High school science students are in the midst of developmental changes to become independent individuals, and as such they thrive on classroom activities that allow them to set and pursue personal goals, self-direct their actions, and feel in control. When learning is guided by such internal processes, instead of by externally imposed directives, intrinsic motivation can flourish leading to increased engagement and learning. More about the positive role of autonomy in science learning and how teachers can encourage autonomy in the classroom is described in chapter 4.
Resources to support teachers in providing autonomy support can be found by clicking on the links shown at right. Those resources include handouts and activities, further reading, links to recommended websites, and short (~ 3 minute) video clips illustrating the importance of this concept to practicing scientists and showing exemplary high school teachers who practice the strategies recommended in the book.
1. Student Centered Learning
The Khan Academy is a free online multi-subject learning resource for teachers, parents, and students. Go to the science section for an array of tutorials that students can choose to help themselves understand content and complete assignments.
2. Self-Determination Theory
Ryan and Deci’s website contains informative articles on practical classroom application of self-determination theory. To find the articles, scroll to middle of page and click the “education” link. The following articles are especially helpful:
- Niemiec, C. & Ryan, R. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom; Applying self-determination theory to educational practice. Theory and Research in Education, 7(2), 133-144. This is the first article under the subheading Chapters, overviews, and commentaries from the Rochester SDT labs.
- Reeve, J., & Halusic, M. (2009). How K-12 teachers can put self-determination theory principles into practice. Theory and Research in Education, 7, 145-154. Ten items that teachers can use to assess student perceptions of their support or control are provided in Table 1, p 151 of this article that can be found towards bottom of the page under subheading Chapters, overviews and commentaries from other labs.
3. Resources on the Inquiry Approach
Several recommended NSTA books on inquiry approach can be purchased or found in libraries – the following links lead to descriptions of the books:
- On using whole-class inquiry in the science classroom:
Smithenry, D. & Gallagher-Bolos, D. (2009). Whole-Class Inquiry: Creating Student-Centered Science Communities. NSTA Press.
- A practical guide for inquiry-based teaching:
Luft, J., Bell, R., & Gess-Newsome, J. (Eds). (2007). Science as Inquiry in the Secondary Setting. NSTA Press.
The National 4-H Channel on youtube provides videos on inquiry approach that supports 4-H goals for science.
4. Promoting Student Control
The IOWA High School Athletic Association’s report on high school students mentoring elementary students contains information on promoting student autonomy through increased responsibility. Posted with permission of the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
5. Resources for Parents
Customizable downloadable homework guide for parents.
Some homework helpers from the Thomas Jefferson Lab (Department of Energy).
General Guide for writing science reports.
The Archimedes Initiative filmed students at science fairs talking about their parents’ role in supporting their autonomy and growth in science.
6. Videos about Autonomy
Links to videos about concepts and strategies described in this chapter are found on this page. To learn more about the scientists and teachers featured in these videos, click here where you can read a description and/or select a link to find all video clips of them.
Laura talks about how her teacher empowered her to intervene when a fellow student was being picked on.
Teachers and Classrooms
A female student in Deb’s class talks about how opportunities to take responsibility and show initiative related to her science class has made learning more meaningful and engaging.
Students work together to meet their teacher’s high expectations, demonstrating leadership and responsibility as they instruct younger students in the Mighty Acorns program.
Students feel motivated and accomplished doing a lab using inquiry approach in Ray’s class.
Greg makes his students experts on the worm farms giving them control, choice, and opportunities to inquire.
Greg’s students use the solar energy, vermacompost, and mini-farms available to them in the classroom to answer their own questions.
Field trips are organized so that Mike’s students take responsibility for teaching each other and their parents about what they are seeing and experiencing.
Meg’s students extend their learning by taking responsibility for completing a service learning project in the community.
Meg supports student autonomy during a problem based learning project.