Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Self-Directed Learners

Douglas Fisher & Nancy Frey BETTER LEARNING Through Structured Teaching --  A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility


I was reluctant to re-read Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey’s updated version of Better Learning Through Structured Teaching. I was already a huge advocate of the Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility; “I do it. We do it. You do it together. You do it alone.” Improving on this framework seemed highly unlikely in my opinion, but I caught myself demonstrating a fixed mindset with this rationale and plunged on. 

Until recently, I have always envisioned Fisher and Frey as such a stoic pair. They are focused, bring a sense of urgency, and are relentless about teaching and learning. Little did I know they have a tremendous sense of humor!  Just pages into the book, Nancy narrates an event that many of us who are newer to technology might recognize in ourselves.

In short, while out of town speaking at an important event, Doug loses his flip style cell phone. The two of them take a cab to the nearest Sprint store, where the savvy sales tech weaves his magic and talks Doug into the buying the latest Smart phone. The clerk assures him a busy person like himself will not only need the ability to make and take calls, but email, text, search the web, take photos, etc.

Although on the way back to the hotel, the phone rings and Nancy nor Doug knows how to answer their new Smart phone. No matter what button they select, Doug’s phone calls goes unanswered and his frustration mounts. “I think it’s broken.” Back in the cab they both go to the Sprint store, where the young sales tech proceeds to show them once more how to operate the device. 

Here is where the Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility ‘clicks’ for both Douglas and Nancy. “When learners experience difficulty and confusion, they need guided instruction, not more modeling.” Doug then turned to the sales tech and said, “I really don’t need another model, I need some guided instruction. Can I hold the phone while you talk me through the operation?” (p. 16). 

That is the whole point. Gradually releasing the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the student. We need to pass the baton from the teacher to the students so they can become self-directed owners of their own learning sooner rather than later. The updated version of Better Learning Through Structured Teaching emphasizes the need to prepare students all the way through the four essential and interrelated instructional phrases to be owners of their own learning. 

Fisher and Frey assure the reader this structured teaching process is not only engaging for our students, it expands their capacity for learning. Nancy couldn’t agree more. She also purchased a Smart phone that day. Together they learned to navigate the ‘newness’ of this technology and collaboratively mastered the device and practiced texting and calling each other.  I do it. You do it. We do it together. You do it alone.

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