As educators, teachers have many tasks that they need to take care of daily. While classroom management is certainly one of these tasks, students should be encouraged to take initiative to manage learning in the classroom. Teaching students to self-manage allows them to develop a growth mindset; learn how to manage stress and impulsivity; and intrinsically motivates them to reach specific goals. In this article, we discuss some tools used by teachers that empower students to self-manage their schoolwork.
What is a self-management plan?
First of all, in order to teach self-management skills to students, you need to set up a reliable and effective plan. Self-management plans can effectively develop key self-reliance skills and independence in students.
In fact, self-management plans are used to teach students to independently complete tasks and take an active role in monitoring and reinforcing their own behavior.
It has also been proven that teaching self-management helps students:
- Improve academic performance
- Gain productivity skills
- Reduce time-on-task
- Change problematic behavior
A self-management plan involves setting up tools for students that can build and promote independence, self-discipline, and motivation; and that allows teachers, school administrators, and parents to monitor student progress.
Beyond the educational aspect, they are essential to guide students to successfully transition into adulthood. An effective self-management plan includes setting goals, monitoring behavior, and evaluating progress.
Why is it important for students to get involved?
Setting up a self-management plan for your students is going to help them build lifelong independence and an ability to deal individually with a heavy workload. It is therefore important for students to get involved in planning their own schedules.
Trying to control a student's actions or behavior can make them rebel, which could make a unilaterally-imposed self-management plan less efficient and behavioral problems more likely to occur. Feeling involved empowers students and helps them develop a feeling of self-control over their own behavior.
Best self-management tools
Inviting your students to participate in their education and empowering them to self-manage can be overwhelming for some of them. Try these easy yet effective self-management tools that will make them feel comfortable and excited to begin this journey.
Team operating agreements
Agreements or contracts are a list of rules or ideal behaviors co-created with students to help them own their challenges when it comes to self-management. They can be individually based, team-based or class-based.
Oftentimes, school rules are set by administrators; many students don't feel a strong attachment to them.. On the other hand, when students engage in creating the behavioral norms, they are most likely to stick to them. Furthermore, the fact that agreements can be personalized to students ensures that they meet the needs of students and are not simply imposed upon them.
Time management logs
Time management logs are a great tool to help students track and manage their time. The log allows students to document how long they spend on a specific task, assignment, group project… you name it! They can choose to keep track over a day, a week or longer, depending on your agreement with the student(s). The goal here is to assess working habits and improve them so that they can manage their time more efficiently.
Checklists and rubrics
Checklists and rubrics are one of the most standardized self-management tools but they remain one of the most effective ones. Checking boxes on a to-do list can be especially exciting and rewarding for students, because each checkmark represents a goal completed towards a larger objective.
It’s essential that both the student and professor understand the objectives and co-create the checklists and rubrics. They are indeed, more powerful when they are co-created since it promotes goal-setting and ownership of the work.
As you may know, students, especially younger ones, are full of ideas, especially in collaborative, open-ended projects. To help them organize their thinking, planning and overall work, they can use task lists. Task lists are used to assign tasks to specific group members, teachers, team leaders and everyone involved, so they are able to sign off when a task is completed. They are also great tools for assessment and communicating on equitable collaboration.
Reflection and goal setting
To make sure that all of these tools are utilized in the best way, they need to be paired with reflection time. Just like we spend time reflecting on content learning, it is also essential to take time to reflect on the learning process.
Once all of these tools mentioned above are up and running, they can provide great opportunities for students to reflect on how they have learned to self-manage, what needs to be improved and most importantly their ability to set goals. An additional tool to help this reflection process is learning logs, which allow students to think about how they've learned as well as what they've learned.
Developing the self-management skillset
It is one thing to teach students self-management skills but it is another to develop and maintain these skills for the long run. In order to achieve that, self-management skills should involve the following.
Professors and their students should collaborate in setting measurable, achievable goals that the student can work towards. Goals can be as small or as significant as the student desires as long as they are reachable. This instills a growth mindset that will help the student in the long term.
Self-monitoring is crucial since it allows students to practice self-awareness and build a record of their behaviours, correcting themselves when necessary. They become more aware of their difficulties but also their successes, which boosts their confidence immensely.
Self-reinforcement is the act of rewarding oneself after achieving a goal or a desired behavior. Rewards may vary from a student to another, but the most important aspect is that these rewards should be personalized to the student and the behaviors you want to reinforce. Rewarding the completion of a goal or a positive behavior motivates the student to do better and increases the likelihood of the behavior repeating itself.
While students are most likely looking forward to rewards, reflection on the process proves itself to be the best way to learn. Asking questions such as, “What inspired you to do well?,” “What was the most difficult part of it?,” “How can you do better next time?,” are eye-openers that help both the teacher and the student gain insight on their performance. Self-evaluation teaches students the power of resilience and perseverance; and boosts their confidence and intrinsic motivation. They know that failure may happen, but it is not a reason to give up— It’s a motive to keep trying.