Standard 8


SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING: Students engage in self-directed STEM learning guided by educators who are effective facilitators of learning. 

- Ensure that all students have ample STEM opportunities

What Does It Look Like?

Beaufort Elementary School does many STEM activities throughout the school year. During these activities the entire school utilizes the engineering and design process to solve many real-world problems. The process includes asking a question, imagining solutions, designing a plan, creating the solution, and testing and improving the design. Much of this process is self-directed by the student with teachers acting as facilitators. The teacher poses a problem and provides the criteria and constraints for the solution.  The students are then expected to collaborate with their peers to develop a viable solution. These solutions are tested and perhaps the most powerful learning of all occurs when they are encouraged to make their solution better. Some of the areas where students are engaged in self-directed learning to include: Invention Convention, science fair, Lego Lab, and Makerspace. Classroom teachers also provide opportunities for students to independently complete STEM tasks while they act as facilitators. They will give the students the guidelines for a task and let the students work independently to come up with a solution. One of the projects that the Montessori school organizes is taking care of the school's outdoor life lab. The Montessori teachers are trained through the 4-H Clemson Extension on STEM Gardening. They have used this information to create various opportunities for students to have real-life experiences. In addition to gardening, they also take care of and maintain the turtle, goldfish, koi and bird habitats found in our life lab. 

Lego Leb



Through our many STEM opportunities, children are independent thinkers. As they have grown and become used to this type of learning, they become more confident in their own ideas and have become risk takers.  They strive to have a unique solution.  In the younger grades a student may be hesitant and make comments that their solution is wrong or not going to work because it is different. Students who have been with us for several years will have an attitude of wait to you see how this works when their solution is unique.  Teachers encourage students to “think outside the box”. The focus is on the idea that a variety of solutions can be successful. The older students can even evaluate the most successful solution based on data.


Teachers have been provided with and continue to be provided with multiple opportunities to observe STEM implementation at the school.  Many teachers enlist the help of the leadership team or other grade level teachers to discuss implementation or simply to talk through the lesson.  Teachers are encouraged to seek out professional development geared toward STEM concepts and the skill set to effectively guide and facilitate learning.


One challenge is to retrain ourselves.  Teachers are used to directing the learning and many of us learned that there was one correct answer.  STEM learning takes a shift in roles and mindset.  Teachers are trained to step in and help through telling students ways to solve a problem.  STEM requires teachers to step back and let the productive struggle occur.  Teachers have to train themselves to guide the students through questioning rather than showing them how to complete the task.  Another challenge is to teach students that failure is acceptable.  Many students want that one right answer.  They want adults to directly help them and are uncomfortable with struggle. 

Continuous Improvement

As teachers we need to keep discussing the value of productive struggle.  Teachers need to continuously practice and learn new techniques in being facilitators and guides to learning.  We need to continue to provide the opportunity for students to engage in self-directed learning. We must continue to build life skills such as inquisitiveness, perseverance, and stamina.