Mary Ward CSS: An Example of a Self-Directed Learning Environment

Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Toronto is a working example of an environment focussed on the promotion of self-directed learning.  It is one of six member schools of the Canadian Coalition for Self-Directed Learning in the country.  The CCSDL website states that, “learning flourishes in an environment where the learner is able to control and direct their learning.”

There are nine fundamental practices and values of the member schools of the CCSDL, differentiating them from schools in which more formal pedagogies are in use (Brune & Miller, 2010).

  1. Teacher Advisement:  Teachers serve as coaches, mentors, facilitators and guides.
  2. Flexible Scheduling:  Students control and direct their own learning.
  3. Personalized Programming:  Wide choices enable students to customize their learning.
  4. Collaborative Teaching Environment:  Teachers engage in team planning and co-operative delivery.
  5. Interactive Learning Environment:  Active learning, reflection and collaboration are emphasized.
  6. Diagnosis of Student Developmental Characteristics:  Personalized instruction begins with an awareness of the learning styles, prior knowledge and skills of each student.
  7. Authentic Assessment:  A variety of assessment strategies is used, from traditional to cutting edge.
  8. Continuous Progress:  Learning takes place in different ways and at different rates and is continuously monitored.
  9. Mastery Learning:  Learning takes place in manageable units.  Students must demonstrate mastery by achieving at least 60 per cent on all evaluated work before moving on to the next unit.

Self-directed learning is a necessity in any ‘online pedagogy’.  The creation of an environment in which the learner is internally motivated will be the key to driving this pedagogy.


Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School Website,

Canadian Coalition of Self-Directed Learning Website,

Brune, N., & Miller, L. (2010). Setting Their Own Goals and Schedules. Professionally Speaking, Dec 2010. Retrieved from


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