Over the past month or so, a group of NLCS educators worked on a digital learning grant application. Our goal was to increase autonomy.

“To all intents and purposes, the autonomous learner takes a (pro-) active role in the learning process, generating ideas and availing himself of learning opportunities, rather than simply reacting to various stimuli of the teacher (Boud, 1988; Kohonen, 1992; Knowles, 1975).”

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 11, November 2000

Autonomy is one piece of the motivational learning theory, which states that students become intrinsically motivated with they have autonomy, can demonstrate competence (meaning teachers push students to learn just beyond what they already know), and relatedness (feeling valued by the teacher). Once these three elements exist, students feel an internal drive to learn rather than relying on external motivation. All members of the grant team believe NLCS should use the motivational learning theory even if we don’t get the grant. It is indeed what’s best for students. This chart, which was part of our grant pitch, illustrates other benefits of the autonomy piece.

student autonomy

The video features author Paul Tough, whose book Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why discusses schools and teachers who are providing autonomy, competence, and relatedness. He explains how those schools are doing it, and the results they’re seeing.

Personally, I was inspired by the relatedness piece. Tough discusses how teachers who produce strong test scores are important, but teachers who make students feel valued so they come back to school each day are equally important. Although my job is to help teachers enhance learning with technology, I have no doubt that the relationship between students and teachers will continue to be an invaluable element of successful schools.



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