Developing learner autonomy to promote school persistence and success in secondary school.

High school dropout rates remain a major source of concern. In an effort to help improve school persistence, particularly during transitions between cycles or education sectors at the secondary level, we examined the usefulness of influencing students’ learning preferences and enabling them to develop greater autonomy and engagement in their learning.

It is now a question of integrating learning autonomy instruction in the panoply of measures put in place.

We carried out a careful review of existing research and practices. Studies show that learner autonomy, also known as self-directed learning, is strongly linked to academic success. Indeed, students who demonstrate learner autonomy are better able to assess their own progress, identify personal challenges and seek help when unable to find a solution. Moreover, once acquired, this learning preference appears to remain throughout their schooling and leads to in-depth learning, better academic outcomes and greater persistence in school.

It should be noted that the workplace also wants employees who are responsible, autonomous and engaged, qualities which appear to result from the development of learner autonomy. However, while learner autonomy in an academic context can be learned, it requires particular attention on the part of school boards, school administrators and teachers. A number of school systems that have made efforts in this regard have obtained quite good outcomes in terms of success and persistence.

Strategies for encouraging learner autonomy, which are already present in a number of Québec classrooms, are mainly concerned with teaching tools such as cooperative education and electronic portfolios, and also include the teaching of self-directed learning strategies. It is now a question of integrating learning autonomy instruction in the panoply of measures put in place to promote persistence and improve academic success.

Main researcher

Alexandre Buysse, Université Laval


Research report

Call for proposals

Deposit of the research report: April 2016