Some Self-Determination Theory-Inspired Teaching Tactics

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned in other posts, it can be hard to picture a theory being used in the classroom simply by reading about it. One of the many aspects of my At-Risk concentration courses that I appreciated the most is the fact that we were equipped with a variety of strategies to apply each of our discussed theories to our own teaching. The following is a list of strageies related to Self-Determination Theory (SDT):

Conferences with students: To me, any teacher looking to use SDT in the classroom should use this technique as a starting point. This is simply because by holding an individual meeting/conference with a struggling student, it is much easier to tell exactly what the problem at-hand is, and what it is likely stemming from (i.e., is it a lack of autonomy, competence, relatedness, or a combination of the three?).

Be human: This technique can indirectly strengthen students’ sense of competence? Why? Being human and owning your mistakes shows your students that everyone is imperfect, and that mistakes are an acceptable (and oftentimes necessary) part of the learning process.

Circle Process: By now, I’ve sung the praises of circle process a LOT. But in addition to a great classroom management technique and instructional approach, circles can be a perfect opportunity for your class to increase their feelings of relatedness. They allow everyone to be seen at once, and to take turns sharing their opinions. This establishes a strong sense of respect and community amongst students over time, and it gives them the sense that what they have to say is both valuable and important.

Co-creating Assignments: This tactic specifically targets students’ autonomy, because by creating assignments and other assessment tasks collaboratively, you are essentially relinquishing a small amount of your control as a teacher, and giving your students the feeling that they have a say in their academic lives. It is also a great idea because it allows the children to be accountable for their own learning and performance, and it can also decrease some of the stress that tends to surround summative assessments.


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