Internalized motivation is the key to genuine learning

Excellent teaching is necessary, but not sufficient. The best teaching in the world becomes ineffective when students are working for points at the expense of working to learn. The difference between doing school and self-directed learning is not whether students are doing their work, but why they are doing it. It is essential to replace the habits of gaming the system with an internalized motivation to learn.

Doing individual work to prepare for a conversation with other students gives that work meaning

It is more appealing to have work lead to socializing than to do it for points. When a student begins to feel peer pressure from his study group to do the work and engage in the learning process, it supplies a natural compulsion that, for once, is not coming from the teacher..

Well-designed student work fosters metacognitive skills

The boundary between what a student knows and what he doesn’t is where all his learning takes place. A teacher can ask a lot of questions to assess what the student currently understands, but this is something that, with training, a student can get very good at.  It is an important life skill in and of itself, and it is an essential component of self-directed learning. If a student doesn’t know what she doesn’t know, how can she steer herself to learn it?

Self-evaluation boosts an internal sense of excellence

When a student assesses his own learning, he begins to take responsibility for how well he is learning. He internalizes the question of whether he is doing excellent work. This is a powerful tool in cultivating self-awareness, and it helps him also internalize the motivation to do the work of learning.

Students must be taught to be honest and accurate in self-evaluating their work

It is a skill, and like any skill it requires modeling and practice. Learning this skill is also a means of undoing the adversarial, dishonest, and sneaky posture students often have when they are doing school.

Like everything else in school, homework must serve the Prime Directive

The costs of assigning mandatory homework are real and must be weighed against the benefits. One must always ask “Is this enhancing both the intellectual and personal growth of my students?”

Homework can and should be differentiated to meet the needs of students

While it may sometimes be useful to have every student do the same homework at the same time, there will also be occasions where the learning needs of students will vary and will call for them to do different homework. Whenever possible, the students should decide for themselves what they need to do.


Organizing their work is a useful skill for students

Whether it is in paper or digital form, they should be provided with a consistent structure, and taught how to use it.