In How Learning Works (2010), Susan Ambrose and her colleagues noted that:

To become self-directed learners, students must learn to assess the demands of the task, evaluate their own knowledge and skills, plan their approach, monitor their progress, and adjust their strategies as needed.

In developing assignments, there are certain strategies that can help move students towards self-directed learning, and ultimately, towards mastery of a topic.

Assessing the Task at Hand
  • Be more explicit than you may think necessary
  • Tell students waht you do NOT want
  • Check students understanding of the task
  • Provide performance criteria with the assignments (think rubrics)
Evaluating One’s Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Give early performance based assessments
  • Provide opportunities for self-assessment
Planning Appropriate Approach
  • Teacher provided plan
  • Student created plan
  • Make planning the central goal of an assignment
Monitoring Performance
  • Provide simple heuristics for self-correction
  • Have students do guided self-assessments
  • Have students reflect on and annotate their own work
  • Use peer review
Reflecting and Adjusting
  • Provide activities for students to reflect on their performance
  • Prompt students to analyze their study skills effectiveness
  • Present multiple strategies
  • Create assignments that focus on strategizing rather than implementation

Your goal is to facilitate student mastery of subject matter … and the skills associated with that mastery.