Student, teach thyself

At a high-tech New York City high school that offers many online classes, Angelica Modabber became “her own best teacher,” she writes on GothamSchools. But it wasn’t easy.

Not consistently having someone keep tabs on me was surprisingly unnerving; I had expected to thrive with this newfound freedom. After all, wasn’t this the independence I had always yearned for? However, I quickly discovered that my “freedom” was buried beneath layers and layer of responsibility – or in my case, procrastination.

. . . (At first) I was always confused, had trouble following directions, could not focus on the task at hand, and expected to be hand-fed all the information.

She learned how to manage her time and pace herself.

Teaching myself was shockingly effective. I was finally being taught by someone who fully understood me.

. . . I had no one to blame for all my screw-ups other than myself. Rather than frightening me, this concept was actually thrilling.

She grew to love online learning. But many classmates “blamed the courses for their own inadequacies.”

About Joanne


  1. She is an insightful young lady.

    I remember when I was an undergrad and was required to take Biochem for my major, there were two options: to enroll via the medical school, walk an extra fifteen minutes over there before 8 am three days a week, or take the class “Keller plan” where it was self-paced and you did it as a series of “units.”

    Even though I was a pretty serious and dedicated student, I realized that anything “Keller Plan” would mean I would likely get busy with other stuff, push it to the back burner, and possibly be spending a frantic last week of classes trying to pass the unit tests I should have taken a month of more ago.

    So I opted for the med-school version. I kind of hated it (it was a drag to truck over there in the cold three times a week and it was one of those hellish team-taught classes), but I still think I learned the stuff better than I might have on the Keller plan.

  2. In the mid seventies I took a self-paced Precalculus course that used a Keedy-Bittinger workbook. It was a two-quarter course, easily finished in one. Five years later as a returning student, I spent a day flipping through the book before testing into Calculus. If anything, I think I had retained the material better than I would have in a conventional course.

  3. David Militzer says:

    Self-directed learning (not unstructured or unsupported learning) has been an essential part of my undergraduate and graduate education, even though my experiences date long before “online learning”. It is an approach that needs to be reconsidered in considering what is wrong with our education systems.

    It seems self evident that having students who participate in (and have responsibility for) the identification and development of learning situations and experiences related to personal learning goals results in increased motivation, as well as deeper engagement and improved learning for many students. My experience is that this approach can be intergrating into a formal education program – I have degrees that demonstrate this. This has obvious relevance to the problems we are having in education.

    I was an undergraduate in the early ’70’s, and a graduate student in the early 80’s. It’s interesting that a technological innovation – on-line learning – might be a factor in revisting self-directed learning.