Attitudes and Dispositions:

Percentage Change Over Time


I feel like I have choice in what I learn at school.


I believe teachers should tell students what to learn in school.


Commentary: Although it looks like regression, the students actually disagreed with the statement about teachers telling students what to learn in schools, so their belief in self-determination increased.


When I choose my own inquiry, I can focus on it for a long time.


I love pursuing my personal inquiries.


Commentary: When watching students during self-directed learning, the level of engagement is what really stands out. As the year went on, they became more and more on task and passionate about their learning.


I know how to learn about anything I want to.


I believe students can learn without teachers.


Commentary: One of the biggest successes of self-directed learning is that students have learned how to learn. This is the first step in empowering them to become lifelong learners.


I need adults to help me stay focused while inquiring.


When I don’t know what to do, I usually ask a teacher.


Commentary: Again, what looks like regression is actually growth. In line with engagement, students rarely need to be redirected during self-directed learning time. Their independence grew considerably.


I enjoy learning and have fun while doing it.


I feel excited about my passions.


Commentary: As was evidenced by many of the reflections and comments, students really enjoy the opportunity to learn about what they want. The energy is high and the enthusiasm is contagious.


I work well as a member of a group.


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Commentary: This was one of the biggest positive surprises from the data. What started out with students learning primarily on their own, naturally morphed into the majority of the class inquiring in partnerships. In the end, the majority of self-directed inquiries were learned in partnerships.


I know how to use student resources to help me learn.


I know where to go to find answers to my questions.


Commentary: “Student resources” refer to a collection of student databases, search engines and news sources the school has subscriptions to. At the beginning of the year, students were guided to use these child-friendly sites during self-directed learning. However, by the end of the year, the vast majority of students had abandoned those school-sponsored resources in favor of publicly used online sites, with some hard-copy texts interspersed.


I know how to communicate my learning to others.


I use visual modes and media to communicate my learning.


Commentary: “Visual modes” refer to different visual media used to communicate. As the year progressed, the complexity and repertoire of visual modes became increasingly diversified as students evaluated which mode would best suit their purpose.


I feel proud of myself as a learner.


I feel good about my personal learning progress.


Commentary: These numbers were slightly lower than one would have expected, considering the pride and enthusiasm that filled the learning environment during self-directed learning.


I am an organized person.


I know how to organize information I collect.


Commentary: It is interesting to see such different results in how students would describe themselves, compared to how they apply the skill/disposition of organization. Although students don’t see themselves as becoming more organized, they do feel they are better organizing their learning process.  


I am a creative person.


I know how to express my learning in different ways.


Commentary: Again, there is a significant gap between how students see themselves and how they express their creativity.

Growth Mindset

I enjoy challenges.


I believe mistakes are positive for me.


Commentary: Despite the fact that students are familiar with growth mindsets and neuroplasticity, they would much rather be challenged than make mistakes. Although this is not surprising given the human condition, this should be something I work on students having greater acceptance with next year.


I am someone who perseveres through challenging situations.


I feel okay when I fail.


Commentary: In line with the data from growth mindset, student resilience is a habit of mind that made far less gains than I would have expected. Mistakes and failure do not seem to be as welcomed as perseverance and challenge.


I can find the answers to my questions.


I can learn on my own if I want to.


Commentary: I feel that student independence grew much more than this data would indicate. By the end of the year, teachers were far more hands-off during SDL time than hands-on. Student qualitative reflections tend to indicate they feel more independent than the modest gains shown quantitatively.


I am innovative. I take ideas and make them better.


I play around with new ideas in my head.


Commentary: Innovation tended to happen more naturally during SDL, rather than through intentional action or inquiry. The greatest increases came from technology tools students used to record and document their learning, along with design-based and kinesthetic inquiries, such as making recipes, stop-motion and green screen.


I am a curious person.


I have a lot of questions I wonder about.


Commentary: This was one of the biggest surprises to me. I thought that honoring students’ curiosity would foster more curiosity, but this data contradicts that assumption. Perhaps a more natural state of curiosity dilutes the awareness of when curiosity occurs. It will be interesting to examine this again next year.


I feel motivated at school.


I want to continue learning when I go home.


Commentary: I wonder to what degree increasing the time that students spend choosing their own learning might illuminate how frequently they feel unmotivated in other parts of the day when they don’t have that freedom. I also wonder what data would result from changing, “I feel motivated at school” to “I feel motivated during self-directed learning.”


When I am stuck on a question, I know how to problem-solve on my own.


When I have a problem, I make a plan and try to solve it.


Commentary: This is definitely an area I need to work on with future classes--building a culture of increased problem-solving. Although most of their problem-solving comes from peer-to-peer learning, it is evident that confidence or awareness of problem-solving needs to be better attended to (if this is how they feel). Perhaps some further resources need to be created with options for potential steps to be taken when students are stuck. Student reluctance to problem-solve might also align to similar data growth in growth-mindset and resilience.


I feel involved in deciding my learning goals.


I have specific goals I have chosen for myself.


Commentary: I assume full responsibility as the teacher for the lack of growth in goal-orientation. I need to have more coaching conversations with the students so they can articulate their specific learning goals during SDL. The irony is, however, that self-directed learning is, in essence, selecting goals for learning. But we tend to refer to it as curiosity or inquiry. Maybe a slight shift in semantics could better highlight the more subtle goals they are working towards, coupled with more coaching conversations.


I know what I am doing well, in school and in life.


I know what I would like to improve on, in school and in life.


Commentary: The lack of awareness in what students are doing well in and can improve upon is likely related to the inadequate number of coaching conversations I conducted during self-directed learning time. This will be one of my main goals for next year.


I believe in myself.


I am confident in my abilities as a learner.


Commentary: This was one of the bigger surprises from the data, as what we have observed would indicate the exact opposite. One has to wonder whether the process of struggling through a self-directed inquiry shook their confidence level, or whether it has to do with an increased sense of self-awareness regarding their initial perceived abilities. Student qualitative reflections consistently pointed to feeling more confident, but the quantitative change over time did not mirror this.