Autonomous Learning: Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box

One of These Things is Not Like the Other

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If there’s one thing that popcorn shirts taught us, it is that one size does not fit all.

If it did, there wouldn’t be child or queen-sized popcorn shirts. But I digress.

A classroom full of gifted students is also bursting with a full range of personalities, strengths, and needs. The worthy task of facilitating their autonomous learning in our gifted classrooms demands that we are aware of their differences.

In her 1-hour course, “Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box,” trainer Sheila Mulbry explores some of the ways gifted students differ, from both regular students and their gifted classmates.

For the past 18 years, Sheila Mulbry has served as a TAG Resource Specialist for Round Rock ISD. She is a constant advocate for gifted students and their special needs, and has presented staff development on gifted education for the district for the past 10 years.

Key takeaways from the course include:

  • Insight into the varied needs of individuals
  • A seamless integration of advanced expectations for gifted students
  • Ideas to promote independent work
  • Fresh strategies to cultivate autonomous learning

Creating an environment of autonomous learning in the gifted classroom

What traits, other than intelligence, characterize gifted students?

According to Ms. Mulbry, gifted students are commonly:

  • Introverts
  • Intuitive
  • Wary of taking risks

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Though not all gifted students are risk-averse, intuitive introverts, becoming more aware of the makeup of each of your students will enhance your ability to facilitate their individual journeys toward autonomous learning.

Let’s take an example from the course:

The majority of educators are extroverted; and as skilled teachers know, research has shown that it’s good for students to be able to collaborate in groups. Naturally, their tendency may be to push group projects and discussions.

However, if the teacher has gone a step further, he or she will also know that 70% of their gifted classroom is introverted. Introverts thrive when given time to recharge alone.

This teacher has unlocked a strategy that helps to foster autonomous learning: Provide solo-projects among the group work so the introverts can get the recharge time they need.

You Have to Walk Before You Can Run

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Guiding and facilitating autonomous learning isn’t a cakewalk. In fact, it starts with baby steps.

One of a gifted student’s greatest needs is a safe place to fall, to fail. “Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box” guides teachers through the healthy tension of offering supported risks that let students learn to crawl, walk and run toward autonomous learning.


Think of it as a continuum: the teacher facilitates and supports “independent” study at the beginning of the process, providing a study topic, materials, and direct guidance.

At the opposite end of the continuum, magic happens. No more hand-holding. No more baby steps.

The student has the skills and confidence to handle the whole process, from inspiration to completion. And you get to step back and watch with the satisfaction that you played a part in giving the gift of independent learning.

Get on the Continuum!

Ready to delve back into your classroom with some fresh enthusiasm?

Check out “Inside the Classroom, Outside the Box,” and get the tools you need. Get to know your students better, walk the tightrope of offering support and risk, and experience the wonder of watching your autonomous learners blossom!

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Did you know that this course is mobile ready? That means you can complete the course on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or any other mobile device!

Images courtesy of Flickr via Angusf, Koshyk, & Gustavo Devito.