Table of Contents

1.  A New Direction

By focusing on how we can best prepare students to live full, productive, satisfying lives, we can reshape every aspect of the experience of school... [Read more]

2.  Creating the Classroom Culture

Perhaps the most critical factor in shaping student motivation is often invisible because it is everywhere. It is the classroom culture, and, like fish in the sea, we and our students are unaware of the water in which we swim... [Read more]

3.  The Role of Student Work

It is possible for students to perceive the work they do in class and at home as both meaningful and useful—as a powerful tool in the learning process.  It is possible for students to work less but much more effectively.  To accomplish that, we must reconsider the very purpose of the work students do.... [Read more]

4.  Study Groups:  The Heart of Conversational Learning

The use of study groups is one of the most important and effective structural changes any teacher can make.  It can be pivotal in improving a student's sense of belonging and ownership.  It can have a powerful impact ... (Read more)

5.  Differentiated Learning:  Building the Responsive Classroom

We know students learn in different ways at different rates, yet we expect them all to do the same work at the same time, both in the classroom and at home.  In so doing, we systematically require some students to do busywork and prevent others from getting as much practice as they need ... (Read more)

6.  Learning Contracts:  The Structure of Self-Directedness

Once we understand the importance of differentiated learning, we need to create classroom structures to make it happen.  These structures should customize the learning experience of every student.   They should respond to each student’s learning needs and provide the scaffolding for students to make good choices ... (Read more)

7.  Unit Contracts

Unit contracts encompass and organize all the learning goals and activities a student experiences.  This new structure can serve to organize an entire course, unit by unit  ... (Read more)

8.  Making Tests Meaningful

We need to find a way to break the cram-regurgitate-forget cycle of testing, and replace it with a mechanism that is an effective part of the learning process ... (Read more)

9.  Grades Reconsidered

One of our central goals is to break the spell of grades by redefining their purpose.  Rather than being a system of rewards and punishments, an external motivator, or a way to sort students along a bell curve, grades can become an important and useful part of the learning process  ... (Read more)

10.  Putting it All Together:  Designing the Learning Process

Just as you might create a lesson plan to organize your actions as a teacher, you need to create a comparable plan to organize your students’ experiences as learners.  You need to create a learning sequence  ... (Read more)

11. Implementing Ideals in the Real World

Now that you have explored the ideas of self-directed learning, it is time to contemplate the challenging task of putting them into practice.  As with any large undertaking of this nature, there will inevitably be some bumps and bruises  ... (Read more)