The SSDL model does not contain any method for reliably ascertaining a student’s degree of self-direction. This is a major weakness, but not a debilitating one.
Teachers using the model have confirmed to me that they, too, find it possible to make workable estimates of students’ stages. From them, and from my experience, I’ve gathered some clues to look for when estimating a student’s degree of self-direction:
- Notice the student’s level of motivation. Does he take assignments and run with them, or does he do the minimum, and in a perfunctory way? Does he come to class on time?
- How well does the student perform when asked to take initiative in an assignment? Is she stopped by the first obstacle, or does she invent ways to continue? Can she explore a topic on her own, or does she always need a series of steps to follow?
- Does the student participate in class discussions? Does he come prepared? Does he not only read the assignment, but actually learn from it, remember it, and make it his own?
- How much detailed direction does this student require? Can she take a suggested extra credit assignment, develop it, and relate it to the course? Or does she insist on having everything spelled out–exactly what to do, when it is due, how many points it is worth?
- How well does this student work with others on group projects? Can he take a project, define it, break it into tasks, schedule the tasks so that the group completes them, and finish the project on deadline, up to standard, and with an internal understanding of why it was important?
- How much pressure does this student put on you (the teacher) to be an authority figure who dictates the learning cycle? To what extent does this student want to take charge of her own learning?
- Can this student practice on his own to assimilate the skills necessary to the subject? Or does the practice have to be mandatory and directed?
- In the case of a dependent learner, to what extent does the dependency result from a lack of skills (which he is learning), and to what extent does it result from a lack of interest, low confidence, low motivation, and discouragement?