An Autonomous Learner; by definition is "one who solves problems or develops new ideas through a combination of divergent and convergent thinking and functions with minimal external guidance in selected areas of endeavour." (Betts and Knapp, 1981)
Professor George Betts and Jolene Kercher devised The Autonomous Learner Model (ALM) to promote self-directed learning in gifted and talented students. The major goal of the model is to facilitate the growth of students as independent, self-directed learners, with the development of skills, concepts and positive attitudes within the cognitive, emotional and social domains.
The model is designed to move students toward the role of learners, controlling the learning process, with teachers adopting the role of facilitator. With a flexible approach the model can be used in the regular classroom (with all learners and across all phases of development), in small group settings, as an individual course, or in specific or cross curricula learning areas.
The ALM advocates the development of student's 'passion' learning - where the child engages in in-depth learning rather than merely covering breadth of a topic. A key focus of the program is lifelong learning, with emphasis placed on meeting the individualised needs of learners through the use of activities in the 5 major dimensions of the model.
The model consists of five major dimensions:
1. Orientation - understanding giftedness, group building activities, self/personal development
2. Individual Development - inter/intra personal understanding, learning skills, use of technology, university/career awareness, organisational and productivity skills
3. Enrichment - courses, explorations, investigations, cultural activities, community service, excursions, camps
4. Seminars - small group presentations of futuristic, problematic, controversial, general interest or advanced knowledge topics.
5. In-Depth Study - individual projects, group projects, mentorship's, presentations, assessment of self and others
Betts GT & Kercher JK. (1999). Autonomous Learner Model: Optimizing Ability. Greeley, CO: ALPS.
Betts GT & Knapp J (1981) The Autonomous Learner Model: A Secondary Model. In Secondary programs for the gifted and talented. Los Angles, CA: National/State-Leadership Training Institute for the Gifted and Talented.