Podcast Transcript: Self-Directed Schooling (S2E1)

Season 2, Episode 1. “Self-Directed Learning”

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GREG MULLEN: Welcome to the Exploring the Core Podcast. I’m your host Greg Mullen. In this first episode, I’ll be talking about the phrase, Self-Directed Schooling, which integrates contrasting ideas which, I argue, are two sides of the same coin.

On one side we have conventional Schooling. In its most traditional sense, this environment places in the hands of a school’s leadership and teachers the authority and responsibility for what, how, and when learning happens. This means what students learn is decided ahead of time before the learners ever enter their classroom, and planning for how students learn is written out in a pre-designed lesson plan that teachers and students follow, and reporting of how much students learn is based on school-wide time-based academic learning calendars.

Now flip that coin over and we find the more Self-Directed Learning side where all of the authority and responsibility for learning is placed solely in the hands of the learner. This means that the child isn’t taught as much as they find opportunities to learn, so that What they want to learn - How they want to learn - and When they want to learn - it’s all up to the learner. This idea may sound more familiar to parents and teachers who’ve been part of the unschooling movement or have had experience with a Montessori or Waldorf setting, where some mild influence exists but there is little to no coercive influence on age-based academic proficiency, so that, in its most strictest sense, there would be absolutely no coercion - on this side of the coin where the learner directs their own learning.

The trouble with describing Schooling and Self-Directed Learning as two sides of a coin is it leaves us with a polarizing ‘this-or-that’ perspective toward education. Either we trust learners with 100% authority and responsibility over their own learning - or we don’t; and this dualistic perspective just doesn’t reflect the wide range of learning environments that do exist, and I want to begin this season highlighting two of them in hopes of inspiring educators, facilitators, parents, and school leaders to see the benefits of incorporating traditional *and* self-directed learning environments into the larger system for education, or better yet, how the larger education system might be reconfigured into more personalized self-directed schooling environments. So stay with me as I share a conversation I had with the principal of Meraki High School, a *self-directed* public school with the San Juan Unified School District in Sacramento California.