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Supporting Autonomy in the Classroom: Ways Teachers Encourage Student Decision Making and Ownership

In addition to classroom activities, teachers provide personal and instructional supports meant to facilitate the developing sense of student autonomy. In this article, we offer a way of thinking about autonomy-supportive practices that suggests that such practices can be distinguished at a featural level and that different practices may in fact have different outcomes in terms of student classroom behavior. Specifically, we propose that autonomy support can be manifested in the classroom in at least 3 distinct ways: organizational autonomy support (e.g., allowing students some decision-making role in terms of classroom management issues), procedural autonomy support (e.g., offering students choices about the use of different media to present ideas), and cognitive autonomy support (e.g., affording opportunities for students to evaluate work from a self-referent standard). We offer vignettes of teachers in their classes to illustrate our proposition that autonomy support may be carried out on several planes and may produce different outcomes. Whereas organizational autonomy support may encourage a sense of well-being and comfort with the way a classroom functions and procedural autonomy support may encourage initial engagement with learning activities, cognitive autonomy support may foster a more enduring psychological investment in deep-level thinking.

 

Supporting Autonomy in the Classroom: Ways Teachers Encourage Student Decision Making and Ownership

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