Reimagining Education Series: Strategies for Student-Directed Learning

Changes to education during the COVID-19 pandemic have presented opportunities for some students to gain autonomy over aspects of their learning. For example, some students who participated in remote learning last year—and some students who continue to do so this year—have had opportunities to be more in charge of when they complete their coursework. These experiences have created fertile ground to incorporate promising practices for student-directed learning and student voice. Region 1 states include a variety of policies and strategies that support student-directed learning in multiple ways, including student-led conferences, initiatives, and resources to support personalized learning plans in Massachusetts and Vermont, and quarterly meetings between students and the Education Commissioner in Maine. Paper 3 in our Reimaging Education series highlights some of these approaches:

  • Personalized learning plans, also known as student success plans, are a tool for students to articulate action steps they can take to meet their academic, career, and/or personal goals. The plans are both a document and a process to engage students in setting and meeting their own goals. Personalized learning plans help track students’ progress towards graduation, support college and career exploration and planning, and inform personalized learning approaches. Research suggests that these plans hold promise for supporting students’ academic and postsecondary outcomes.
  • Supporting student voice empowers students to shape their own learning experience and elevates students to be active decision-makers about education programs, policies, and practices. Examples include student feedback surveys, democratic classroom practices, and participatory action research. Proponents suggest that such strategies can increase student engagement, agency, and belonging.

State, district, and school leaders can look to these strategies to increase student engagement and build upon what worked well for some students during pandemic learning. View all the papers in the Reimaging Education series.