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Autonomous Learner Model

Autonomous Learner Model


The Autonomous Learner Model (ALM) was initially created to provide students with alternative learning environments. The main goal of the ALM is to create independent, self-directed learners. Ideally, students will become lifelong learners through the ALM. The philosophy of the ALM is to “to do it with the gifted, and not to them.” This philosophy embodies the belief that teachers should become facilitators and students should become learners. Students will go through each the five dimensions of the ALM and they will gradually gain more control over their own learning.


Primary Developer(s):

George T. Betts and Jolene Kercher

Theoretical Underpinnings:

Positive, nourishing environments are required for self-directed learning- Carl Rogers (1951, 1961), Abraham Maslow (1968, 1971), and Virginia Satir (1972). Teachers become facilitators and students become learners- Carl Rogers (1983)

Elements, Components & Non-Negotiables:

-    Five Dimensions:

o       Dimension One: Orientation

o       Dimension Two: Individual Development

o       Dimension Three: Enrichment

o       Dimension Four: Seminars

o       Dimension Five: In-Depth Study

-    Nonnegotiable- Involvement in service activities during Dimension Three: Enrichment.


-   All ages and content areas

-   Pull out


-    Secondary classrooms (version created in 1981)

-    K-12 (revised version 1986)

Strengths & Weaknesses:


-    Students, teachers, administrators, and parents receive a thorough understanding of giftedness, talent, intelligence, and creativity through Dimension One: Orientation of the ALM.

-    Students are given the opportunity to pursue an area of interest.

-    Students get to work with mentors.

-    Students become independent, self-directed learners.

-    The ALM is designed to fit the reality that students are diverse with varying interests.

-    Students become lifelong learners.

-    It covers content, process, and product.

-    It can work with all content areas.

-    It can work with all grade levels.



-    Consultants can’t be effective if traveling too much

-    No empirical studies have been completed (Maker & Schiever, 2005).

-    ALM is a complex model due to the five dimensions and the steps that are involved within each dimension.

-    A significant amount of time is required from teachers due to the increased organizational skills that are necessary to effectively run a program that is based on the ALM.

-    It is not flexible because each dimension builds upon the subsequent dimension.

-    If human and/or material resources are not available to a school due to its geographic location or lack of funding, mentorships can not be developed between students and practitioners in a field of study, adventure trips can not be taken in students’ interest areas, and students can not complete their in-depth studies without crucial resources in their field of study.

Necessary Resources:

-    Human resources (mentors)

-    Material resources

Available Resources about the Model:

-    The International Conference on the Autonomous Learner

-    District ALM Programming and Implementation (ALPS Publishing)

-    Spotlight on Technology

-    ( A website for student learning where the ALM is highlighted

This information can be found in:

Renzulli, J.S., Gubbins, E.J., McMillen, K.S., Eckert, R.D., & Little, C.A.  Systems and models for developing programs for the gifted and talented (2nd ed.). Mansfield, CT: Creative Learning Press, p. 49-103.