From Self Directed Learning to Self Directed Team

This article has 2 parts: Part 1 in which I share my own insights from working in a Self Directed Team on Re-imagining Education and the second part as we all reflect on the topic with my guest for this topic, Kelly Davis, educator & co-owner of a World School.

Part 1 Self Directed Teams

As we encourage self-directed learning we are not only equipped to work in self-directed teams, we are also doing meaningful work we love, and thrive in our communities. From a Finnish cultural perspective: you create yourself a life in which you feel happy and content, indifferent to the money you make, the jobs, or social status. 

More than before COVID 19, teachers from different schools in Estonia, Finland, Germany reflected back in interviews “ what I feel and want to do more is support my students in self-directed learning”. 

I recently was part of a self-directed team (it is my first experience although I read and experimented and “played” with the concept in teachers’ training). So here are some of my own insights on how you create a Self Directed Learning context or Team, in the reference section you will find more literature on the topic. 

  1. Rules are serving people, not people serve the rules: we all share a safe place in which we felt to express how we would like to work, how we feel supported, how we could enjoy and feel passionate about working, and always respect for others. We also made it clear at the end that the rules list is opened, everytime we encounter a situation where creativity might have been hindered or we need more support we can adjust that list. My personal favorite rule was the “ and rule” , everytime we feel like commenting on somebody else instead of saying but…something we would say “ and” ( sounds very little but it is a huge mental switch). 
  2. It is about the creativity ( the process) not outputs: we had some basic organisational tools ( like a jamboard with post its with some outputs we would feel interest and curiosity to work, google drive to make organisation of our work easy and opened to all) yet they were there to keep us anchored, we would also practice letting go of that, again creativity is not a linear process and that was our focus.
  3. Allow and be fine with confusion in the beginning, we got to know each other and what I enjoyed was the awareness of being fine with not knowing each other as well with a simple check in action like “ if you are here and not knowing another person in the group leave your video on, if you know close it”, simple action. It was also fine we were “not efficient” in our first moments of check in; balancing efficiency work with loosen format in which we “did not know how much it will take this & where do we go with this particular intention”. 
  4. Project Tools serve critical assessment; which is a very different neuronal process then brainstorming; be prepared to leave aside the tool and allow the process to flow then closer to the end of the work process revisite the projecting tool and see what was done what seemed to become less relevant; this will serve next work/ future projects as well as serve as a scan of the work & learning journey
  5. Support team members to be fine with confusion along the work process; be clear about an idea or some work being still unclear, without projecting and judging, it is like you would judge a seed for not growing into a seedling. The feeling is a work in process, potentiality that might be now cared for or later on. 
  6. Fixed deadlined for the end of the work/project doesn’t mean you have to stop: what does that mean? In the context created by this work/project/course etc, members or participants might have realised they are passionate or really interested in continuing some particular idea, a simple statement as: our team work stops here for now and you are all welcome to continue on your own as you feel inspired, makes all the difference. Micro-cells, micro-teams 1-2-3 members sharing common interest “naturally” just like in biology come together and share a new work as they realise they would all be interested in pursuing that further. This is deep work/deep learning, completely intrinsically driven and with immense value, it comess 100% from inside you, your values, who you are & what your work is.
  7. The coordinating role is fluid: we had coordinators , “ you could feel them”, nobody appointed or stated “ we are coordinators”, once team members formed their work “ there was no need for coordinator; the coordination was shared”. Coordination in self directed learning or self directed team is a fluid role, make sure you do your own internal work to allow this. In the words of a Romanian teacher in America Mihai, “ then at a certain moment, I saw my students saying…Mihai you can go, I have this”. 
  8. The unconditioned confidence: acting with confidence, a confidence that comes from within nature, doesn’t need references, CVs or accomplishments to rest upon; this I believe builds resilience in each member, resilience of their work and resilient team. This confidence within, depends on the interior condition “ of the coordinators” and then it is contagious to the rest of the members. Taking moments of silence as a team, just pause and silence is a good practice for unconditioned confidence. 

( My reflections are possible because of our young and amazing coordinators 🙂 Sierra, Andrea, and Eileen from Ecoversities, Re-imagining education harvesting team, many thanks for the inspiration you brought me and surely the amazing members of the team from all over the world, sharing their wonderful nature and love for this work, you can find more on the work of Re-imagining Education

Part 2- Interview on Self Directed Learning for a World School

About my guest: Kelly Davis is an educator, co-owner of A World School, who began her teaching experience during an off-the-grid experience in a remote village in Fiji where teaching happened with the community there, grandparents, parents and teachers and it was this adventure that inspired her to vision a global school like Galileo, where learning can happen hybrid both online and locally facilitated. You can find more about Kelly’s work here

Your reflection on this interview:

 If you are a teacher and you teach in structure, “normal” school, I invite you to put aside the judging and cynicism thoughts “ ..I cannot do that..the law, the principal, the furniture, the parents, the society…etc” put that aside for some minutes, your vision about who you are, and what your work is, comes from the values, not from external factors. Offer yourself a self-reflection moment, that will actually connect you back with the values you have and get you closer to the work you love doing ( meaningful to you). 

Follow the questions and Kelly’s story like a timeline, pause the video, and see what it reflects/ what resonance within you and your own work going beyond similarities and differences.


On Self Directed Teams, and new organization ( creative organizations)

  1. “Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman”, book by Yvon Chouinard
  1. AEquacy: The New Human‑centered Organization Design, Book by Giovanna D’Alessio and Stefano Petti

Interview with Self Directed Visionary Teacher 

On the neuroscience of self-directed learning, the different neuronal paths of critical assessment and brainstorming “ Phenomenon Based Learning” book by Kirsti Lonka

On Free learning

Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, book by Peter Gray

Acting with unconditioned confidence,

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