George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Classroom Management

Tools for Student Self-Management

Students should be invited into the process of managing learning in the classroom. Here are some tools many teachers have used to empower students to self-manage.
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As educators, we have so many tasks to handle each and every school day. Student absences, assessments, phone calls, meetings -- these can pile up on our plates. Classroom management is often considered one of the tasks we need to take on. While this is true to some extent, perhaps we can take some of the classroom management load off the teacher and put it on the students themselves. Management doesn't have to be, nor should it be, something teachers decide or handle on their own. Students should be invited into the process of managing learning in the classroom. Here are some tools many teachers have used to empower students to self-manage.

Team Operating Agreements

Agreements or contracts created or co-created with students can be a great tool to help them own their challenges when it comes to self-management. While you might have class or school norms, students may not find a true attachment to them. When students create norms, they are more likely to follow them. In addition, students can create norms and agreements that are personalized. While one team might need an agreement about keeping their hands and feet to themselves, another might need one about the free expression of ideas. Norms and agreements should meet the needs of students, not simply be imposed upon them. When students help create the norms, it's more likely that they will meet the students' needs.

Task Lists

In addition, students may need scaffolds to organize their thinking, planning, and overall work. They can use task lists to assign tasks to specific team members. Sometimes these sheets have places for teachers, team leaders, and others to sign off when tasks are completed. Scrumy is an online tool I have used with students to organize their work -- it functions as an interactive planning tool. Task lists are also great tools for assessment and conversations on equitable collaboration.

Checklists and Rubrics

Of course, rubrics and checklists are tried-and-true tools for self-management. There is nothing new here, but it's a good reminder that assessment tools are also great management tools. They promote reflection and goal setting, as well as ownership of the work. Checklists and rubrics are more powerful when they are co-created with students, as students tend to understand and take ownership of expectations. Keep checklists and rubrics available to students and plan intentional time for students to use them to assess themselves and their peers, to help manage projects, and to keep constant momentum in the learning process.

Time Management Logs

Using time management logs, students document how long they spend on specific tasks, assignments, or collaborative work. They can do this over the course of a week or longer. The intent is to document and then reflect upon the time they spend learning and working. The log may surprise students and inspire them to use their time more efficiently.

Flexible Seating and Spaces

I'm a big fan of classrooms that have a variety of places for students to work. Some students need quiet zones while others need collaborative tables. Some students work well with exercise balls as seats while others prefer standing desks. There are many possibilities for meeting students' needs in classroom seating and arrangement. Meeting those needs can promote student ownership of how and where they work and learn. As the teacher, you can coach them through the process of selecting appropriate spaces to work and learn, and students will learn to self-manage this choice as well.

Reflection and Goal Setting

All of the tools above are completely ineffective unless they are paired with reflection time. Just as we take time to reflect on content learning, we also need to take time to reflect on the learning process. All of the tools above provide great opportunities for students to reflect on how they have learned in targeted ways and to set goals. Learning logs are a great tool for this as well, as they promote the process of learning, not just the product. Don't forget reflection on self-management -- it's critical.

Remember, the greatest tool for management is engagement. Even when our students are engaged, they still need tools to manage themselves. Different tools work for different students, so try experimenting with a mix of the tools above to have students take more ownership of managing their learning process.

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Leesa Johnson's picture
Leesa Johnson
Leesa Johnson is a Marketing Manager at Select My Tutor

Excellent ideas!! Thank you for sharing.The Self-management process is considered superior to the restricted use of clearly managed interventions for several causes. First, self-management stimulates students to take greater power for their own behaviour. Second, teaching students to self-manage increases the likelihood that suitable behaviour will last over time & generalize to various settings. Third, the students are the control agent, these procedures provide a means for teachers to spend more time teaching & less time trying to control behaviour. Fourth, self-management provides students with a sense of ownership for & control over their own behaviour, which is naturally reinforcing/augment & may also make it less likely that students will try to control the teacher's behaviour. Fifth, the defining, measuring, graphing, & evaluating involved in various types of self-management give meaningful practice for other parts of the curriculum. Finally, self-management provides students & teachers with a proactive & positive way to avoid reactive punishment contingencies.

JenniferHartley's picture

These are all great tools and strategies to use to get students to take ownership of their own learning. I think the key is to find the combination that works with your particular students and teaching style. As a fifth grade teacher, my classroom management is crucial. If the management of the classroom is lacking then students and teachers suffer. I agree that having students help generate the norms and team agreements helps them have more of a buy-in when it comes to following the classroom procedures. Students are being asked more and more to collaborate with other students to complete tasks. Using a task list would allow the teacher to make sure there was equitable collaboration. Too often, one or two students end up doing the majority of the work. This ends up causing resentment among the students. No matter what tools are implemented I feel it's necessary to reflect on how the management tools are working. This will allow both the students and the teacher to evaluate if the self-management tools that are in place are having the desired effect.

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