and teens don’t have that inner dialog — yet. They seem to move about their day, waiting to be told what to do, when to do, and how to do. And when they step out of that structure and routine their families and school has provided for them, many make poor decisions. Not all do, of course. But the ones who find themselves making mistakes, big and small, seem to lack that inner dialog.
So how do we help kids become self directed learners? It’s an every day, every interaction process that begins with curbing the urge to always tell kids their next steps and begin asking questions that role-model what they should be asking themselves.
- Students need to know they can find information and solve problems if only they had the right questions.
- We’re role modeling what their inner dialog and questions might be.
Use the following questions regularly when role modeling self-direction and then remind the students, in a moment of reflection, they might consider using the same techniques before calling out for help.
- What is my overall goal? What am I trying to achieve?
- What have I tried that hasn’t worked? What has worked?
- What haven’t I tried?
- Is this something that’s essential to my goals? Is what I’m doing necessary? Valuable?
- What are other ways I can look at this? Can I break it into parts? Do I need to step back and look at the big picture?
- Are there online resources out there that can help?
- If I am stuck, how can I back out of this and approach it from a new direction? Who or what do I need to get to help me with that?
- Is there someone nearby who has this topic as a strength and can help me? Is there someone I can bring in via phone or video conference?
Of course there are many other questions that could be added/substituted in any given situation, but this will give you a good start. What would you add?