Posted By Jenny Aanderud,
Friday, January 22, 2016
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Like adults, students of all ages need to feel like they have some control over important aspects of their lives. Fostering autonomy--appropriately for a student's age--is one of the most powerful things educators can do to enable social, emotional, and moral development. Because a sense of autonomy is a human need, both the student and the school environment will suffer without its appropriate development. Here are the three areas educators can best explore for autonomy's development:
Offer students choice:
* regarding which assignment to do, or how it is done, or when the assignment's "due date" is.
* regarding whether to work alone on a particular assignment, or as a team.
* regarding how to show mastery of a concept or body of material.
* regarding how to spend time after an in-class assignment is done.
* solicit student opinions; let them know you are listening carefully to their opinions.
Help students develop voice...
...and respect that voice. (Of course the "voice" must be used respectfully; when it is not, rather than take the voice away, help students understand what proper use of voice is and how we all benefit when it is used appropriately):
* help the class develop respect for others in the group, even others whose opinions they might disagree with.
* work toward a class environment that allows for individuality in opinions, as well as individuality in other ways.
* allow students to disagree (and to agree!): with one another, with you, at times maybe even with themselves (but always to do so respectfully).
Offer "explanatory rationale":
An explanatory rationale clarifies why an activity is relevant, or why a certain subject or unit might be important. It fosters autonomy because understanding the relevance of subject matter or certain behaviors helps students "buy in" to what is being studied; it thus becomes more "theirs." Students feel more control if they are engaging willingly, in something that has utility:
* make sure students understand what you want them to get out of an assignment.
* in teaching social skills, help students understand how they will be helpful with later social interactions.
* in giving praise or feedback, focus as much as possible on what worked well, and rather than an unspecified grade or comment about quality, help students understand what was good in a certain assignment or behavior.