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A Roadmap for Student Self-Direction: Building Essential Skills for the Future

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

[Published November 2020 by Students at the Center]

Research tells us and both employers and colleges confirm that communication, collaboration, creativity and self-direction are crucial for success in post-secondary learning and careers. Every student deserves to have the skills to succeed.

The BEST Self-Direction Toolkit is a collection of resources for teachers to use in the classroom for instruction and assessment that focuses on self-direction. The toolkit includes the self-direction rubric, self-direction activities and targeted resources for teachers. All tools are designed by teachers and tested in the classroom.

Who is the toolkit for? It’s for educators looking to increase student agency in their classrooms and schools. Building and district leadership will also find the research and additional resources in the toolkit helpful as they implement student-centered practices in their schools.

What will it achieve? Using the BEST Self-Direction Toolkit will elevate teaching, learning and assessment of self-direction, a critical driver of learners’ motivation and engagement. Teachers and students can use the tools to both inspire and assess growth in self-direction skills. The rubrics and accompanying tools facilitate the creation of a strong body of evidence to support student learning and growth in self-direction. Students who experience these activities in their learning environment will be supported to develop essential skills that will serve them well academically, behaviorally, and in college and career.

Why now? Teaching and learning that is focused on developing self-direction promotes student ownership of the learning process, positions learners as the drivers of their interests and achievement, and helps them to become goal-oriented lifelong learners. These outcomes have great utility in classroom-based learning as well as in remote or hybrid contexts.

What is Deeper Learning? The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation defines deeper learning as an umbrella term for the skills and knowledge that students must possess to succeed in 21st-century jobs and civic life. Deeper learning focuses on a set of competencies that seeks mastery of academic domains that are then applied to real-world situations. The deeper learning framework includes six core competencies:

  1. Master core academic content

  2. Think critically and solve complex problems

  3. Work collaboratively

  4. Communicate effectively

  5. Learn how to learn

  6. Develop academic mindsets.

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