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Self-Directed Learning Through Uncertainty

posted Oct 15, 2017, 12:56 AM by HSD Principal   [ updated Oct 15, 2017, 12:57 AM ]
Ronald Beghetto writes about why inviting uncertainty into your classroom might be beneficial to your students. Some of his ideas are especially relevant to helping our students become Self-Directed Learners since when you don't have all the answers, students need to come up with some on their own.

Many... good things may come from welcoming uncertainty into our classrooms. But we will never realize these benefits unless we're willing to take the beautiful risk of allowing students to unleash their problem solving on complex challenges—inside and outside the classroom.

His five big ideas are:

1. View Good Uncertainty as Opportunity

Good uncertainty, however, provides students opportunities to engage with the unknowns of a challenge in an otherwise supportive, well-structured environment. For example, when students are trying to come up with their own ways of solving a problem, teachers can let them know in advance about key constraints (such as time and materials), what's required for success, and how they can get additional assistance if they get stuck.

2. Try Lesson Unplanning

[Teachers can make] slight adjustments to pre-existing lessons—what I call lesson unplanning. This refers to replacing some predetermined element (such as the problem or process) with a to-be-determined (by the students) component. Doing so transforms a routine exercise into a more complex one.

3. Assign Complex Challenges

If we want to prepare students to respond productively to uncertainty, we need to have them tackle a full range of challenges, including those addressing ill-defined problems and big issues—such as developing an inexpensive, accurate way to detect the Ebola virus or designing a robot that can clean trash from New York's subways (Stone, 2016). Such work invites students to engage in tasks, situations, or experiences that are filled with uncertainty. There are no sure-fire formulas or predetermined steps to solve a problem like how to address under-the-radar bullying. And the nature of such problems can change during the process of solving them.

4. Explore the Backstory of Famous Solutions

One way to help students learn to tackle complex challenges is to let them learn from models of successfully solved problems and accomplished problem solvers. Doing so requires students to go beyond the "what" of solved problems and learn about the why, who, how, when, and where of getting to that solution.

5. Launch Never-Ending Projects

What if instead of limiting projects to the classroom and viewing them as coming to an end, we engaged students in projects that address authentic complex challenges and that make a lasting contribution beyond classroom walls, what I call legacy challenges? A legacy challenge represents an issue, problem, or situation that requires us to develop an ongoing solution and pass that solution on from one group of young people to the next.