An important skill that helps our students with disabilities become successful independent and expert learners is the ability of self-regulation. Researchers concur that "self-regulated learners assume increased responsibility for their own behavior and learning over time by strategically setting and planning to meet goals, monitoring and evaluating their progress, and using feedback to adjust their performance."

Subcomponents of self-regulation have been referred to as self-management, self-control and self direction and include skills such as goal-setting, planning, self-talk, self-monitoring, self-recording and self-evaluation.

Want your students to take ownership over their learning? By utilizing specific strategies, teachers can support students in becoming more independent learners. Our goal in education is to create citizens who are self-regulated learners. There is additional responsibility to ensure that students who receive special education services are systematically guided to increased levels of independence throughout their school years.

Students gradually develop self-regulation by achieving a series of proximal goals, each marked by increasingly independent performance with conscious attention on how effort and actions support or detract from goal attainment. Strategic instructional moves support the development of students into independent learners.

Here are my top three strategies in teaching independence to help students succeed.

1. Break complex tasks into small and discrete steps

Establish the learning goal and purpose, and encourage students to self-monitor progress throughout the lesson or unit to measure success and evaluate progress. As you design the task, think about what the student is able to do independently in relation to the goal, task analyze specific behaviors or subsets of academic skills for student to work on.

Pick one task to introduce to students for explicit instruction and determine appropriate scaffolds needed for success on the task and a plan to fade scaffolds. One of my favorite digital technology tools that helps students organize and conceptualize their thinking on processes, order and meaning is Lucid Chart. Students can create digital organizers, Venn diagrams, flowcharts and more for free.

Having students choose which graphic organizer works for the structure of their passage and contextualization of information truly helps them become expert, independent learners. Bonus: Students can collaborate and work together. Check out this Lucid Chart tutorial for students.

2. Explicitly model desired behavior/skill

Follow the Fisher & Frey four-part model of teaching desired skill. Notice this four-part framework is more involved than the traditional guided release three-part model of "I do, we do, and you do." Here are the four parts:

"I do" — Teacher models task using a think-aloud.

"We do" — Teacher and students interactively complete task using visual cues, frequent response, reference materials and fix-up strategies.

"You do — collaboratively" — Student completes task with peers with varying levels of scaffolds and immediate feedback.

"You do — independently" — Student completes task independently with various levels of scaffolds and the teacher responds, coaches, and evaluates student progress.

Other than the PRIM, every teacher should also possess the book "Explicit Instruction" by Anita L. Archer and Charles A. Hughes. This book provides examples and links to electronic videos on how to teach everything from daily classroom routines to effective instructional strategies. Check out the chapter overlay and digital resources here on what works for special needs learners.

3. Fade support

The teacher should provide reinforcement and specific positive feedback on discrete steps toward the desired skill. Best practice is the student and teacher should reflect on progress and data together to refine and plan ways to further reduce scaffolds.

As you fade support, if you are looking for extra strategies, visit two of my favorite universal design for learning strategy resources Goalbook Strategy Toolkit and the Technology Toolkit Wikispace.