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More about our pedagogy

"Like many students in high school, I only truly felt engaged in my learning when I was able to connect to the material—when my teachers presented it in a way where I became interested in learning it on my own. I found that my performance directly correlated to how conducive my teacher’s instruction style was in promoting self-motivated learning. The commonality I can draw between my favourite teachers is that they were all engaging educators and integrated course content in a way where it seemed relevant and important to my life. The same way I had trouble learning in classes where I felt removed and passive in my learning, transitioning to university had a similar impact on my education. Those massive lecture halls and ‘weed out’ classes of the first year of my undergrad felt wholly foreign to me. However, I was able to adjust eventually because of my teachers: by engaging me as a student, I had been motivated to learn more and developed my independent study skills, and these skills are what I built upon in university.

The difficulty of that transition was not lost on me though; I recognized that I was overall unprepared when I entered university, and this had adverse effects on my performance, mental health, and self-worth. In a conversation with my friend, I realized just how common this experience was, and when we casually mentioned how it would have been nice to have a program that helped teach us the things we needed to succeed in university, it was a thought that stuck in my head. Fast-forward a year and a half, my friends and I have established a volunteer run program, Discover, which specializes in academically supporting students in order to ease their transition to post-secondary. When creating our program outline, I needed to pinpoint exactly what was important for post-secondary success and how we could potentially integrate those skills into our approach to tutoring; through my research I came across the Self Determined Learning Model of Instruction. We decided to incorporate and adapt this instructional model for small group and one-on-one instruction, and as we have continued to adjust our program to changing situations and growing audiences, the core aspects of this approach to instruction have remained constant and effective. 

The Self Determined Learning Model of Instruction is an inclusive learning model, which builds the overarching quality of self-determination through teaching associated skills. By learning and using skills which enables students to “self-regulate problem solving, leading to goal setting and attainment”, “identify meaningful learning goals across multiple curricular domains”, and “achieve more positive school and post-school outcomes”, this instructional model aims to build self-determination in preparation for the students’ future (Shogren et al., 2019, p. 3). Furthermore, self-determination is defined as a causal agent which allows people to establish goals and put in action the steps needed to accomplish said goal, which is a key determinant in an individual’s success (Shogren et al., 2019). This model was developed by scholars at the Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities, led by Michael Wehmeyer and Karrie Shogren of the Department of Special Education. They are engaged in this line of research and the construction of this instructional model for educators in order to create an approach to education which will provide explicit instruction on the skills associated with self-determination. Despite being developed in the context of special education, SDLMI aims to be an inclusive approach to education which supports students with and without disabilities. In my exploration of this model, my objective is to determine how the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction facilitates the achievement of educational learning outcomes, in a high school context. SDLMI intends to not only facilitate curricular learning, but additionally providing the opportunity to build soft skills, such as goal setting, planning, time management, and self-motivation, which will equip students for success in future endeavours.

The core concepts of SDLMI, as outlined by Shogren et al. (2019), are centred around the skills required to build self-determination, and hopes to achieve the teaching of these skills through opportunity to use and practice these skills whilst providing support and accommodations when they are necessary. In fact, the three phases outlined by the scholars of (1) setting a goal, (2) taking action, and (3) adjusting goal or plan (Shogren et al., 2019) compose the backbone of a coherent scaffolded approach. In a Seidel et al. (2005) study, which focuses on clarity and coherence of lesson goals as a scaffold for student learning, researchers establish student learning as a self-regulatory process of individual knowledge building, through cognitive learning activities, quality of learning motivation, and students’ perception of instruction. They find a positive correlation between classes with high goal clarity and coherence on the students’ reports on supportive learning conditions, self-determined learning motivations, and organizing learning activities. Over the course of the school year, “high goal clarity and coherence resulted in positive competence development”. Furthermore, from a theoretical standpoint, individual interest develops over an extended course of time and that it can be fostered by frequent experiences of self-determined learning motivation or situational interest. This provides evidence on how the Self-Determined Learning Model can be implemented with success and furthermore advocates for self-determined learning to develop student interests and education. 

The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction, and thus, by extension, the Discover Model, facilitates the achievement of educational learning outcomes through the building of skills associated with self-determination."

- Nawreen Hena

President, Executive Director

Further Reference:

Liem, A. D., Lau, S., & Nie, Y. (2008). The role of self-efficacy, task value, and achievement

goals in predicting learning strategies, task disengagement, peer relationship, and achievement outcome. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 33(4), 486–512.

Seidel, T., Rimmele, R., & Prenzel, M. (2005). Clarity and coherence of lesson goals as a

scaffold for student learning. Learning and Instruction, 15(6), 539-556.

Shogren, K. A., Raley, S. K., Burke, K. M., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2019). The Self-Determined

Learning Model of Instruction Teacher’s Guide. Kansas University Center on Developmental Disabilities.

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