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Teaching Strategies to Promote a Self-Directed Classroom

Janelle Cox

The difference between a good teacher and an excellent teacher is that an excellent teacher uses teaching strategies to demonstrate to their students how to learn so that they don’t just regurgitate information learned, but actually apply what they learned. Effective teachers use teaching strategies to promote a self-directed classroom so that their students know if they cannot solve a problem or figure out an answer then they will have the tools themselves. Here are a few teaching strategies to help you cultivate a classroom where your students are self-reliant and feel that they can do it on their own.

Teaching Strategies: Explore Learning Together

The majority of the time the teacher is the main source of information for her students. To help cultivate a classroom where students learn independence and self-reliance, try learning something new together. This way, students will learn by observing the way you learn. You and your techniques will help them get ideas on how they can do it on their own.

Make it OK to Fail

Is failing ever an option in school? Well in today’s society, it just may be the answer to independent children. When a student is practicing balancing on a beam and they fall down, don’t they usually get back up and try again? When a child is playing a video game and their character dies, don’t they keep playing until they persevere? Failure can be the pathway to something bigger. We must give students room to fail, and then allow them to learn to pick themselves up and try again. Give your students a chance to make a mistake, and know that it is OK and that they can learn from it.

Give Your Students a Platform

Your classroom should be a platform where students feel comfortable to have a voice. Imagine your school was a place where you were never able to voice your opinion or speak your mind. Make your classroom environment a place where students are free to speak their minds. This will not only make them feel empowered, but also feel like they are part of a classroom community.

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Study Role Models

Take some time out to study leaders and role models who persevered. Study about Abraham Lincoln, who lost several elections before winning his presidency. Or Bethany Hamilton, who had her arm bitten off by a shark but who continued to compete in surfing competitions. These real-world examples of perseverance will help students understand that people fail or go through hard times, but if they pick themselves up and dust themselves off, they can do anything.

Instill an “I Can” Attitude

Teaching students how to overcome disappointment may be one of the biggest and best lessons that they will ever learn in life. When students face a loss or a disappointment, teach them to analyze it and to step back and look at the big picture of the situation. Teach them to talk about how it feels so that it will help them move past it. Instilling an “I can” attitude in students today, will help them know, and understand that they can do anything tomorrow.

Believe in Your Students

Ultimately the goal is for the students to learn to believe in themselves, but before they can do that they need someone to believe in them. Really take the time to get to know each and every one of your students. Give them positive affirmations that they can do anything they put their mind to. Let’s say that one of your students is failing in math. Instead of telling them that there’s a chance that they will fail, build them up and tell them that you know that they can do it. Believe in their abilities and soon they will too.

Identify the Negatives

If you want a classroom where your students are self-directed and not only learn what you are teaching them, but know how to learn, then you must get rid of the negative thoughts and beliefs. Put your helping hat on and teach students to see that their negative thoughts are only holding them back from where they want to go. So the next time your students find themselves in a negative mindset, they will be able to pull themselves out of it.

Feedback, to Get Back on Track

If you grade papers at the end of each week, your feedback will not mean as much. Try giving students feedback as soon as possible, this way your words will resonate with them, and they will be more willing to make the changes needed. If you give immediate feedback then your students will have the opportunity to implement your suggestions right away or the following day.

Create Manageable Goals

If you’re looking to promote a self-directed classroom where students are independent and self-reliant, then you must teach them how to manage their own goals. Help students set small, achievable goals that can be achieved quickly. This will help them understand the process of setting and achieving a goal. Then, once they grasp this concept you can have them set more goals. Goals are meant to be a roadmap to help them stay on track. Once they understand this, have them create a visual reminder and set a date for achieving each and every one of their goals.

Boost Students’ Confidence

From time to time, try and bolster students’ confidence by discussing their strengths or abilities. Try and find something about each student that you can celebrate to help boost their confidence. Confidence building is a known way to increase students’ self-assurance and make them feel more independent.

In what ways do you promote a self-directed classroom? Please share your tips with us in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.

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