Self-directed assignments show promise, according to community college prof
- Writing for The Hechinger Report, Ria Banerjee, an assistant professor of English at Guttman Community College in the City University of New York, details how self-directed assignments improved her students' learning experiences.
- Analogizing the self-directed model as like comparing a rusty can opener vs. a smooth-turning one with "OXO-style grips," she says homework provides a smooth development process for the student that results in better grades, meeting students across different academic skill and engagement levels.
- Using the Universal Design for Learning strategy, she adds a "Do More" section to assignments allowing students options to modify the assignment based on their preferences, boosting their motivation; though she notes she's seen more success with the practice in her 200-level courses than in lower levels.
Whether at the higher ed or K-12 level, educators are increasingly recognizing and adapting to the fact that students enter the classroom at a variety of skill levels. Working to meet them where they are across those levels — essentially personalizing their learning experience — stands to increase their odds of success as well as their growth overall.
Still, as Banerjee notes, self-directed options can have mixed results at different points in a student's academic career. That amount of freedom may not work as well across the board for those not yet acclimated to the college experience as it might with those who already have a year or two under their belts. But this is also potentially a strength of having the options that allow more freedom as addendums to the primary assignment, allowing those who are already more ambitious or explorative to flex their mental muscles if they so desire.
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