Where did the Autonomous Learner Model begin?

The ALM was developed years ago at Arvada West High School in Arvada, Colorado, by Professor George Betts and Jolene Kercher. The goal was to give students the opportunity to become independent, self-directed learners. What is exciting is that this model of education was not developed by teachers but by the students. These students came from two different groups–those who were not achieving and those who were achieving in


high school. They were two different groups but both had the same need–to make school meaningful and to be more involved in the development of what they were going to learn. The teachers were there not to direct them but to assist students in the process of becoming life-long learners.

The Autonomous Learner Model (ALM) for the Gifted and Talented was developed specifically to meet the diversified cognitive, emotional, and social needs of learners. The model is currently implemented at all grade levels with the gifted and talented as well as all learners in the regular classroom. Emphasis is placed on meeting the individualized needs of learners through the use of activities in the five major Dimensions of the Model.

Want to know more about George Betts?

Read a message from him below:


My name is George Betts, and I am a Professor of Special Education in the Area of Gifted and Talented Studies at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado. I joined the university after six years of teaching and counseling at Arvada West High School in Jefferson County, Colorado. It was exciting to teach at this high school and to give students the opportunities to be in charge of their own education. I am very successful as an adult but I was not always successful in school. I struggled in high school, would not conform and did not realize that school could be important. I then attended Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. My high school had 2500 students and Phillips had 800 for the entire university. I flourished. A professor saw my potential and gave me opportunities I had never had before. I responded and started to develop my abilities. They were there but I was not aware of them. I had learned my weaknesses.

I see my life as a journey, with many starts and stops, and many detours but the goals have always been the same. I want to facilitate others in their growth and me, in mine. I want to belong. I want to love and be loved. I want to discover and develop my strengths. I seek to make this world a better place to live in. In other words, I want to live every moment to the fullest and to learn new and exciting information.

Part of my journey is to learn knowledge while another part is to experience fully the moments of today and to gain wisdom. Knowledge without wisdom is incomplete. To me, this is an extremely strong statement and one that could be pondered. Ponder! I know that to ponder is to think, reflect and decide what is best.

**Betts is an internationally acclaimed speaker and consultant, winner of numerous NAGC awards. Jolene Kercher was a highly successful mathematics teacher of gifted students at Arvada West High School and collaborated with Betts to create ALM.

What is the Autonomous Learner Model?

The Autonomous Learner Model (ALM) was devised 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 individualized needs of learners through the use of activities in the 5 major dimensions of the model.

What are the dimensions of the ALM?

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

**CLICK HERE** to learn more about each dimension!!!

What are the standards of the ALM?

The ALM Standards are different than those standards in the curriculum areas which are used in most schools and school districts. These standards are not related to skills within a content area, but to the “total” individual. These standards are applied to provide opportunities for students to become life-long learners:

  • Develop more positive self-concept & self-esteem.
  • Comprehend your own abilities in relationship to self & society.
  • Develop skills to interact effectively with peers, siblings, parents and other adults.
  • Increase knowledge in a variety of areas.
  • Develop critical and creative thinking skills.
  • Develop decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  • Integrate activities that facilitate the cognitive ,emotional, social, and physical development of the individual.
  • Develop an individual's passion for learning.
  • Demonstrate responsibility for own learning, in and out of the school setting.
  • Ultimately become responsible, creative, independent, life-long learners.