4.6: Prioritization- Self-Management of What You Do and When You Do It - Mathematics

Figure (PageIndex{8}): Numbered lists are useful and easy tools to create.

Figure (PageIndex{9}): The Eisenhower Matrix can help organize priorities and ensure that you focus on the correct tasks.

Figure (PageIndex{10}): Many of your learning activities are dependent on others, and some are the gateways to other steps.

Figure (PageIndex{11}): Allowing time to think is an important part of learning. Credit: Juhan Sonin / Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

Figure (PageIndex{12}): Where you do work can be as important as when. (Credit: Mads Bodker / Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0))

The Four Quadrants of Time Management

Everything you do in life can be classified by its urgency and by its importance. We often spend our lives focused on the Urgent things instead of the Important things. It is important to learn to distinguish between the two.

Fire fighting mode: Crises, real hard deadlines for important project, health & family emergencies, etc…

Quadrant 1 is the urgent important quadrant: Things that you should definitely NOT ignore. However, spending too much time in fire fighting mode will lead to stress and burn out. You will be caught in a never-ending cycle of crisis management.

The only way to reduce the time spent in this quadrant is to be proactive by spending more time on the important things BEFORE they become emergencies (see Quadrant 2 below).

Quadrant 1 Example
Dealing with a heart attack is an Urgent and Important problem that cannot be ignored (but perhaps by living a healthier lifestyle such health emergencies can be reduced or avoided all together).

Agile project management—a comprehensive guide.

Organizations are constantly facing changes and uncertainties, from changing production costs, to shifts in politics and management, natural disasters, security breaches, new goals and products, and more. The world around us is always shifting, and our companies are constantly being impacted.

Project management is a key way that organizations can keep everything organized and moving forward even as variables change constantly. Lots of employees on different teams, working side-by-side with different responsibilities can be complex. Emails and meetings take up time and energy, and don’t always help people stay focused on their piece of the puzzle. Project management helps teams and individuals understand their specific responsibilities and role for a project, as well as see how the different players are connected to each other. There are many different project management methodology systems to choose from. If you’re currently studying business management or a similar business field, it’s crucial to understand how project management helps an organization thrive. A business management degree can be a great way to get started in a project management career, and learning about the different software and systems involved is key to success.

There are many different project management methods and software systems to help project managers keep their teams on track. Agile project management is a popular methodology for organizing and setting goals for projects. At the basic level, Agile project management is a system that lets you break larger projects down into smaller, manageable tasks. These tasks are completed during sprints, or short time periods. The idea is that Agile project management allows your team to make changes quickly and deliver results faster. Learn more about Agile project management and how it can help your teams thrive.

Understanding the Agile project management methodology.

Agile project management is used in all kinds of organizations and industries, but is particularly popular with software and technology organizations, marketing teams, and IT teams. Agile project methods allow a team to adjust as the focus changes for a team, as deadlines shift, and as changes happen.

In order to better understand the Agile method, it’s important to learn about the Agile Manifesto, which includes the core values and principles of the Agile method. The core values of the Agile manifesto include:

1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools. Humans are a critical role of any project management, no matter how technology evolves. Too much reliance on tools and tech can lead to slow changes and delayed improvements.

2. Working software over comprehensive documentation. Documentation is great and very important, but getting an actual working product is more important.

3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Involving customers in the process can help ensure that their needs are met, and is important to getting things done accurately and well.

4. Responding to change over following a plan. This is the most important part of Agile project management, and is very different from other systems. Change is usually seen as something to be avoided, but in Agile project management there is room for continuous change in any project. Every sprint period gives the team a chance to re-evaluate and focus on new goals.

There are also 12 principles of the Agile manifesto that help teams execute Agile methods efficiently. The 12 principles are:

  • Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery.
  • Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Change can be a competitive advantage.
  • Deliver projects often (a couple of weeks to a couple of months) with a preference for the shorter timescale.
  • Team members must work together daily throughout the project to ensure alignment.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information among teams is through face-to-face conversations.
  • The final product is the primary measure of progress.
  • Agile processes promote sustainable development, so a constant pace can be maintained.
  • Constant attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  • Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work not done—is essential.
  • The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  • At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

These principles and values of Agile project management show what is important in this methodology, and how teams can effectively use it to enhance their processes.

How does Agile project management work?

There are just a few steps to understanding how Agile projects works.

Work request. A customer or team submits a work request or user story to the product owner with a short, simple description of what is needed and why. In agile development, the development team is then able to provide a reasonable estimate of the amount of work required to complete that request. This isn't just talking about software developers, but any team that has a hand in making this project happen. In the Agile method, team members may request something from another team, or it may be the customer making a request in this development process.

Sprint. A sprint is usually one to three weeks long, and within that period there are certain tasks that are expected to be completed. There is a sprint planning meeting so everyone is on the same page about what tasks need to be done and when. Sprint planning is key in determining the day-to-day work that needs to be done in the Agile model. Product owners need to regularly be updated about the development process to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Stand-up meetings. Daily stand-up meetings are short, around 10 minutes, and help everyone stay on track and informed. These meetings are meant to be very short and to the point so no time is wasted. The Agile project manager will take charge in these meetings to help team members understand what is expected of them. Stand-up meetings are a crucial part of agile development, as they allow product owners and team members to all understand what is happening.

Agile board. An Agile board helps everyone see visually the status of the project. This can be done physically inside the office, on a digital platform, or in whatever way works best for your team. In the Agile model, the Agile project manager will usually control the board and make updates so everyone understands where the project is. Product owners and team members alike can benefit from seeing where the project stands.

Backlog. As work requests are added to your list, there are some outstanding tasks needing to be done. These items in the backlog are assigned into the sprint during sprint planning to ensure that all tasks eventually get completed. In the Agile method, things typically don't stay in the product backlog for long, as the entire point is to get things moving as quickly as possible.

Benefits of Agile project management.

There are many benefits of utilizing Agile project management in a team, and it’s important to understand how it can help before deciding if it’s the right methodology for your organization. These benefits include:

Flexibility. Agile methodology is all about increasing flexibility in your organization. By focusing on shorter deadlines and timeframes, changes that come are more likely to be able to be worked in. Teams can be flexible because they have backlog options to place projects in a lower priority if needed, with the understanding that the new sprint will bring up more time and availability.

Greater organizational control. Organizations that have good project management have better control over how everything is running. They are able to see with the Agile board where every project is, refine and re-evaluate, and work directly with the people in-charge of certain tasks.

Better ROI. Agile project management can directly impact the ROI of an organization. Focusing on shorter time frames can allow better customer interactions, and updates or changes can be met immediately. If a project is losing money, a course correction can be made right away.

Employees have better adaptability and self-management skills. Employees know exactly what they are supposed to be working on and what is expected, helping increase their productivity. They are able to manage themselves and adapt to changes when needed, because it is all part of their process.

Agile project management example.

A team that uses Agile project management may see this kind of scenario in the office:

The marketing team has a large campaign coming up where they are creating new advertisements, new landing pages, social media posts, and commercials. This request comes from the VP of marketing and the team meets for sprint planning. They determine that in their first two-week sprint they can get all of the new imagery done, as well as film the TV commercial. They spend the next two weeks working on these tasks, and every day there is a meeting to go over progress, questions, and concerns. Halfway through the sprint, there is a major crisis with the current campaign, so some of the imagery is moved into the backlog. At the next sprint planning meeting, the team moves the imagery out of the backlog, and determines that they can finish the imagery and the copy for the ads and webpages in the next sprint. They spend the next two weeks focusing on these tasks of the project, and by the end of that sprint they are done with the project. They are able to provide the finished work to the VP of marketing and get it ready to launch.

Agile project management can help the team pivot when emergencies arise, work together on different aspects, make sure everyone including the requestor is up-to-date, and more.

How to transition to Agile project management.

If you’re a business leader or project manager and are considering moving to Agile project management, it’s important that you understand all of the elements of this methodology and how to incorporate it successfully.

You’ll need a comprehensive Agile project plan in order to properly train staff, communicate, collaborate, and understand the tools and resources you’ll need to be successful. Moving to an Agile method likely won’t be successful unless you have all the right pieces in place to make it work.

How to build an Agile team.

It may be that you’ll need to hire some people as you create an Agile team. It’s important to know what you’re looking for when hiring new people, and training new or current employees for Agile methods. Teams that are large, diverse, highly educated, and virtual tend to have great success. It’s important to not let teams get too large, to ensure that relationships are important so employees feel cared for, and to aim for diversity. These elements are critical in finding a team that can brainstorm and work well together.

Agile management tools.

The right tools are key to successful Agile methodology. It’s extremely important to weigh the services and software that you can use in your organization to enhance your project management. Some important software your team may need includes:

Task management software. Task management software helps individuals have their own to-do list, understanding what they need to be working on next in the day.

Collaboration software. Ways to chat or work together virtually on a project are extremely important when it comes to Agile methods. It’s vital your team has a quick way to ask questions, connect, and collaborate.

Project management software. Keep entire projects and their tasks straight with the right project management software. This is basically a look at all the projects your team is working on, how they are connected with others, and what tasks are involved. This is usually where requesters' can go and ask for a certain task or project to be done, adding it to your workflow.

Best practices for Agile project management.

A degree in business management is a great way to get started in understanding project management in an organization. But there are other best practices you should also take into consideration when pursuing the Agile methodology including:

Practice iterative development. This involves breaking down big tasks into smaller tasks. This is key in Agile methodology and it’s important you start adjusting to this practice as soon as possible.

Limit the amount of work your organization has in progress. Not everything is a fire that has to be put out immediately. Prioritization is key for Agile success.

Set communication guidelines. Foster collaboration and adaptability by setting up good communication inside your organization and across teams.

Provide continuous (and constructive) feedback to all employees. Nobody knows that they’re doing something wrong unless you tell them. Encourage employees, and give them feedback where necessary to help them be as successful and productive as possible.

Keep all stakeholders informed about organizational changes and plans going forward. Part of Agile project management is making sure everyone is up-to-date on plans and changes, and that is particularly important for leaders and stakeholders. Agile methodology helps you keep track of changes and share them when needed.

If you’re studying business management, it’s extremely valuable to learn more about project management and different systems and processes your organization may have. If a career in project management sounds exciting to you, a business management degree is the ideal place to start.

Developing Responsible and Autonomous Learners: A Key to Motivating Students

This module takes into consideration the holistic nature of individual student learning and the most effective practices for helping them develop into autonomous and responsible learners. Addressing the whole learner in developmentally appropriate ways includes establishing positive student relationships and listening to each learner’s voice in creating productive learning climates. With this whole learner perspective, teachers are able to help learners become responsible for their own learning in school and in life. By addressing student learning needs and negative behaviors from a place of trust and positive relationships, students are better able to make good choices during learning as well as outside the classroom. These learner-centered practices help students and their teachers to better cope with negative peer pressure and bullying throughout any learner’s journey through the learning system.

The module touches on each of these topics and provides evidence-based instructional practices along with suggested ways to draw from the other modules in this series. It offers related insights from:

  • Cognitive neuroscience, including recent brain study findings.
  • Inquiry-based learning approaches.
  • Blended learning with instructional technology, gaming and digital learning research.

This set of resources provides tools for what teachers of all age groups can do to inspire natural curiosity, creativity and autonomous lifelong learning.

Frustrations among teachers dealing with unmotivated students have been on the rise in recent years, particularly with accountability pressures for helping all students reach learning standards in both high and low performing schools. What teachers may not know is how important the connection is between student motivation and self-determination. Research has shown that motivation is related to whether or not students have opportunities to be autonomous and to make important academic choices. Having choices allows children through young adults feel empowered that they have control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps them develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation. The good news is that curriculum resources and assessment tools for reaching these students in personalized ways are emerging with the advent of increased uses of technology in schools.

Teachers can focus on creating responsible and autonomous learners through the use of appropriate student choices. Providing opportunities to choose topics of interest stimulates students’ natural curiosity and eagerness to learn. However, providing choices is most effective in contexts where students are individually supported by others in caring and challenging learning communities. In these cultures and climates for learning, students are more likely to develop diverse competencies needed to be successful lifelong learners. Stimulating curiosity is fostered when students are encouraged to work collaboratively with their teachers and peers in finding answers to their questions in inquiry-based learning environments.

Having choices allows even young children to learn ways to take control or ownership over their own learning. This, in turn, helps students develop a sense of responsibility and self-motivation.

An increasing number of teachers have observed that after second or third grade, many students begin to show signs of decreased motivation to learn. What happened to that natural eagerness to go to school or the curiosity to learn that is so apparent in preschool, first and second grade students? Many teachers fear that presenting more choices to students will lead to losing control over the classroom. However, research shows that in fact the opposite happens. When students understand their role as agent (the one in charge) over their own feeling, thinking and learning behaviors, they are more likely to take responsibility for their learning. To be autonomous learners, however, students need to have some actual choice and control.

That is why teachers need to learn how to help students develop the ability to make appropriate choices and take responsible control over their own learning. Although teaching and reaching students of different ages, backgrounds, interests and experiences may seem overwhelming, the resources in this module can assist teachers in effectively guiding student choices.

As students mature and progress from elementary to middle and high school, research demonstrates an even more critical need for skills of directing and managing one’s own learning choices and progress. When students feel a sense of ownership, they want to engage in academic tasks and persist in learning. To help students develop the capacity to make choices for themselves, teachers need to help students understand their learning interests, dispositions to be active and autonomous learners and capacities or strengths in various content or skill areas.

These learner-centered practices include teachers showing students how to make learning choices and monitor the positive and negative consequences of their choices. This is a trial-and-error process that requires teacher support, modeling and encouragement. For example, if a student expresses interest in reading a particular novel as an English assignment, but then finds that he or she is having trouble understanding it because of unfamiliar words, the teacher can recommend a similar novel that has lower level vocabulary. The teacher can also have the student make a list of the unfamiliar words and look up their meanings.

First-hand experience from the author, Barbara McCombs, PhD

This story began in a Colorado middle school in the United States that was working with McCombs on a project entitled “Neighbors Making a Difference.” The project was aimed at fostering positive relationships between teachers and their students (as well as between students and other meaningful adults in their immediate community). The goal was to prevent student gang involvement and drug use.

Many of the teachers at this middle school were afraid of their “tough” students and had concluded that there was little they could do to reach them. McCombs decided to spend a day at the school and get a closer look at the dynamics between these ill-reputed students and their struggling and fearful teachers, and followed a group of students throughout their day, sitting unobtrusively in the backs of their classrooms.

McCombs learned a lot that day. Afterwards, she remarked somewhat wryly that she was “amazed [the students] weren’t schizophrenic.” She saw students behaving themselves and cooperating in some classes and not in others. McCombs was also an eyewitness to a student fight in the hallways right before their last-period math class. She could not help but assume that students would go to such lengths to avoid participation in an unpopular math class, especially at the end of a long school day.

To McCombs’ surprise, what she saw was a surreal, yet inspiring scene. Without even the visible presence of a teacher or other authority figure, the students filed into the mathematics class and immediately became quiet and self-disciplined. They picked out the appropriate materials from folders along the side of the classroom, sat down at their desks, paired up in preset groups and began working on their current computer projects. And all of this happened without the slightest command or provocation from a teacher.

McCombs finally saw the teacher kneeling in the back of the room looking for some reference materials. A student walked back to ask him a question and that was when it became obvious that the teacher had been there all along. As the students worked, the teacher walked around and checked their progress. McCombs realized that there was much to be learned from this teacher and his seemingly effortless style in facilitating a self-directed learning process for his students. After spending the day witnessing some of the other teachers desperately trying to control their students in rowdy and unruly classroom settings, in this class McCombs saw a teacher who trusted his students to be self-regulated and self-motivated. And that’s what was happening. Not only was the teacher freed from keeping his students in control, he also was able to support and engage students in meaningful assignments. The result was positive motivation without any student disturbances or complaints.

After the class was over, McCombs could not wait to ask the teacher how he achieved such an impressive feat — particularly in light of her previous experiences at the school. The teacher explained his philosophy about the natural desire to learn present in all students and the events that led him to his successful classroom environment. At the beginning of the year, the teacher simply and directly told the students (paraphrasing): “This is your class. we can do it any way you want as long as you learn the math.” In other words, while the teacher did lay out some “non-negotiables” — the essential elements necessary to cover content standards and to ensure that the work got done — he largely left the overall options and details up to his students.

By leaving many of the choices and the rules for how the class should be managed up to his students, the teacher gained their respect and concentration. Most importantly, he met his students’ needs to have some choice and control he instilled in them the ownership that allowed them to take responsibility for their own learning. He relayed that not only were students harder on themselves in setting up classroom rules than he would have been, but because they felt ownership, it was their class and they enforced the rules. His job was easier and he helped instill in his students a sense of responsibility and motivation that transcended everything except their desire to learn. This experience culminated in the inspiration for a book, published by APA, that McCombs wrote with this wise teacher, titled “Motivating Hard-to-Reach Students.”

Interestingly, the phenomenon of students taking less and less responsibility for their own learning is related to the fact that in many school systems, students have progressively fewer opportunities to make choices as they proceed from elementary through secondary school.

With increasing technology use in pre-K through high school classrooms and schools, the importance of student control in these blended learning environments (PDF, 3.62MB) becomes even more important. That is, combining more individualized and technology-supported options can provide a way to engage students beyond what is possible in traditional classrooms.

When new technologies and programs for creating blended classrooms are added, teachers can feel overwhelmed unless they have sufficient knowledge and training to understand which programs are best and which actually distract students and interfere with their learning.

A key to motivating students (PDF, 55KB) is helping them recognize and understand that they can take responsibility for their own learning.

  • Tie learning to students’ personal interests.
  • Let students work together to meet learning goals.
  • Give students a voice in their own learning.

Teaching that fosters motivation to learn is a thoughtful process of aligning student choices so that students see the value of these choices as tools for meeting their learning needs and goals. Modeling the skills involved in making well-informed and positive choices, teachers need to reflect in real-time. Concurrently, teachers must set clear learning goals and help students understand that the choices they can make are within the context of the learning goals set by the teacher. Students learn that they can be successful if they meet clear performance requirements. When students see first-hand that they can be successful, teachers have an opportunity to talk with them about how the standards and expectations are related to their own personal interests or to the skills they will need to succeed in life.

Set clear performance standards from the start. Students need to know exactly what is expected of them, how they will be graded, and what supports will be available to them if they need help learning the information or skills. When teachers communicate performance expectations, they must consider the diverse backgrounds and experiences of each student. Performance outcomes that focus on each student’s abilities and strengths lead to more positive student development and engaged learning, particularly if students are from poor communities or have limited support for learning outside of school.

Help students develop a sense of ownership over the learning process. As part of the process of offering students meaningful choices, teachers must be clear about how the choices relate to the learning objectives or standards.

For example, teachers can provide students with choices about how they may demonstrate mastery of a concept, approach particular assignments, work independently or with peers, and achieve at their competency levels. When students have the opportunity to be involved in making these choices, they take more responsibility for their own learning.

Provide feedback to students that give them precise information about the particular skills they have acquired and/or need to improve in order to be successful in their class.

For example, in pre-K through high school, teachers are increasingly being taught and shown how to begin new learning tasks with opportunities for students to ask questions and seek help from their teacher or peers if they are having difficulty understanding concepts or performances required of them. Students learn to use feedback from their teacher and peers to change their conception of how competent they are in different subjects or learning activities. Feedback also helps students make better learning choices.

Encourage students to assess their own learning progress by using charts or keeping journals, so they can evaluate the progress they are making as they acquire relevant knowledge and skills. As students learn to monitor their own progress, they become more motivated by their successes and begin to acquire a sense of ownership and responsibility for the role they play in these successes.

  • Begin new learning tasks with opportunities for students to ask questions and get help from their teacher or peers if they are having difficulty understanding the concepts or performances required of them.
  • Provide students with meaningful choices consistent with learning objectives (e.g., what work they want to do, what relevant topics they want to study) and exercises that encourage self-monitoring of their comprehension (e.g., becoming aware of their understanding of the materials) and tracking their learning progress (e.g., keeping track of their learning progress in a journal).
  • Help students deal with inevitable disappointment that comes when they don’t perform as well as they hoped they would. For example, students can be taught strategies for using mistakes as learning opportunities and for controlling the negative emotions that can interfere with learning.
  • Praise students for doing well on their assignments and for putting in extra effort. Use specific praise that tells students what they did well and for which learning processes and skills they are being praised.
  • Involve students in setting objectives and participating in decisions about how to individualize objectives in line with curriculum standards, plus individual and collective student interests and choices. For example, students can become involved in setting their own learning goals through guided class discussions where teachers state the learning goals and possible variations in achieving those goals. In small group discussions, students can share their personal interests and then see how these fit with the teacher’s list. By helping students define their personal learning goals and objectives, teachers can guide students to see whether these are consistent not only with their own interests but also how they can be aligned with curriculum standards and expectations. by introducing the unfamiliar through the familiar. For example, teachers can use students’ current knowledge, interests and experiences with a familiar concept, such as trying to master a videogame, to describe the background mathematics and programming that allows the games to work. Students might then be given a choice about designing a particular game routine related to these concepts.
  • Reward success with praise and model how students can monitor their own progress and success with self-reward strategies. Examples of self-reward strategies include doing a favorite activity if they can accomplish their learning goals on time, including age-appropriate projects they complete alone or with selected members in their learning communities.
  • Link learning successes or failures to students’ lack of ability or intelligence. Students can’t change fixed abilities, but they can change learning habits and behaviors like effort and persistence.
  • Compare individual or groups of students with each other in terms of how quickly or well they learn new material. Learning is an individual process and students need to feel good about how they approach and engage in learning tasks, whether they are motivated to persevere in the face of difficulties, and how they handle disappointments and challenges.
  • Pair struggling students with students of higher ability or greater knowledge and skills, as this may result in students becoming dependent (rather than independent) learners. Unless higher ability students across the age-span are trained to work as positive tutors, motivation to learn can suffer for students at both ends of the ability or knowledge spectrums.
  • Engage in teaching strategies that allow students to be passive. Instead, engage their curiosity and promote active learning. Passive teaching strategies provide students with the answers and give them little voice or choice. True engagement means letting students pursue their own questions or solve their own problems with skillful feedback from teachers or other adults supporting their learning and skill development.
  • Ask students to copy your learning strategies. Instead, try to increase their awareness of themselves as self-regulated and strategic learners. Although modeling a learning strategy and asking students to emulate this strategy in their own work is helpful, this is not as effective as “talking aloud” about why a particular strategy is effective and how it works for you or for them.
  • Fragment information without showing students how the fragments connect to form the whole, or “big picture.” Presenting isolated facts without relating them back to the overall theme or concept being taught only causes students to lose interest. This is particularly true if they are not allowed to ask questions or contribute to solving problems associated with the activity. When new technologies are appropriately introduced into the teaching/learning cycle at all grade levels, research confirms that allowing students to pursue their own questions within well-structured learning goals allows students to self-regulate their learning time in more responsible ways, and fosters higher order metacognitive thinking skills.
  • Provide students with choices without also helping them become more aware of their own needs, interests, preferences, internalizations, values, goals and aspirations. Choice by itself is not effective unless students develop the “capacity to choose” what best meets their personal learning needs and goals.

To teach literacy, we must teach the whole child/learner, know the learner, embed literacy into every lesson and subject, build confidence with sound relationships and pedagogy, and teach the critical thinking and metacognitive or social emotional skills that can help students become independent learners for life.

Expert learner-centered teachers will know the learner and help that learner take control of literacy activities and goals. Such teachers will model their own love of learning and passion for certain subjects or types of stories by:

  • Telling their own personal story or story of:
    • Others who struggle with learning to read.
    • Those who love to read so much they do nothing else (with humor).
    • How reading unlocked their interests and career choices.
    • Topics to read in challenging areas of interest.
    • Difficulty levels that allow students to build increased fluency and confidence (easy) and expose students to new vocabulary, text structures and concept (too hard).
    • Quality decoding and fluency needed to build comprehension skills for sustained reading of long passages or texts (reading stamina).
    • Participation in meaningful dialogue about literacy topics as a major part of classroom discussions.
    • Assume competence and target individual areas of strength.
    • Build on student strengths to achieve highest gains in reading and writing.
    • Provide sufficient time for struggling readers to read appropriate level texts.
    • Avoid labeling and tracking struggling readers and writers.
    • Predict story meaning by picture books as needed.
    • Identify words that are familiar and not unfamiliar.
    • Look for clues in the context of the story.
    • Identify sentences or phrases that are not clear.
    • Think about what they already know.
    • Generalize what they know as a strategy to extend their thinking to new words and connected concepts.
    • Restate difficult passages in their own words.
    • Poems or music lyrics that stir emotions and interest.
    • Writing assignments that provide choice of genres or authors or topics.
    • Science or math projects that require research into areas of personal interest.
    • Brainstorming lists of those student knows and how to find the best choice who will stay the course.
    • Thinking critically about personal goals and challenges in selection of mentor.
    • Participating in classroom dialogue that expands understanding and engagement in literacy activities.
    • Skimming content to see if it is personally engaging.
    • Watching movies about the topic or book to inspire interest and familiarity with meaning.
    • Finding others who are familiar with authors you like or topics of high interest.
    • Letting natural curiosity guide choices of material to read and write about or act out.

    Those studying social and emotional learning have found effective strategies that may help students control the negative emotions that can interfere with learning (Dwyer, 2014 Jones, Bailey, & Jacob, 2014 Lee & Shute, 2010 McCombs, 2007c, 2011a Meece, Herman, & McCombs, 2003 Vanchu-Orosco & McCombs, 2007 Vanchu-Orosco, McCombs, & Culpepper, 2010 Zins et al., 2004). Although these social and emotional issues were in the past considered outside the realm of student learning and achievement goals, researchers and practitioners are now recognizing their importance to learning success. There is growing recognition that many of the issues students face in today’s classrooms (e.g., bullying, isolation, ridicule, or alienation due to learning difficulties or differences) must be recognized for students to assume their role as engaged and self-directed learners (Domitrovich, Cortes, & Greenberg, 2007 Jennings & Greenberg, 2009 Maurer, & Brackett, 2004 McCombs, 2009 O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009 Raver, Garner, & Smith-Donald, 2007 Raver, Jones, et al., 2008 Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012 Ryan & Deci, 2013 Weissberg, Goren, Domitovich, & Dusenbury, 2012).

    Effective strategies include:
    • Helping students identify and label their feelings.
    • Teaching students to conduct an “inner dialogue” where they use self talk to turn around negative thinking.
    • Learning to see the current situation as part of a bigger process in which it is normal to have some setbacks.
    • Helping students see that with additional effort they can overcome learning difficulties.
    • Encouraging students to find learning partners who can work with them on areas where they are having difficulty.

    These strategies are also necessary in new e-learning or blended learning environments becoming prevalent in many schools and classrooms.

    In talking about what teachers can do to teach dispositions such as self-regulated learning, early research by Tishman, Jay, and Perkins (1992) suggested that teachers should model metacognition. Examples include talking aloud about their thinking while solving a math problem or revealing their mental machinations while making a careful decision. Teachers may also want to use visual exemplars that hang on the classroom walls. For example, posters can be put up to illustrate metacognition, such as a picture of a girl with a thought-bubble above her head and reminding herself to stand back and take stock of her thinking, or expressing a catchy slogan that reminds students to think about their thinking as they work.

    More recently, teachers using laptops, mobile devices, and other emerging technologies appropriate to students across the age span are finding creative ways to stimulate learner-centered dialogue aimed at creating true leaders and collaborators (Wiggins, 2014). Students are learning to take the lead in team inquiry and benefit from practicing group inquiry into topics in science, math, social studies, and language arts that represent real world problems. Students take turns being managers of these conversations, thereby learning to be good coaches, empowering others, not micromanaging, expressing personal interest in tem members well-being and successes, being productive and results-oriented, being a good communicator and listener, identifying potential career interests, having a clear vision and strategy for the team, and having key technical skills needed to advise the team (Bryant, 2011).

    As students progress from elementary grades through middle and high school, their abilities to be good collaborators and to lead effective inquiry teams becomes more important and is a big focus of 21st century upper level schooling (Goodwin, 2014 Hoerr, 2014 Kelly & Turner, 2009 Larson & Lovelace, 2013 Sinek, 2009 Walsch & Sattes, 2005). When technology is used effectively by parents and teachers with even the youngest of school-age children, they begin to understand that technology is a tool for learning and not just an entertainment media (Dede, 2009 Duffy, 2011 Duffy & Kirkley, 2004 Hannum & McCombs, 2008 Johnson, 2014 Jukes, McCain, & Crockett, 2011 Rebora, 2014 Stommel, 2013 Tolley, 2014 Weir, 2014.

    To help students develop the capacity to make choices for themselves, teachers need to help students understand their learning interests, dispositions to be active and autonomous learners, and capacities or strengths in various content or skill areas (Deakin-Crick, McCombs et al., 2007 Deakin-Crick, Stringher, & Ren, 2014 McCombs, 2011 MCombs, 2014a, 2014b). These learner-centered practices include teachers showing students how to make learning choices and monitor the positive and negative consequences of their choices. This is a trial-and-error process that requires teacher support, modeling, and encouragement.

    For example, if a student expresses interest in reading a particular novel as an English assignment, but then finds that he or she is having trouble understanding it because of unfamiliar words, the teacher can recommend a similar novel that has lower level vocabulary. The teacher can also have the student make a list of the unfamiliar words and look up their meanings.

    Researchers studying student engagement, motivation and self-regulated learning generally agree that these connected concepts are important for learning and achieving success in school. From a theoretical perspective, this is supported by the self-determination theory of motivation advanced by Deci and Ryan (1985, 2001, 2002 Ryan & Deci, 2000, 2009, 2013). This theory states that if students can be supported in meeting their basic needs for competency, autonomy and relatedness in learning situations, they are more likely to develop into independent, self-directed and lifelong learners. Furthermore, extensive research on Deci and Ryan’s theory has shown that under specific conditions, autonomy-supportive settings in the classroom have positive effects on self-regulated learning and motivation. Autonomy supportive classrooms are those in which students see their perspectives valued, have opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings, and are encouraged to make choices and exercise self-initiative in learning activities.

    Metacognition has generally been defined as one's capacity to "think about thinking" or to "be aware of and in control of one's thinking processes." From those studying metacognition (Carlock, 2011 Chang, 2009 Kanfer & McCombs, 2000 McCombs, 2001, 2006, 2014a, 2014b McCombs & Marzano, 1990 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 McDaniel, 2012 Ponce, & Mayer, 2014 Vassallo, 2013 Wagner & Heatherton, 2013 Walls & Little, 2005), research shows that students can learn to step outside their beliefs about themselves and their abilities and understand that they are the master or agent in reframing such beliefs. Students can be helped to see how their beliefs are able to influence their expectations, feelings, motivation and behavior. Once students understand their own role in creating and constructing their thoughts and beliefs, they can take increased responsibility in regulating their thinking, feelings and behavior. This will often lead to higher levels of motivation, learning and achievement. Metacognition is thus a key area of research because it shows that if students learn how to control their thinking they become more autonomous and self-regulated learners.

    Related to the concept of metacognition, there is also research on the variety of strategies available for helping students learn how to express their emotions in positive ways. In addition, this research offers techniques for students to monitor how their emotions and motivation influence their learning. One of the strongest sources of evidence for how students can learn about the role of affect (the scientific term used to describe a person's externally displayed mood) in their own thinking and learning processes comes from work on emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning (see for example McCombs, 2007b, 2007c Weissberg, et al., 2012 Zins, Weissberg, Wang, & Walberg, 2004). The most effective strategies involve enhancing students’ abilities to recognize and manage their emotions, appreciate the perspectives of others, establish pro-social goals, solve problems and use a variety of interpersonal skills to handle developmentally relevant tasks. Training programs in social and emotional skills can be effectively integrated into the academic program so that students learn to work collaboratively with others and manage negative emotions and stresses.

    Other relevant research connects the role of affect in thinking and learning with the social nature of learning and the importance of positive teacher-student relationships. These relationships help establish a positive context and climate for learning. In a positive environment, students feel caring from peers, free to make mistakes, capable of expressing their voice and able to make appropriate learning choices.

    In addition to enhancing student motivation to learn, research shows a number of other benefits that come from providing more learner choice and control, including:

    • Greater displays of active planning and self-monitoring of learning.
    • Higher levels of student awareness of their own progress and achievement
    • More resourcefulness and efficiency in using learning resources.
    • Higher levels of sensitivity to the social learning context.

    (Jennings & Greenberg, 2009 Jones, Bailey, & Jacob, 2014 Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Stoolmiller, 2008 Weisberg et al., 2012 Zimmerman, 1994.)

    Benefits can also include broader educational outcomes such as:

    • Staying in school.
    • Higher academic performance.
    • Self-regulation of learning such as doing schoolwork.
    • Feelings of competence and self-esteem.
    • Enjoyment of academic work.
    • Satisfaction with school.

    (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Ryan & Deci, 2009.)

    Reeve, Nix and Hamm (2003) have conducted extensive classroom studies that show when teachers offer students choices, the choices are more likely to increase self-determination and intrinsic motivation when they are presented along with other facilitating conditions:

    • Acknowledging negative feelings.
    • Providing rationale for unappealing choices.
    • Asking students questions about what they do and do not want to do.

    It is also worth noting that when McCombs and her colleagues integrated large bodies of research on the psychological processes and structures underlying self-regulated and autonomous learning (Billings & Roberts, 2014 Carlock, 2011 Dichter, 2014b Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014 Gross, 2013 McCombs, 1988, 2004, 2014a, 2014b McCombs & Marzano, 1990 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 McCombs & Whisler, 1989), they confirmed that learners are capable of engaging in a number of higher-order processes for controlling lower-order cognitive, affective and motivational processes. These higher order or metacognitive processes primarily consist of self-appraisal and self-management of thoughts and feelings they fundamentally involve realizing the role of the self as agent in the learning process (McCombs, 2001, 2009, 2011 McCombs & Marzano, 1990 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 Vanchu-Orosco, McCombs, & Culpepper, 2010). School-age students learn the role that thinking plays in their feelings and behaviors. Teachers can model this by showing that it isn’t necessary to be a victim of negative thinking and feelings.

    Metacognitive knowledge and skills provide the basic structure for the development of positive self-control and self-regulation of one's thinking and feelings (Billings & Roberts, 2014 Carlock, 2011 Dichter, 2014b Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014 Gross, 2013 Kanfer & McCombs, 2000 McCombs, 2001, 2006 McCombs & Marzano, 1990 Vanchu-Orosco & McCombs, 2007 Vansteenkiste, Lens, Elliott, Soenens, & Mouratidis, 2014). For optimum development of metacognitive capacities, however, developmental psychologists emphasize that individuals need to have a relatively well-defined and stable self-identity that can give rise to self-awareness (see Harter, 2006, 2012). It is this self-awareness that is the basis for self-regulation (Deci & Ryan, 2002, 2013 McCombs, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2014a, 2014b). This was borne out in research by Cervone et al. (2006) demonstrating that self-regulation provides a link to various forms of self-control in human perceptual, behavioral, emotional and cognitive systems. For students to become more proficient at self-regulation, they need to be given opportunities to follow their own learning plans and goals and rewarded when these goals are accomplished.

    Enhancing students' higher-level metacognitive processes, in general, and reflective self-awareness, in particular, has been shown to have beneficial motivational and performance effects (e.g., Daniels & Clarkson, 2010 Meece, Herman, & McCombs, 2003 McCombs, 2007a, 2007b, 2007b Perry, 2003 Ridley, 1991 Ryan & Deci, 2013). When students become more aware that they are the ones constructing particular thoughts, and they are the ones directing or controlling these thoughts and thinking processes, their motivation is increased to acquire and/or use metacognitive strategies that can sharpen these skills and make learning more fun. Such strategies include executive control, conscious planning, goal-setting and self-regulation of their own learning and learning processes. In addition, evidence suggests that the process is reciprocal (Ryan & Deci, 2013). As students are provided master strategies for monitoring, regulating, and managing their thinking and learning, a sense of personal agency is developed (e.g., Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001). Results include not only higher levels of motivation, but also higher levels of achievement on a variety of learning measures (cf. McCombs, 2014 a, 2014b MCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008).

    To help students understand the relationships between a sense of agency and their own motivation, psychologists and educational researchers have for decades studied the influence of individual learner perceptions and thinking on their emotions (affect), motivation, learning, achievement and other behaviors in a variety of learning settings (e.g., Cervone, Shadel, Smith, & Fiori, 2006 Do & Schallert, 2004 McCombs, 2007c, 2014a, 2014b). As reviewed by Seidel, Perencevich, and Kett (2005) affect and motivation in learning can be viewed from two perspectives:

    Today’s research on learning has an integrated focus based on various perspectives (e.g., neurological brain research, psychological research) that meaningful, sustained learning is a whole person phenomenon (Caine & Caine, 2011 Deakin-Crick, Stringher, & Ren, 2014 King, & McInerney, 2014 McCombs, 2001, 2014a, 2014b Vassallo, 2013 Wagner & Heatherton, 2013 Weinstein, 2014). In the Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Act of 2011, the Senate passed legislation acknowledging the important role of social and emotional learning for all school age students into the college years.

    Brain research has continued to show that affect and cognition work together so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects, with emotion driving attention, learning, memory and other mental activities (e.g., Caine & Caine, 2011 Jensen, 1998 Meeri, 2014 Weir, 2014). Research also confirms earlier findings (e.g., Elias, Zins et al., 1997 Lazarus, 2000) that when it comes to learning, intellect and emotion are inseparable and interconnected (e.g., Fiorella, & Mayer, 2015 Heatherton & Wagner, 2011). Likewise, emotional intelligence is important to all aspects of positive human functioning and health (e.g., Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, 2014 Goleman, 1995 Gross, 2013 Roeser, Skinner, Beers, & Jennings, 2012 Ryan & Deci, 2009,2013 Salovey & Mayer, 1990 Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000 Zins, Elias, Greenberg, & Weissberg, 2000).

    Early research studies discussed by Elias, Bruene-Bulter et al. (1997), including those in neuropsychology, demonstrated that many elements of learning are based on relationships. More recently, research has demonstrated that relationships are central to the development of self-control strategies for regulation emotions and social interactions (Belfield, Nores, Barnett, & Schweinhart, 2006 Boyle & Hassett-Walker, 2008 Jones, Brown, & Aber, 2011 Jones, Brown, Hoglund, & Aber, 2010 O’Neill, Clark, & Jones, 2011 Weissberg, 2007). Researchers and practitioners are concluding that social and emotional skills are essential for the successful development of cognitive thinking and learning skills (e.g., Albright, & Weissberg, 2009 O’Connell, Boat, & Warner, 2009 Pink, 2009 Raver, Garner, & Smith-Donald, 2007 Robinson, 2011 Wagner & Heatherton, 2013 Walls & Little, 2005). Early research by Whisler (1991) presented evidence demonstrating the powerful influence of positive teacher-student relationships on motivation and learning. More recently, Slavin (2014) has posited that without love and emotional support from teachers — whether in face-to-face or online learning environments — reform efforts will not be sustained and students will not engage and succeed.

    Earlier research by Pianta (1999) and Wentzel & Wigfield (2009) confirmed the positive relationships between caring teachers and students’ positive emotional adjustment and learning. Murdock, Miller, and Kohlhardt (2004) report that high school students are more likely to cheat when they perceive their teachers as less caring. In addition, recent studies link student bullying to lack of positive social skills development and suggest that students at all grade levels can help teachers prevent bullying when they take leadership roles and are not merely by-standers (e.g., Blad, 2014 Lee & Shute, 2010 McCombs, 2012, 2014a McDonald, & Hudder, 2014 Mergler, Vargas, & Caldwell, 2014 Novotney, 2014).

    A considerable amount of research has shown that emotions and self-views have specific effects on academic outcomes. For example, studies by O’Mara, Marsh, Craven, & Debus (2006) show that interventions (e.g., explicit metacognitive training, praise, feedback) aimed at changing students’ views of themselves as successful learners in different subjects can be effective in changing adolescents’ self-evaluations. In turn, researchers have shown that increases in students’ self-evaluations positively impact their motivation, learning, and achievement (e.g., Baer, 2014 Dichter, 2014b Duckworth, Gendler, & Gross, (2014 Goldstein, Davis-Kean, & Eccles, 2005 Harmon, 2006 Jones, Bailey, & Jacob, 2014 Law, 2005 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 Narciss, 2004 Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001). Further, Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci (2004) report that students’ depth of processing, test performance, and persistence in learning all increased when they were in autonomy-supporting classrooms where teachers allowed students a degree of choice and control over learning options. Finally, recent research by Anderman, Gimbert, O’Connell, & Riegel (2014) demonstrates that it is possible to assess students’ academic growth with a whole learner approach that acknowledges the role of emotional, social, family or other support and cultural factors in students’ development.

    Research from the psychological sciences continues to confirm that providing students with choice stimulates natural curiosity and motivation to learn (Cornelius-White, 2007 Harter, 2012 Lambert and McCombs, 1998 McCombs, 2012 McCombs & Miller, 2007, 2008 McCombs & Whisler, 1997 Robinson, 2011, 2013). The research also points to very specific student, teacher, and instructional characteristics that teachers can focus on to turn around negative motivational patterns and enhance students’ natural motivation to learn. One very important student characteristic that teachers can influence is students’ sense of self-efficacy or sense of confidence in their ability to be successful learners in different classrooms and different subjects (e.g., Bandura, 1977, 1993, 1997 McCombs, 1986, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2014a Harter, 2012 January, Casey, & Paulson, 2011 National Research Council, 2012 Pajares, 1997 Rimm-Kaufman, Wanless, Patton, & Deutsch, 2011 Schunk, 1994 Schaps, Battistich, & Solomon, 2004).

    Does providing strategies to increase choice and control of one’s learning hurt some students’ (unintended consequences)?

    In general, providing autonomous yet supportive contexts along with appropriate choice and control are positive boosts to motivation and achievement (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Denham, Brown, & Domitrovich, 2010 Payton, Weissberg, Durlak, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2008 Ryan & Deci, 2009, 2013 Vansteenkiste, Simons, Lens, Sheldon, & Deci, 2004 Weare, & Nind, 2011). As indicated in the “Do’s and Don’ts” section of this module, choices should be accompanied by instructions in self-regulation and self-awareness in order to increase students’ confidence. Some studies have indicated that if students overestimate their confidence, it can have future detrimental effects on motivation and achievement outcomes. They may overestimate their ability and become discouraged when they fail. With proper exercise of the strategies recommended here, this potential unintended consequence should be minimal or absent.

    Does providing students with more choice and control work for learning in all academic subjects?

    The strategies for enhancing students’ sense of agency (the understanding that one is responsible for taking charge of and regulating one’s own learning) described in this module generally work for learning in all academic subject areas. Some research (Eilam, 2012 Hunter, 2014 McCaslin, 2009 Narciss, 2004 Pekrun, Goetz, Daniels, Stupinsky, & Perry, 2010 Pietsch, Walker, & Chapman, 2003 Reinsvold & Cochran, 2011 Wallace, & Chhuon, 2014) has shown that there are advantages to tailoring strategies to the specific content areas, such as in reading and mathematics. Examples were presented earlier in the “Do’s and “Don’ts” section.

    A good resource for teachers of young children to promote inquiry-based learning can be found in Samarapungavan, Patrick and Mantzicopoulos (2011).

    How does a teacher evaluate the effectiveness of a particular intervention?

    Teachers can construct their own evaluation tools, such as a short pre/post student survey, to evaluate whether the use of the intervention is making a difference for student motivation and learning. Good indicators of student motivation include the effort students put into assignments, whether or not they persist in the face of failure, whether or not they engage in learning activities on their own time, and whether or not they choose to pursue opportunities for more in-depth learning of a topic (Patrick & Mantzicopoulos, 2014).

    Teachers can also have periodic class discussions and ask students how a particular intervention is helping them make better learning choices and improve self-regulation. They can also be asked about what improvements or changes they would suggest.

    Resources available include the author’s recent national and international work in applying the Learner-Centered Psychological Principles (APA, 1997).

    How long should this intervention last?

    As with most interventions, consistency and repeated use of strategies are recommended. Involving students in choices and having them take increased responsibility in their learning work best. To sustain the sense of efficacy and confidence as students make choices throughout the school years (and beyond), the best strategy is for all pre-K to 12 teachers to be educated in using this intervention (cf., Davis & Elliott, 2014 Duffy, 2011 McCombs, 2014a, 2014b). To further sustain the length of this intervention, teachers should try to understand how their own beliefs and beliefs of their students differ depending on cultural and ethnic differences (Anderman et al., 2014 Cornelius-White, 2007 McCombs, 2014a, 2014b).

    Why does increasing student choice and control work?

    When students first enter school, they generally feel confident in their ability to learn and to direct their own learning. Repeated failures, criticisms from teachers or peers, negative family influences or attitudes, and a variety of other factors can undermine students’ natural autonomy, curiosity and motivation to learn. Students need help with getting back in touch with their natural motivation and curiosity, as well as mastering strategies for self-regulation. Confident learners are a reflection of the connection between positive self-beliefs, motivation and learning outcomes.

    Developmental psychologist Susan Harter has studied how perceptions of self and competence in various life and learning areas occur (see for example Harter, 2006, 2012). Her robust research confirms that perceptions of competence and autonomy emerge in pre-K through primary grades and become more fixed in the periods of preadolescence through adolescence (Upper Elementary, Middle, and High School grades). Developmental psychologists working in the area of achievement motivation also contend that important changes in the concept of the self occur between early, middle, and late childhood (see for example, Dweck, 2002, 2007: Wigfield & Eccles, 2002). During the middle childhood developmental period, Furrer and Skinner (2003) have shown that girls report higher relatedness toward teachers when compared to boys, but relatedness to teachers was a strongpredictor of engagement for boys. Feelings of relatedness to teachers dropped from 5th to 6th grade, but findings show that relatedness to teachers is even more important for engagement and academic achievement for 6th graders. Similar findings of girls tending to benefit more from close teacher relationships are reported by Belfield, Nores, Barnett, & Schweinhart (2006) in their age 40 follow-up analysis of benefits associated with the HighScope Perry Preschool Program.

    Research looking at the decline in intrinsic motivation and personal responsibility for learning as students progress from upper elementary through high school (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Otis, Grouzet, & Pelletier, 2005 Goldstein, Davis-Kean, & Eccles, 2005 Cornelius-White, 2007 Harter, 2012) have found that motivation specifically declines across major school transitions, indicating there is a mismatch between the child’s developmental level and the demands of middle and high schools. Research also indicates that school adjustment in early adolescence (7th and 8th grades) is significantly related to students’ intrinsic motivation and the belief that they are responsible for taking charge of and regulating their own learning (Deci & Ryan, 2002 Ryan & Deci, 2009, 2013 Walls & Little, 2005).

    Research documents differences in how students from different cultural and ethnic groups view themselves as learners (cf. Crotty, 2013 Deci & Ryan, 1985 Graham, 1994 Heine, Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999 Holloway, 1988 Iyengar & Lepper, 1999 Lodewyk, & Winne, 2005 Peng, Nisbett, & Wong, 1997 Richmond, 2014). For example, d’Ailly (2004) in comparing 5th and 6th graders from Canada and Taiwan, found somewhat different effects of providing choice for Canadian versus Chinese children and between boys versus girls. Recent research continues to verify that gender, culture, and other ethnic and racial variables relate to how willing students are to be autonomous learners in school settings (e.g., Crotty, 2013 McCombs, 2007a Patall, Cooper, & Wynn, 2010 Richmond, 2014) and what strategies tend to work best for various students and age groups when applying choice strategies (e.g., Finn, & Schrodt, 2012 Van den Bergh, Ros, & Beijaard, 2014 Vansteenkiste, et al., 2014).

    Studies reveal that there are important instructional, learning environment, and teacher differences that contribute to the development of autonomous and responsible learners (Czekalinski, 2013 Lodewyk & Winne, 2005 McCombs, 2004 McCombs & Miller, 2006 McCombs & Pope, 1994 Pintrich, 2003 Urdan, 2004). Furthermore, Australian researchers have found that in addition to instructional context variables, it is important for teachers to broaden their own socio-cultural perspectives so that they can understand how individual students are influenced by social and cultural factors in the classroom that arise from the teacher’s or other classmates’ behaviors (Alliance for Education Excellence, 2013 Deakin-Crick, 2014 Walker, Pressick-Kilborn, Arnold, & Sainsbury, 2004).

    The following books, designed for teachers, describe strategies for helping students become more autonomous and motivated learners:

    Freeware for educators that includes student experts:

      The challenges of today will be solved by the designers of tomorrow. That’s why Autodesk gives students, educators and educational institutions free access to professional design software, creativity apps and real-world projects. Autodesk Education helps inspire and prepare the next generation to imagine, design and create a better world.
      Resources can be accessed by browsing categories or performing a search.
      Despite a pile of education books reaching in-excess of 20-high, the only book I’ve managed to read from cover to cover this summer is David Didau’s, The Secret of Literacy. This blog is a review.
      Reading, in terms of scale and diversity, is different than it used to be. Thinking, in terms of context and application, is also different. It makes since that learning is also changing — becoming more entrepreneurial than directly didactic. That is, more learner-centered than teacher-controlled.
      When it comes to successful eLearning design, everybody should agree that there’s no such thing as too much information about how the human brain operates. It’s wired for social learning. Our respective environments actually shape our brains and the rest of our bodies. and Time for Teachers: Leveraging Time to Strengthen Instruction and Empower Teachers
      Examines 17 high-performing and fast-improving schools around the country that have taken advantage of expanded school schedules to provide students with more time for engaging academic and enrichment classes and teachers with more time to collaborate with colleagues, analyze students data, create new lesson plans and develop new skills.
    Theoretical framework:

      This website presents a brief overview of SDT and provides resources that address important issues such as human needs, values, intrinsic motivation, development, motivation across cultures, individual differences and psychological well-being. Also addressed are the applications of Self-Determination Theory to: education, health care, relationships, psychotherapy, psychopathology, organizations, sports and exercise, goals, health and well-being, environment.
      Global Guru’s names Ed Deci and Rich Ryan as two of the “Worlds Top 30 Education Professionals for 2014.”
      This journal provides researchers and educators at all school levels with how others have successfully described the theory and practices that work in diverse settings and with culturally diverse students. The International Journal for Talent Development and Creativity (IJTDC) is a refereed journal published twice a year by both the International Centre for Innovation in Education (ICIE) & Lost Prizes International (LPI).

    Fostering autonomous learning and the learner qualities needed for effective self-directed learning skills requires the types of curiosity stimulating, inquiry-based and collaborative practices described in this module. A blend of effective strategies that are developmentally appropriate for pre-K to 12 students are available at all school levels.

    For example, the successful Perry Preschool Program used the HighScope curriculum as part of Head Start since the early to mid-1960s, demonstrate that young children can be supported in their natural abilities to be self-regulated and become autonomous learners (Barnett, 1996 Cohen, 2006 Schweinhart, Barnes, & Weikart, 1993 Schweinhart et al., 2005). Longitudinal studies spanning more than 40 years have shown that supporting students in their planning skills as well as encouraging them to review their academic work has demonstrated lasting effects (Camilli, Vargas, Ryan, & Barnett, 2010 CASEL, 2003, 2013). Once metacognitive skills are mastered, students gain the confidence to be successful learners and take charge of their own learning. As children get older, they learn more sophisticated metacognitive strategies that support their developmental need to feel competent and self-determined (Dweck, 2007).

    Do developmental differences lead to modifying the way you implement these strategies?

    Individual differences encompass a range of internal learner characteristics as well as outside factors discussed throughout this module. Regardless of these differences and what impact they might have on students’ abilities to become autonomous learners, the recommended solution is to deal directly with individual student’s feelings of alienation and disconnection by using practices that:

    • Connect rather than isolate individuals.
    • Give voice to concerns of all learners in the system.
    • Promote positive growth, development of personal and social responsibility, and lifelong learning for all students.

    Listening to students at all ages helps teachers understand them and their learning needs. It is the first step in understanding how best to help students develop self-directed learning skills that help them take control of their emotions, thinking and behavior.

    Students’ understandings and beliefs about motivation become more differentiated and complex over time as they increase their understandings of what it means to be intelligent and capable as a learner (cf. Allen, Pianta, Gregory, Mikami, & Lun, 2011 Hood, 2014). Young children in early grades also develop perceptions of their competence, self-determination or autonomy in learning situations. Examples of how students in early elementary school can be guided into personalized activities that allow choice and control include:

    During middle childhood (grades 3 to 6), a sense of relatedness (to teachers in particular) becomes increasingly important. For that reason, positive teacher-student relationships are essential for helping students become more autonomous and responsible for their own learning and motivation. The role of appropriate choice and control during these middle years is vital to students’ ongoing engagement and academic motivation. Resources for teachers include:

      : Strategies for middle level students to do fun inquiry-based activities to develop critical grammar and mathematics skills. : Evidence-based practices for fostering self-directed learning through the appropriate use of feedback strategies in technology rich environments at this and the continuum of ages in grades 4-8 and beyond.

    For students at the high school level, peer relationships grow in importance along with needs to be more independent and in control of their activities and futures. At this period, interests in learning new skills such as artistic endeavors, musical creations and writing scripts for their own TV or radio shows become highly engaging. Examples of how youth can be creative and learn to produce their own musical productions or TV shows for their peers include:

      : an innovative project in Switzerland that is expanding to include students from the U.S. and around the world with their Facebook presence. : an interview with motivation expert Carol Dweck, PhD, who helps teachers understand strategies that engage students in STEM topics they avoid — and why students avoid these science, technology, engineering or mathematics topics as they get older.
    What do we know about moderating variables?

    Over the past several decades, research has shown that interventions directed at helping students increase their sense of agency or efficacy can be successful across grade levels, content disciplines and a variety of individual differences (gender, ethnic group, socioeconomic group, abilities and disabilities). For example, several researchers have found that students from different cultural and ethnic groups have different beliefs about efficacy, competence, control and self-worth. On the other hand, research in China has shown that the construct of autonomy that is part of the Deci and Ryan (2002) intrinsic motivation and self-determination theory has similar meanings for Chinese children in grades 4-6 as American age peers (d’Ailly, 2003). More recent research by Anderman, Gimbert, O’Connell, & Riegel (2014) and Harter (2012) identifies variables related to student growth in essential skills for being self-directed and autonomous learners.

    With increased technology options for teachers at all grade levels, learn more about research-based resources that have proven effectiveness in promoting self-directed and autonomous learning from:

    Research has also shown that the effects of instruction, learning environments and teacher differences are important to enhancing student self-efficacy, motivation to learn, as well as learning achievement outcomes (cf. Caldwell & Spinks, 2013 Hargreaves & Shirley, 2012 Fullan, & Langworthy, 2014). The teacher’s own level of self-efficacy or confidence in his/her ability to teach and reach a variety of students has been shown to be important. Other important variables include: classroom goal structures, individual student achievement goals and cultural differences.

      : for teachers interested in their own self-renewal during times when they are feeling the need for community and courage to try new ideas that boost self-confidence.

    All of these variables impact motivation and achievement in the classroom. What this means for teachers is that they need to be aware of their own levels of confidence when working with students. Teachers also need to be sensitive towards diverse social cues and behaviors among students from various cultural backgrounds in terms how they get connect and get relate to each other.

    Ames, C. (1992). Classrooms, goals, structures, and student motivation. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 261-271.

    APA Work Group of the Board of Educational Affairs (1997, November). Learner-centered psychological principles: A framework for school reform and redesign. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

    Bandura. A. (1993). Perceived self-efficacy in cognitive development and functioning. Educational Psychologist, 28, 149-167.

    Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.

    Barnett, W. S. (1996). Lives in the balance: Age-27 benefit-cost analysis of the High/Scope Perry Preschool Program (Monographs of the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, 11). Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Press.

    Baumann, J. F., Seifert-Kessell, N., & Jones, L. A. (1992). Effect of think-aloud instruction on elementary students’ comprehension monitoring abilities. Journal of Reading Behavior, 24(2), 143-172.

    Beebe-Frankenberger, M., Bocian, K. M., MacMillan, D. L., & Gresham, F. M. (2004). Sorting second-grade students: Differentiating those retained from those promoted. Journal of Educational Psychology, 96(2), 204-215.

    Borkowski, J. G., Carr, M., Rellinger, E., & Pressley, M. (1990). Self-regulated cognition: Interdependence of metacognition, attributions, and self-esteem. In B. F. Jones & L. Idol (Eds.), Dimensions of thinking and cognitive instruction. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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    Creative Skills as Academic Strengths

    If you're an artist of any sort, be sure to mention that on your application as well. Creative people tend to be successful in a wide array of fields due to their ability to think outside of the box.

    While creativity is a strong strength to list, don't be afraid to get specific as far as your favorite art forms, from creative writing and filmmaking to improv and painting. Additionally, you’ll want to consider what your artistic pursuits reveal about you trait-wise. Some strengths that stem from artistic ability might include:

    • Design thinking
    • Reading comprehension
    • Open-mindedness
    • Storytelling
    • Analytical skills
    • Visual communication
    • Emotional intelligence

    How to develop and use strong organizational skills

    To create a habit of strong organizational skills, it’s often essential to develop them and gradually apply them to your workday routine over time. Once this is done, you may notice an increase in efficiency throughout your projects and routine that you can eventually scale. Here are a few ways to develop organizational skills that you can use regularly at work.

    1. Create a clean workspace.
    2. Identify goals to meet.
    3. Build a to-do list.
    4. Prioritize each task.
    5. Input tasks into a schedule.
    6. Organize your materials.
    7. Reward yourself regularly.

    Maintain a healthy work-life balance.

    1. Create a clean workspace

    It’s often easiest to enhance organizational skills once you declutter and clean your desk and work area. Assess what’s in and around your workspace and get rid of any objects or documents that you deem unnecessary to complete your daily responsibilities. With fewer distractions around you, you might find that it’s easier to focus on the task at hand.

    2. Identify goals to meet

    As you develop an organizational plan, you may first want to set career goals you𠆝 like to meet. You can do this by brainstorming a list of projects or tasks you𠆝 like to complete. These can be items previously assigned by a supervisor or they can be self-improvement goals you set for yourself. An example may be creating a better departmental training process for new employees.

    List these goals and note how long each of them may take to accomplish. Some of these goals may take months to achieve while others might involve smaller tasks that could be completed in a shorter period of time.

    3. Build a to-do list

    Once you establish a goal, build a to-do list to establish the necessary steps to achieve it. Try starting with a larger project or goal. Evaluate how long it might take to estimate a final deadline, break it up into smaller tasks and write them down in a list. You might also assign due dates to your tasks to help you stay on track. This can help you complete larger projects without feeling overwhelmed. Once you’ve added tasks to your list, you’ll have a clearer course mapped out to reach your goal. Consider using free online list-making tools, such as Google Keep, Trello or Google Sheets.

    4. Prioritize each task

    You can now take this to-do list and begin organizing it based on priority. Place the most important tasks with upcoming deadlines at the top of the list. These are the tasks you should complete before the others. Prioritizing tasks ensures that you get things done in the right order that achieves maximum efficiency. If you notice an abundance of tasks or that some fall outside of your core responsibilities, determine if you can delegate any to other team members.

    5. Input tasks into a schedule

    Once you’ve established the tasks to be completed, you can schedule when you’ll work on them. Decide how long each task may take and build a schedule accordingly. For example, depending on how long it takes to finish each item, you might build your schedule based on specific time increments. If your day is filled with more time-consuming tasks, you can create a schedule in hour-long increments. A portion of this schedule may look like this:

    7 a.m.: Wake up, shower, cook breakfast, drive to the office
    8 a.m.: Sort through and reply to emails
    9 a.m.: Manager’s meeting
    10 a.m.: Build budget report

    Try to find time for regular breaks to let your brain rest and refresh. This may help you better focus on completing a task once your break is over. Leaving a few open spaces in your schedule may also prepare you for any unexpected assignments that may occur throughout the workweek.

    6. Organize your materials

    To increase productivity and remain organized, store documents in files that are clearly labeled and easy to find. Designate folders on your computer to store important resources and documents. Sort through each of your existing files and move documents to their respective folders. Since the goal is to establish a system where documents are quick and easy to retrieve, avoid creating too many folders. Instead create folders based on broad categories like “team meetings,” “quarterly reports” or “training documents,” and add subfolders within those categories if necessary.

    You can apply the same system to your email as well. If you receive a significant amount of emails every day, sort through them regularly and create folders for different subject matters that the emails address. This can make it easier to refer to a past email that contains important information.

    7. Reward yourself regularly

    To encourage consistent organizational skills, build a reward system for yourself. For example, if you complete every scheduled task on time that day, treat yourself to something that you enjoy. When you acknowledge your achievements, even in small ways, it can help you build motivation to complete each project. This can build a productive work cycle for yourself and can encourage you to remain organized.

    8. Maintain a healthy work-life balance

    Successfully balancing your personal and work life can help you remain organized and consistent. Generally, your brain can process information better when you give it some rest and allow yourself to also focus on non-work related activities. For instance, you might pick two or three days throughout the week to work on hobbies, spend time with friends or exercise.

    Once you return to work after resting your mind, you may find that you feel better prepared to be productive and organized throughout your day as you work toward your goals.

    People with strong organizational skills are essential to help a business function successfully by ensuring operational efficiency. These skills are needed in the workplace to increase productivity and ensure company goals are consistently met.

    Organizational skills are also foundational in that they often support the growth and development of other proficiencies such as critical thinking and communication. People with sharp organizational skills may also receive promotional opportunities, leadership roles or higher-level responsibilities.

    Research on Executive Functions

    According to research on executive functions, students with LDs may have deficits in the working memory system, as well as with executive functions (Rosenzweig, Krawec, & Montague, 2011). As a result, students with LDs may experience difficulty with functions including planning, self-regulation, and self-monitoring. Additionally, deficits in executive functions could include difficulties with the shifting, inhibition, and updating functions we rely on for learning.

    At the subject level, research on reading shows that executive functions are important for reading comprehension (Denckla et al., 2013), where the functions of inhibiting and updating appear to play large roles (Arrington, Kulesz, Francis, Fletcher, & Barnes, 2014). In particular, updating has been identified as a predictor for both later reading attainment (Gathercole, Alloway, Willis, & Adams, 2006) and mathematics difficulties (Toll, Van der Ven, Kroesbergen, & Van Luit, 2011).

    The most recent version of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5 th ed. DSM—5 American Psychiatric Association, 2013) uses the primary academic subject areas to identify types of specific learning disorders (also known as learning disabilities) based on where students’ learning difficulties are manifested. Students can therefore be classified as having a specific learning disability in reading, writing, or mathematics, or in any combination of these areas.

    The bottom line is that we use executive functions when our actions are more effortful and less automatized. Granted, there is some effort used when you drive your car to your local grocery store, but not as much as is used when you are planning a grocery list. Alternatively, there is some effort used when writing an opinion piece using your classic style, but not as much as is used when you are using a new strategy and organizational technique. Think about effort and automaticity as being at different ends of a spectrum. The more effort is required, the more you are relying on executive functions to guide your behaviour. For students with LDs, unexpected breakdowns in learning may be due to deficits in executive functions.

    4.4 Managing Change and the Unexpected

    Though we’ve discussed planning in a great degree of detail, the good news is that you don’t have to have it all figured out in order to be successful. Recall the upside-down puzzle analogy from earlier in this chapter. You can still put a puzzle together picture-side down by fitting together the pieces with trial and error. Similarly, you can absolutely be successful in your academic and career life even if you don’t have it all figured out. It will be especially important to keep this in mind as circumstances change or things don’t go according to your original plan.

    Consider Elena’s and Ray’s stories as examples.

    Elena had always intended to go to college. It was her goal to become a nurse like her grandmother. She decided that the best path would be to complete her BSN degree at a state university nearby. She researched the program, planned her bachelor’s degree semester by semester, and was very excited to work with real patients while completing her clinicals! During her second year, Elena’s grandmother fell ill and needed more regular care. Elena made the difficult decision to stop-out of her program to help care for her grandmother. She spoke with her academic advisor, who told her about the policies for readmission. Because the nursing program was limited to a certain number of students, it would be challenging to reenter her program whenever she was ready to return.

    At first Elena felt discouraged, but then her advisor assisted her in mapping a plan to take some prerequisite courses part-time at a community college near her home while she cared for her grandmother. She could then transfer those credits back to the university so they would count toward her degree there, or she could finish an associate’s degree and then return to a bachelor’s degree program whenever she was able. Although things weren’t following her original plans, she would be able to continue working toward her goals while also tending to one of her greatest values—her family. Elena’s plans changed, but her values and long-term goals didn’t have to change.

    Ray’s parents wanted him to go to college to increase his chances of getting a good job. He wasn’t really sure what he wanted to study, so his dad suggested he choose business. During Ray’s first semester he took an introduction to business course that was required of all business majors in their first semester. He did well in the course, but it wasn’t his favorite topic. Conversely, he loved the history course on early Western civilization that he was taking to meet a general education requirement. He wasn’t necessarily ready to change his major from business to history, so he met with an academic advisor to see if there were any classes he could take during his second semester that would count toward either major. Ray was still exploring and had yet to set specific goals. But Ray did know that he wanted to finish college within a reasonable amount of time, so he made flexible plans that would allow him to change his mind and change his major if necessary.

    Expecting Change

    After you’ve devoted time to planning, it can be frustrating when circumstances unexpectedly change. Change can be the result of internal or external factors. Internal factors are those that you have control over. They may include indecision, or changing your mind about a situation after receiving new information or recognizing that something is not a good fit for your values and goals. Though change resulting from internal factors can be stressful, it is often easier to accept and to navigate because you know why the change must occur. You can plan for a change and make even better decisions for your path when the reason for change is, simply put—you! Ray’s story demonstrates how internal factors contribute to his need or desire to change plans.

    External factors that necessitate change are often harder to plan for and accept. Some external factors are very personal. These may include financial concerns, your health or the health of a loved one, or other family circumstances, such as in Elena’s example. Other external factors may be more related to the requirements of a major or college. For example, perhaps you are not accepted into the college or degree program that you had always hoped to attend or study. Or you may not perform well enough in a class to continue your studies without repeating that course during a semester when you had originally planned to move on to other courses. Change caused by external factors can be frustrating. Because external factors are often unexpected, when you encounter them you’ll often have to spend more time changing your plans or even revising your goals before you’ll feel as though you’re back on track.

    Managing Change

    It is important to recognize that change, whether internal or external, is inevitable. You can probably think of an example of a time when you had to change your plans due to unforeseen circumstances. Perhaps it’s a situation as simple as canceling a date with friends because of an obligation to babysit a sibling. Even though this simple example would not have had long-term consequences, you can probably recall a feeling of disappointment. It’s okay to feel disappointed however, you’ll also want to recognize that you can manage your response to changing circumstances. You can ask yourself the following questions:

    • What can I control in this situation?
    • Do I need to reconsider my values?
    • Do I need to reconsider my goals?
    • Do I need to change my plans as a result of this new information or these new circumstances?
    • What resources, tools, or people are available to assist me in revising my plans?

    When encountering change, it helps to remember that decision-making and planning are continuous processes. In other words, active individuals are always engaged in decision-making, setting new plans, and revising old plans. This continuous process is not always the result of major life-changing circumstances either. Oftentimes, we need to make changes simply because we’ve learned some new information that causes a shift in our plans. Planning, like learning, is an ongoing lifetime process.

    Asking for Help

    “Be strong enough to stand alone, be yourself enough to stand apart, but be wise enough to stand together when the time comes.”

    — Mark Amend, American Author

    Throughout this chapter we have made mention of individuals who can help you plan your path, but noted that your path is ultimately your own. Some students make the mistake of taking too much advice when planning and making decisions. They may forgo their values and goals for others’ values and goals for them. Or they may mistakenly trust advice that comes from well-meaning but ill-informed sources.

    In other cases, students grapple with unfamiliar college paperwork and technology with little assistance as they proudly tackle perhaps newfound roles as adult decision makers. It’s important to know that seeking help is a strength, not a weakness, particularly when that help comes from well-informed individuals who have your best interests in mind. When you share your goals and include others in your planning, you develop both a support network and a system of personal accountability. Being held accountable for your goals means that others are also tracking your progress and are interested in seeing you succeed. When you are working toward a goal and sticking to a plan, it’s important to have unconditional cheerleaders in your life as well as folks who keep pushing you to stay on track, especially if they see you stray. It’s important to know who in your life can play these roles.

    For those facing personal and emotional challenges including depression and anxiety, specific guidance is covered in Chapter 11.

    Asking for Help: Anton’s Story

    Anton is in his first semester at State University. His high school guidance counselor, who he was required to meet with in his junior and senior years, was very helpful in preparing his college applications and in discussing what he could expect through the admissions process. When he was accepted to State University, she celebrated with him as well! Now that he’s arrived at college, though, he’s found it to be different from his high school. There are so many more options available to him and more freedom to plan his own time. About halfway through the semester, Anton falls behind in his information technology course, the introductory class for his major. He had been so excited to study more about computers and systems networking, but he’s finding it harder and harder to understand the content and he feels discouraged.

    After learning that he’s headed for a D grade in the course, Anton is not certain what to do both about the class and about his major. In high school he would have spoken with his guidance counselor, who he knew by name and ran into in the hallway frequently. But he’s not yet well-connected to resources at his college. When his mom texts him from back home to share a story about his younger sister, he considers confiding in her about the course but doesn’t want her to worry about his focus or dedication. Anton is the first person from his family to attend college, so he feels a particular pressure to succeed and isn’t even certain if his mom would know how to help. He ends the text thread with a generic thumbs-up emoji and heads to the college fitness center to let off some steam.

    At the fitness center he sees another student from his class, Noura, who mentions that she just came from meeting with an academic advisor. After talking a bit more about Noura’s interaction with her advisor, Anton learns that advising is both free and available on a walk-in basis. In fact, he finds out that at State University he even has an advisor who is assigned to him, similar to his high school counselor. Anton heads over to the advising center after class the next morning. He’s a bit hesitant to share about his concerns about his grade, but he feels more confident after speaking with Noura about her experiences. When he meets his advisor, Anton also finds out that the information he shares is confidential to his personal academic records. After introductions and sharing this privacy information, Anton’s advisor starts by asking him how everything is going this term. The casual conversation develops from there into a detailed plan for how Anton can seek some additional help in his course, including language he can use in an email to his instructor, the hours and location of the computer science tutoring lab, and “intel” on where the computer science students hang out so he can drop by to discuss their experiences in classes further along in the major. When Anton leaves his advisor’s office, he’s still considering a change to his major but decides to focus on improving his grade first and then making more decisions from there. Anton makes arrangements to meet with his advisor again before registering for the next semester and plans to follow up with him about his course via email after he speaks with his instructor. The whole experience was more casual and friendly than he could have imagined. He looks forward to running into Noura again to thank her (after he texts his mom back, of course!).


    When making academic decisions and career plans, it is also useful to have a mentor who has had similar goals. A mentor is an experienced individual who helps to guide a mentee, the less experienced person seeking advice. A good mentor for a student who is engaged in academic and career planning is someone who is knowledgeable about the student’s desired career field and is perhaps more advanced in their career than an entry-level position. This is a person who can model the type of values and behaviors that are essential to a successful career. Your college or university may be able to connect you with a mentor through an organized mentorship program or through the alumni association. If your college does not have an organized mentor program, you may be able to find your own by reaching out to family friends who work in your field of interest, searching online for a local professional association or organization related to your field (as some associations have mentorship programs as well), or speaking to the professors who teach the courses in your major.


    Your Support Call List

    When you start a new job, go to a new school, or even fill out paperwork at a new doctor’s office, you’re often asked to provide contact information for someone who can assist in making decisions and look out for your best interests in the event of an emergency. Academic decision-making and planning doesn’t involve the same level of urgency, but it’s useful to have in mind the people in your life or the offices and individuals available to you at your college who motivate and support your plans, or can assist you in setting them. Prepare your support call (or text, email, or DM) list now so that all you have to do is pick up your phone to get the support you need. Keep in mind that one person can fulfill more than one role.

    Who knows your interests? Knows what you love or what you hate to do sometimes even before you do? Who can list your strengths and weaknesses without bias? This is the person who can support you when you are deciding on a degree program or major: Name of individual(s) or office:
    Who knows the college or university degree and program details, policies, procedures, and technological systems? This is the person who can support you when you are drafting your plan: Name of individual(s) or office:
    Who knows the career and graduate school opportunities available to someone in your major or program? This is the person who can support you in planning for activities beyond your courses: Name of individual(s) or office:
    Who is your biggest cheerleader who you can contact when you’re feeling discouraged or unmotivated? This is the person who can support you when plans need to change: Name of individual(s) or office:
    Who has successfully navigated all of this college planning in the past and is now working in a career that interests you as well? This is the person who can become your mentor: Name of individual or office:

    Analysis Question

    Consider, are you someone who panics if there is a change in plans, or are you relatively flexible? What techniques will you employ to help you manage change if you encounter it?

    This chapter focuses on the importance of decision-making and planning, stressors that can sometimes feel overwhelming. If you are feeling less excited about the possibilities of planning and more overwhelmed, it’s important that you take a break from this process. If you talk to others who are already working in their career fields, even those who work at your college, you’ll probably find many individuals who were undecided in their path. Take some comfort in their stories and in knowing that you can absolutely find success even if you don’t yet have a plan. Take a break and engage in those self-care activities that bring you some peace of mind. You can also reference Chapter 11: Health and Wellness, which provides further details regarding these concerns. If you are ever feeling anxious, stressed, depressed, or overwhelmed, please find the resources available at your college to assist you.

    Student Profile

    “I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education about 10 years ago and was lucky to get a job at the same school where I completed my student teaching requirement. I absolutely love my students and am very happy as a teacher. Recently, though, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor some new teachers at my school. After I got over the shock of not being the new teacher myself anymore (am I that old?!), I realized how much I enjoyed helping new teachers get established in their classroom as well. I’ve been thinking about maybe going to back school to get a master’s degree in education so that I can someday become an administrator or maybe a principal at a school. I guess I should start researching programs that will help me meet my goal, because I know I won’t get started until I have a plan in place. I’ll need a program that can allow me to continue working full-time while going back to school. It’s totally exciting, but I’m also overwhelmed.”

    —Amara, Brookdale Community College

    Analysis Question

    Some jobs require a graduate degree as a minimum entry requirement, but in other career fields, a graduate degree can help an individual advance to a management position or to a higher-level job with a higher salary. If you were in Amara’s position, what would you factor into your consideration when deciding whether to go back to college for a master’s degree? If you were Amara’s friend or advisor, what questions would you ask her to help her find a fitting program and create an academic plan?

    Example Performance Descriptors

    Stop actions and listen to teacher discuss alternative solutions to hitting someone. Participate in a discussion with a teacher about alternative solutions to hitting someone who has taken a toy. Offer solutions to problems (e.g., “I am using these you can use those.”).

    Learning Standard 32.C
    Contribute to the well‐being of one’s school and community.