More on the motivating effect of autonomy-supportive education:

“Adult development is a progression toward self-determination and personal responsibility for choices and decisions…. Adults want to control their own lives.”   –Raymond J. Wlodkowski, Enhancing Adult Motivation to Learn

“Vallerand and Bissonnete (1992) asked each of one thousand first-year students at a Canadian college to complete a questionnaire that assessed their reasons for attending school. After scoring each student for how originlike [self-determining] versus pawnlike were their reasons, the researchers checked back a year later to see which students had dropped out of school by their sophomore years. The attrition rate of the pawnlike students was substantially greater than that of the originlike students. ” –Johnmarshall Reeve, Motivating Others

“It seems clear that when students perceive that they are free to follow their own goals, most of them invest more of themselves in their effort, work harder, and retain and use more of what they have learned, than in conventional courses.”  –Carl Rogers, Freedom to Learn

APPLICATION: How can I structure the learning environment so my students experience autonomy?

STUDENT-CREATED TESTS (Domains: Feedback & Evaluation and Activities): Invite students to write and contribute questions for an upcoming test, with a promise to include a minimum number of student-written questions on the actual test.  The more student-written questions used on the test, the more students will feel self-determining.  This strategy also teaches students the life-long learning skill of asking significant questions. Most students have little awareness that each discipline intends to answer certain types of questions.

CONTRACTS (Domains: Activities and Policies & Rules): Have students design their own course contract, including their desired course grade, specific and measurable learning outcomes (e.g., “I can write an essay with no more than 1 grammar error per 100 words), and desired experiences along the way (e.g., “I have some say in what I am learning”). Next ask them to list the behaviors (e.g., “Attend class on time.”) that will likely lead to the achievement of their desired outcomes and experiences. All behaviors agreed on unanimously by the class become the class “rules.”

–Skip Downing, Facilitator, On Course Workshop, Skip@OnCourseWorkshop.com 

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