Student Leads Charge in Self-Directed Learning

After returning to school full time for his senior year and discussing his observations with teachers, it became clear that Nick wasn’t the only one learning from his experiences. His project advisor Paul Kim was intrigued by how Nick became almost “addicted” to learning. “It made me think harder about how a student’s time is organized in school,” says Kim.

This planted a seed for Kim, who had long been pondering the question of how to best educate digital natives, born with limitless access to information.

Along with Upper School English teacher Tom Thorpe, Kim began developing a program that would amplify CA’s assets to expand upon Nick’s experience. The result is a prototype of a school experience that will roll out during the third trimester of the 2016-2017 school year. According to Kim, “It’s a kind of micro school-within–a-school.”

This  “micro school” will leverage CA’s infrastructure to promote self-directed learning for up to twelve students, balancing the need for autonomy with collaboration. It will realign time during the school day to give students more opportunity for deeper learning. Along the way, Kim and Thorpe will be on hand to guide students, recommend materials, and help students complete the projects they develop.

Meanwhile, Nick has been busy making college plans. Remember the founder of Khan Academy, who had a hand in inspiring Nick to take on his independent experiment? Like Salman Khan, Nick has been accepted to and plans on attending MIT. As to the question of whether self-directed learning is right for everyone, Nick’s answer might surprise you. “I think it definitely is,” he says. “I think that if you put somebody in a certain environment they will automatically exhibit certain tendencies.”

Tendencies like intrinsic motivation, increased curiosity, and an interest in lifelong learning – something Nick admits he didn’t learn until the eleventh hour.

“I remember distinctly that the last day of school did not at all feel like the last day of school,” he says. “It just felt like any other day, because nothing really stopped. I realized that I could keep learning.”