Who Are Your Students?

The Staged Self-Directed Learning Model: A Summary
Concept from Gerald O.Grow
Matching the learners’ stage of self-direction and prepare students to progress to higher stages should be a teachers main goal.

Stage 1: The “I Don’t Know” Student
Dependent learners need an authority-figure to explicitly give direction, and instruction. For these students, learning is teacher-centered. They either treat teachers as experts who know what the student needs to do, or they passively slide through the educational system responding mainly to teachers who "make" them learn. They will also test their teacher’s expertise and authority.
  • How to Teach the Stage 1 Learner: Authority
  •  Clearly-organize objectives and lessons
  • Prescribe straightforward techniques for achieving them
  • Discipline students
  • Give direction
  • Decide in advance how you will answer challenges to your authority
  • Keep students busy learning specific, identifiable skills
  • Set standards beyond what students think they can do
  • Do whatever is necessary to get them to succeed
  • Create and reward success  many well established behavioral teaching methods work well
  • Avoid giving choices
  • Keep your communication clear and thorough, but mainly one-way
  • Grade objectively, and cleanly related to the task at hand.
  • Give feedback immediately, frequently, and impartially

Stage 2: The “I like My Teacher” Student
Interested learners respond to different motivational techniques. They are willing to do assignments they can see the purpose of. They are confident but be largely ignorant of the subject of instruction. The Stage 2 teacher brings enthusiasm the excitement of learning to the students through various motivational techniques.  Learners at this stage go along if they understand why and if the instructor provides direction and help, or they will go along because they like their teacher.
  • How to Teach the Stage 2 Learner: Motivation
  • Interact with the students personally
  • Explain why skills are important and how the assignments help attain them clearly
  • how concrete results in what you teach
  • Use praise (extrinsic motivation), but try to phase it out, and phase in encouragement (which builds intrinsic motivation)
  • Build confidence while building skills
  • Help students recognize their different personality types, life-goals, and styles of learning
  • Set high standards and motivate students to achieve them
  • Explain and justify each assignment and persuade students of its value teaching through two-way communication
  • Include a lecturer as inspiring performer, structured projects with predictable outcomes, close supervision, and ample encouraging feedback

Stage 3: The “Experienced” Student
Involved learners have skill and knowledge, and see themselves as participants in their own education. They view themselves as future equals of the teacher, or as professionals, but they may not be experienced or motivated enough to continue on their own. They want to be involved with teachers and other learners and to be respected for who they are and what they can do. Stage 3 learners work well with the teacher and with each other in the design and implementation of learning projects.  

How to Teach the Stage 3 Learner: Facilitation
  • From learning more about how they learn
  • Share in decision-making, with students taking an active role
  • Concentrates on facilitation and communication and supports students in using their skills
  • Offer tools, methods, techniques, and ways of interpreting the learning experience
  • Assign open-ended group work and projects, but ensure they are carefully-designed
  •  Use written criteria, learning contracts, and evaluation checklists help learners monitor their own progress
  • Empower learners
  • Include seminars with instructor as participant, group projects approved and facilitated (but not directed) by the instructor, and group projects progressing from structured assignments with criteria checklists
  • Help develop students' own motivation rather than provide that motivation
  • Cultivate personal awareness and interpersonal respect
Stage 4: The “Goals-Oriented” Student
Self-directed learners set their own goals and standards-with or without help from experts. They use experts, institutions, and other resources to pursue these goals. Learners at this stage are ready to take responsibility for their learning. They exercise skills in time management, project management, goal-setting, self-evaluation, peer critique, information gathering, and use of educational resources. They thrive in an atmosphere of autonomy.

How to Teach the Stage 4 Learner: Delegation
  • Consult with learners to develop written criteria, an evaluation checklist, a timetable, and a management chart for each project they develop
  • Hold regular meetings so students can chart and discuss  progress and problems
  • Encourage students to cooperate and consult with each other, but not to abandon responsibility
  • Work on more advanced projects with clear meaning outside the classroom
  • Emphasize long-term progress in career or life
  • Bring in speakers who represent each stage in such a journey
  • Suggest biographies of role models
  • Require self-evaluation
  • Reduce two-way communication and external reinforcement, so that the learner's own efforts become the unequivocal focus
  • Monitor progress to ensure success, and only assist students in acquiring the skills to be self-directing and self-monitoring
  • Inspire and mentor, challenge or provoke the learner, and then step back
  • Intervene only when asked to help-and then not help meet the challenge, but instead help empower the learner to meet the challenge 


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