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Volume 27, Number 4
July/August 2011

Student-Directed Learning Comes of Age

Teachers adopt classroom strategies to help students monitor their own learning


On a weekday night midway through the academic year, 200 sophomores, juniors, seniors, and their parents filed into a large, noisy multipurpose room at Chatsworth High School in Los Angeles. At the head of the room, teachers sat at one long table, as if registering voters. Students lined up at the table to obtain a short assignment (such as writing a thank-you letter to someone who has influenced their learning) and a checklist for assignments they must complete by the year’s end. Together with their families, students completed their assignments and checklists and reviewed their portfolios. Before the night was over, all 200 attendees lined up again, lists in hand, to return to the teachers.

The evening was meant to be a combination of back-to-school night, parent-teacher conference, and progress report exercise all rolled into one. But it was also meant to send a strong signal to the students who are part of the interdisciplinary humanities program at Chatsworth called Humanitas. “Their education is their responsibility, in particular for seniors here,” explains Kathie Donner, a Humanitas art teacher and former lead teacher.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Avalon School

L. S. Blackwell, K. H. Trzesniewski, and C. S. Dweck. “Implicit Theories of Intelligence Predict Achievement Across an Adolescent Transition: A Longitudinal Study and an Intervention.” Child Development 78, no.1 (2007): 246–263.

Chatsworth High School Humanitas Academy

T. Garcia and P. R. Pintrich. “The Effects of Autonomy on Motivation and Performance in the College Classroom.” Contemporary Educational Psychology 21, no. 4 (1996): 477–486.

Mare Island Technology Academy

E. A. Patall, H. Cooper, and S. R. Wynn. “The Effectiveness and Relative Importance of Choice in the Classroom.” Journal of Educational Psychology 102, no. 4 (2010): 896–915.