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Support students’ autonomy through opportunities for student decision making and direction

Autonomy NGSS P3S1

Have students identify the meaningful roles for a particular group investigation and self-select their roles as they engage in activities to figure out a phenomenon or solve a design problem. For example:
  • Big ideas (BI) person. This person pulls the group (occasionally) back to the scientific purpose of the activity. (Often a group will get too wrapped up in the rote execution of the directions)
  • Clarifier. This is a role of monitoring everyone’s comprehension about one or two key science terms related to the investigation
  • Questioner. This person asks probing questions during the activity, listens for questions posed by other group members, and then revoices the questions to make sure that the whole group takes a moment to hear and entertain questions from everyone
  • Skeptic. This person tries to strengthen the group’s work by probing for weaknesses in the developing investigation
  • Progress monitor. This person asks others to periodically take the measure of the group’s progress
Autonomy Principles

The strategy above is aligned to the principles in bold.

  • Provide authentic choices for assignments/activities/assessments and in how students complete those tasks
  • Consider whether the choices students are permitted are relevant to advancing their learning or whether they are largely teacher concessions/placations for classroom management purposes
Provide opportunities for students to direct their own learning
  • Support students’ cognitive autonomy by allowing ample time for student decision making and problem solving and by encouraging students to discuss and justify multiple approaches, strategies, and solutions; ask questions arising from their own ideas; make decisions about revising work or what is learned next; and formulate personal learning goals
  • Be receptive to students’ spontaneous questions and ideas that demonstrate independent thinking and ownership of the topic
  • Use student questions and ideas to influence subsequent learning activities
  • In both classroom management and learning tasks, provide rationales or refer to reasons why students might choose to do something, rather than ordering them to comply or coercing them through rewards or threat of punishment
  • Rather than telling students that they should or must do something (or do something in a certain way), ask students for their reasoning and coach them to generate possible solutions. Allow students to make mistakes, try alternative solutions, and/or generate their own solutions
  • Make space for students to express their views and opinions; be open to the possibility that these may differ from your own or may deviate from the planned responses you expected to hear
  • Acknowledge and respond to negative students’ negative emotions and feelings: accept them as constructive information that can be used to transform an activity from something not worth doing, to something worth doing
  • Provide rationales, particularly for unappealing choices