5 Templates to Use for Self-Directed Learning Projects

If you like what you read, consider checking out my book, Adventures in Self-Directed Learning, or the MoonshotEdu Show podcast episode on the importance of self-directed learning. You can listen by clicking on one of these links or through the embedded version at the bottom of this article.

I’ve written many articles about self-directed learning over the last couple of years, and more people are inquiring about simple steps to get started. How do you plan for students to engage in self-directed learning projects within a school or home school environment? There are several answers to that question, one focused upon how to help students cultivate the skills and mindset for self-directed learning. However, another part is simply focused on how to help students plan and propose their first projects. While some proponents of self-directed learning prefer a more open-ended and informal approach, many parents, institutions (and students) want something more formal or structured. As a result, I put together the following sample planning documents, contracts, and project proposals. I created a number of them as examples (although you may find one or more from other places as well, like the 4H self-determined project template). These are simply offered as suggestions and starting points. Feel free to use one or more of them to create your own, use them as they are, or perhaps you have a different guide or template you would like to suggest in the comment area. If you use one of them, you are welcome to keep the attribution at the bottom of the document, but you are also welcome to leave that off and make it your own. If you contact me with new templates to add from the web or elsewhere, I will gladly add them to the list below, obviously giving credit where credit is due.

I’ll offer one more qualification. These are currently shared as PDFs or simple Google Docs. However, you can just as easily recreate as web forms (using Google forms or another tool of your choice). Or, if you have the know-how and want to do it, I would love to see a simple app or interactive tool created around one or all of these templates.

Please do consider posting questions and feedback in the comment area.

Personal Learning Plan Template Google Doc – PDF version – This simple 8-part form for learners to use in developing and propose self-directed learning projects. It starts with challenging students to form a compelling and personally meaningful driving question.

The 4H Self-Determined Project Template (create an account to access it) – PDF version – This is a template created by the University of Wisconsin Extension to help young people develop self-determined projects. It includes helpful steps and aspects of a learning contract. This can be used “as is” or adjusted to work well in many environments.

Learning Contract Templat Google Doc – PDF version –  This is a simple learning contract for a self-directed project. It is recreated from a template included in Malcolm Knowles’ Self-directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers. It is based on a simple 4-step process that includes creating learning objectives, determining learning resources and strategies, determining evidence of accomplishment and establishing criteria for evaluating the proposed evidence.

Self-Directed Learning Project Proposal & Contract Google Doc – PDF version –  This is another simple contract divided into four sections / questions. What do I want to learn? How know and show what I learned? How will I learn it? How will I monitor my progress? It also includes a place for signature of an original student proposal, space for up to two agreed upon proposed changes to the initial proposal, and a place for the teacher and student to agree upon how much credit is earned for the project and the content area to which it applies (helpful for many schools that need to align to school, state, or other standards).

Personal Development Plan Google Doc-  – PDF version – This is a template similar to the others but includes some unique elements, like a place to include both target completion dates an actual completion dates, the level of priority of each stated learning objective (helping students learn to balance completing projects with limited time), along with a space to articulate what the learner needs from the learning coach/teacher and/or others.