Fermilab LInC
Mini-Lesson: Student Direction


To be able to identify the components which make student direction within an engaged learning proposal effective and well written


One of the key elements for a successful engaged learning experience is allowing for student direction. Allowing for opportunities for student direction puts the students in the driver seat and fosters ownership in the project. If we can keep in mind the roles we are trying to foster in an engaged learning environment while creating that environment, we have a much better chance at success. Those roles are for teachers to be facilitators and co-learners of the learning that is taking place and for students to become the investigators who are given choices and encouraged to follow open-ended channels to solve problems and/or find solutions.

If you have provided opportunities for students to make decisions about their own questions to pursue, the direction they want to take within the project, what problems they want to solve, what topic to focus on, etc., then you are providing opportunities for student direction. If you have provided your students with a list of instructions and/or tasks to do to complete the project, marched them in lock-step fashion through an investigation, provided them with all the materials they will use, discouraged them from asking questions or going off on tangents, etc., then you have killed the engaged learning environment you were trying to create.

Some action phrases to use when writing student direction descriptions might be students will choose, will create, will design, will brainstorm, will decide, will investigate, will experiment with, . . . etc.

To help you in the process of including student direction in your project, ask yourself the following questions while developing your project.

What types of choices can be offered to students?

What kinds of guidance/support do students need?

How can the project be structured to allow for student direction and yet still provide the needed support for the students to accomplish the project's outcomes?

Here are two projects that illustrate this "art" for you to look over. Read the first page of the project and then the presentation page in order to get a feel for how they are structuring their project:

Wildlife Trade: Buyer Beware!

Wildlife Trade: Buyer Beware! - Learner Outcomes