When should a student take responsibility for their learning?

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So this is a really big question, and honestly, I am always thinking about this with the students I work with. A big part of this is developing intrinsic motivation, and of course, this looks different at different developmental stages. Sometimes I find myself frustrated with students because I want them to take more responsibility for their learning but when I am feeling this frustration I remind myself that each kid is an individual and has their own speed as well as unique strengths and weaknesses. Also, the quote below from Barbara McCombs research helps me remember the importance of building a trusting and positive relationship with my students.

"Addressing the whole learner in developmentally appropriate ways includes establishing positive student relationships and listening to each learner’s voice in creating productive learning climates. With this whole learner perspective, teachers are able to help learners become responsible for their own learning in school and in life. By addressing student learning needs and negative behaviors from a place of trust and positive relationships, students are better able to make good choices during learning as well as outside the classroom. " - Barbara McCombs Ph.D., University of Denver

All of this said it's important for students to grow and understand fully their disability if they have one, their unique learning style, and their strengths. If we as interventionists can help them to better understand themselves in all these areas we can help them to grow and become independent learners. I am a huge proponent of embracing your disability and teaching students not to be ashamed of their learning style but rather to love it. Once you embrace your weaknesses you can move past them and focus on your strengths. When a student is able to focus on their strengths then they can become independent learners. It is here when they will realize that learning in their unique way is fun, rewarding and worth doing.

I work on this with all my students but in particular, I work on this with my middle school students. With the huge change that happens for students, leaving their single teacher classroom setting, beginning to change classes, and keeping track of assignments and long term projects -middle school is the perfect opportunity for kids with learning disabilities to hone their skills as independent learners. Working with your students to go beyond just Orton-Gillingham reading intervention and to help them see how they learn best will truly be a skill they take with them throughout life.

Stay Curious,

The Smart ALEC team

Becky Newell