Young Students Benefit from Self-Directed Learning Days


Young students at WAB are charting the course of their own learning.

A new initiative launched by Grade 3 teachers Kelly Crysell and Leah Rempel is designed to allow students to choose the subjects and skills they study. "Friday Freeeday", as they call it, gives students more control and independence in their school day in the hopes that they gain exposure to new ideas and dive deeper into their passions.

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as self-directed learning, and a growing amount of research supports the benefits for student development.

"We want to give students more voice and choice in what they learn," Kelly said. "It's about 'doing school differently,' in ways that can improve learning for students."

On Friday Freeeday, the day is structured to offer students three types of learning experiences:

  • Exploratory Learning: Try new things with the leadership of an expert in the field. For example: Joining a jam session with HS music teacher; conducting experiments with a chemist.

  • Essential Learning: Homerooms agree on tasks each student will accomplish in core subjects, but they have the freedom to work in different places at different times. For example: Reading two chapters of a book, or consolidating math skills.
  • Expert Learning: Students have the freedom to self-direct their learning, choosing a topic they want to study deeper and defending the value of the lesson to their teachers. For example: Learning to play the electric guitar; making costumes for an original play or musical.

Each "e" in the word "Freeeday" corresponds to the types of lessons listed above. The event is in line with a larger school-wide effort known as FLoW21, or the Future of Learning at WAB. The FLoW21 initiative focuses on targets that challenge the status quo of a student's school experience by implementing the best teaching and learning practices based on neuroscientific research and our knowledge of education.

Teachers Leah and Kelly have seen the benefits of dedicating time for their students to self-direct their learning, and parents are seeing it too.

"My daughter and her friend came home Friday afternoon and were both bursting with excitement about the special Friday," one parent said. "They surely had a day filled with love for learning."