Self-directed learning gives way to individualized instruction, student empowerment

Using a blend of online classes with traditional instruction, all-boys charter school Vertus High School located in New York’s Rochester City School District — allows students to go at their own pace and lets them fill in the gaps, according to The Hechinger Report. Students can spend more time in areas where they are struggling, but are not held back in the areas that come easy to them.Many students enter Vertus at or below grade level, especially in reading and math, but the system seems to be helping: 71% of its students pass the Regents exams, which are required by the state of New York to graduate. In contrast, Rochester City School District’s average passing rate is 38%.Students are given “lab time” for individualized pace learning, which gives them more control over their own learning schedule — in addition to teaching them time management and organization — while still being required to meet certain benchmarks to graduate. At Vertus, students must work on every subject at least once a week, and their progress is checked by mentors. Self-directed learning is a trend that's becoming increasingly common in schools. Educators are moving from lecturing in the front of a classroom to taking more supportive roles that allow students to take some of their learning into their own hands. But this new model also poses some questions: How much direction do students really need? When should a teacher teach, and when should they step back and just support? And how does a teacher differentiate between students’ various learning styles? Empowering young learners can certainly stand to benefit them for their futures, but in making this model successful, teachers must walk a thin line.

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