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Kyle Bjorem ED3000 10/23/11

Autonomy and Self-Efficacy as Reciprocal Elements in Education There are many reasons why a learner may be disengaged in the classroom and not interested in his or her own education. As with any problem that needs to be diagnosed and a solution implemented, there are many different approaches and many different tiered steps to follow (though all the steps, to my way of thinking, are interconnected and inform each-other). I believe that a major source of the disengagement many underperforming students experience is a lack of self-efficacy and that the most intriguing way to build self-efficacy and engagement is through self-determination. Even today, well out of my adolescent years, I find that much more effort and enthusiasm is put into classes and assignments in which I have an intrinsic interest and some say in what is being concentrated on. For instance, if I were only able to concentrate on scholarly articles for this essay, I would probably have put it off to the last possible second and then cranked it out in a perfectly perfunctory manner. In being able to connect the ideas in the reading to artists and thinkers of personal interest (in the case of this essay, Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace) the assignment becomes less of something done for somebody else and more something Im doing to expand and enhance my own understanding on several levels, as well as something that I will result in a better final product. The better final product results in praise and/or a higher grade which enhances my self-efficacy and my interest and desire in the class in general. This is then a cycle that continues to build upon itself. In this essay I will simply run through a course of this cycle, from disengaged student to self-determined and regulated learner, and then present two contrasting visions of education as illustrated by two writers of fiction, one that promotes self-determination and one that gives us the system in which so many disengaged learners have ended up failing at.

Bjorem 2 In The Differentiated Classroom, Tomlinson points out that human beings share the same basic needs [and] that human beings find those things in different fields of endeavor, according to different timetables, and through different paths. [] In a differentiated classroom, the teacher unconditionally accepts students as they are, and she expects them to be all that can be (10). Unfortunately, this is many times not the case and the determiner for success or failure may just be that the subject at hand is not being taught in a way that can reach the individual subject. I feel that there is often a disconnect between who the learner is and where they are in life and who the teacher is and where they are in life. A white sheep is asked to produce black wool and when test time comes, white wool is sheered, and they get a D in wool production. The goal of produce black wool isnt even something that appears on the learners radar and they think I cant do that and self-efficacy goes down. Then they dont do it (even if they really could, but they started out with the wrong attitude) and self-efficacy goes down again. Disengangement; downward spiral. As a foundation, learner needs to start where they are, with what they know, and create goals that stem directly from that. Before anything else there must be initial goals to get the disengaged student on road to being mastery oriented and self-regulated. Anderson, Austin, and Johnson, in The Development of Goal Orientation suggest that when students adopt learning goals, their goal when doing an academic task is to increase their competence" (198). I would oppose this to just getting to done to get through the class. The reason why just getting it done could lead to total failure is that many students intrinsically doubt the importance of school, or whichever particular subject is at hand, because they have no context for it, they are completely disengaged and the teacher is not tossing them a lifeline. Therefore, they may not end up caring whether or not they pass the class or not. The teacher should give context and make the subject relevant, and, most importantly, allow the learner to craft his or her own goals that have intrinsic importance to them and that also allow them to learn the material. Self-determination, as explained by Eisenman in Self-Determination Interventions, is an excellent primer and the most interesting reading we have done as of late in class. Early on in the article it is

Bjorem 3 explained that [] self-determined motivation includes intrinsic motivation (I do something because I enjoy it) and identified or integrated regulation (I do something because it will help me reach a personal goal). [] Theory, research, and practice have suggested that to keep youth in school, educators must encourage students perceived competence and self-determination (3). In my view the element of perceived competetnce is constructed with a foundation that has self-determination and autonomy as a keystone. A learner is given an opportunity to complete something that they already have intrinsic interest in and find value in and as a result is given the competence of the form and is more confident in their ability to tackle similar tasks, even if the subject matter may seem out of reach initially. Increased autonomy is directly correlated to increased self-efficacy, and they both enrich one-another. In Cormac McCarthys novel Child of God, a scene is presented that I figure illustrates an example of the disengaged learner being dictated to by a teacher of sorts and ending up gaining nothing from the experience. Lester Ballard needs to perform the rote task of chopping wood to make some money but needs his axe sharpened. He comes to a local smith who says the axe needs to be completely re-formed in fire, fortified, and then sharpened. Over the course of five or so pages the smith does the job, explaining various tasks and reasonings behind them as he goes. The smith never asks why the axe is in such bad shape, what it is to be used for, or anything engaging with Ballard at all. He may as well be trying to teach a dog. It is reminiscent of a certain Algebra teacher I had in high school, routinely going through equations on the overhead with an air of complete detachment. The scene ends with the following exchange: Its like a lot of things, said the smith. Do the least part of it wrong and yed just as well to do it all wrong. [] Reckon you could do it now from watchin? He said. Do what, said Ballard (74). Perfect re-enactment of my reaction to that Algebra teacher. Something was just tossed out in front of me that may as well be from another planet and I have no context, no reason to particularly care. I could fake my way to a D or C just to get out of the class, and Ballard just needs an axe that works so he could care less about how it is done. Further, neither Ballard nor I in Algebra class were involved in the teaching process, either I picked it up and figured stuff out on my own or I was in trouble. Autonomy and self-

Bjorem 4 efficacy need to be built from the ground up, and there are different methods of teaching Algebra that take that into account (as well taking into account different intelligences) that arent just droning on in front of the class. In David Foster Wallaces commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005, printed as a short book with the title This is Water, presented a different vision of education. [] learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience (66). This is not only a key outcome of education, but also a key factor during education. Being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to is something that everyone is capable of and is something that I feel is stamped out in children much of the time during the course of their education. This should be the starting point, allowing the learner the autonomy to use that infinite consciousness that they already have as the foundation. And rather than dictating meaning to them, allowing them to construct meaning from experience.

Bjorem 5 References Anderman, E.M., Austin, C.C., & Johnson, D.M. (2002). The development of goal orientation. In A. Wigfield, & J. Eccles (Eds.), Development of achievement motivation. San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Eisenman, L.T. (2007). Self-determination interventions: Building a foundation for school completion. Remedial and Special Education, 28(1). McCarthy, Cormac. (1993). Child of God. New York: Vintage Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. ASCD. Wallace, D.F. (2009). This is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life. New York: Little, Brown.