Autonomy, can that be taught?

We often hear that students lack autonomy to accomplish certain tasks or that it is important to develop autonomy in them. But what is autonomy? Is this behavior that changes with age? Can this be taught? How to get there? How to measure it?

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We often hear that students lack autonomy to accomplish certain tasks or that it is important to develop autonomy in them. But what is autonomy? Is this behavior that changes with age? Can this be taught? How to get there? How to measure it?

The theory

According to CASIS research chair on writing to increase the motivation of elementary school students, “supporting a student's autonomy means offering them choices in a structured classroom context in which their opinions are considered”. In other words, it is about giving our students latitude within a well-established framework. The research group offers us four key ingredients to support autonomy: 

  • Recognize the feelings, opinions and perspectives of the student;
  • Promote initiative and reflection;
  • Provide choices;
  • Justify learning and tasks.

These four paths to take make it possible to measure and teach autonomy to our young people according to their age and level, keeping in mind that the choices, feelings and reasons for learning evolve, so the evidence of autonomy too. . Here are some ideas.

Modeling of initiative taking

First of all, in order to visualize the way in which we perceive the development of the autonomy of our students, it may be interesting to illustrate it so that they can refer to it. For example, the following documents provide ideas for the student so that he can continue his process of reflection on his own. 

For my part, I use a similar model but in the form of a pyramid so that the students first use their knowledge and the resources at their fingertips before going to others. 

By offering them such models, we promote and initiate the process of taking initiatives. Eventually, this model can be acquired and initiatives taken independently by our students. In addition, for students with access to a digital device, this is a great way to instill responsible and ethical behavior with their tool! 

Foster decision-making

Providing choices to our students allows them to feel that they have a weight in the course of the teaching and allows the teacher to better understand how they perceive their learning. For example, we could offer students to see the material on issues related to the metropolis of Montreal or to do a review on concepts already seen. Their decision will demonstrate where they stand with understanding the material and what their student brain thinks is worth doing. Upstream, we can model the taking of choice: “if you choose to see new material, you think you understand the first part well, so you could explain it to someone else. If you decide you want to review, then you think it would be good to review some concepts before continuing, etc. ". The simple fact of letting the student choose according to his level of learning allows him to develop his autonomy.

In addition, digital technology allows us to vary the decisions offered to students. We can allow them to choose applications based on projects, for example. Even if they don't make the perfect choice, they will learn from that bad choice and not do it again. Just as if they discover an application they love and master, they can use it to its full potential and why not present it to the rest of the class?

Several other ways to promote the autonomy of our students in the classroom can be presented, but I am convinced that to model what an autonomous student is by giving clear expectations and by offering latitude in the learning activities offered favors the development of autonomous behaviors. Every little bit counts and thinking about what we want in our classroom is the key to changing the way we learn.    

In addition, Carrefour education offers you these relevant resources to develop the autonomy of your students:

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About the Author

Laurie Couture
Laurie Couture
A high school French teacher and contributor to various blogs, Laurie Couture is passionate about writing and for the innovative aspect of education: how can you change your ways of doing things to improve your method? She loves to discover, discuss and develop about convincing practices related to technologies. Using digital technology, she aspires to set up projects and documents responding to current trends and proposing new approaches.

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