The Self-Study Lesson Plan

Daniel Morse
4 min readMar 28, 2022


Imagine you snap your fingers and 👌🏽:

  • 100% of your learners get content to meet their current skill level
  • 100% of your learners work on the exact skill they’re most interested in
  • 100% of your learners work at their own ideal pace
  • And the teacher isn’t even present!

Rubrics can help you achieve this hyper-personalized, self directed form of learning. The very structure of a rubric allows students to identify their current skill levels on a topic, pick which skill they want to improve on, and get resources to do so. Let’s look at the structure of one of these rubrics:

How the anatomy of a rubric empowers self-directed learning

Students can use this process to guide their own learning and growth.

Here’s a variation.

This is a “mastery tree” format. It guides students through the correct sequence of job search tasks. The brilliance of this tool is that it articulates the best order to complete tasks. The map also has a rich density of embedded teaching resources linked within the rubric. One can integrate all the lecture recordings, videos, worksheets of an entire course into this one document by adding a short link to each step of the rubric:

How to embed a whole course’s worth of resources in a rubric

In class, you can empower students to direct their own learning by filling out the rubric and then using the embedded links to guiding their own learning.

In summary, here is a Lean Lesson Plan template structured around rubrics:

Lean Lesson Plan Using Rubrics

1. Students rate themselves on rubric — this gives them a starting place from which they can improve. Alternatively, the instructor can rate each student on the rubric.

2. Students pick skill(s) to improve based on their rubric score

3. Instructor polls students on their skill improvement choice — you’ll use this poll data for the next step …

4. Split students of the same target skill improvement into breakout rooms to discuss how to successfully level up*. Some discussion questions might be:

  • What are your biggest unanswered questions on the topic/skill?
  • Given resources listed in the rubric and beyond, what will be your approach to learning the topic?
  • What is most challenging about developing this skill, and how will you overcome it?
  • What resources and support are available to you right now?

These questions promote metacognition and prime them to improve their skill more effectively.

* A tip on logistics for coordinating the student pairings step over zoom. It can get messy to coordinate these breakouts. First, conduct a poll on what skills people are most interested in improving. You might get a spread like this: [8 on first skill, 4 on second skill, 3 on third skill, etc]. From here, pick the option for students to choose their own breakout room, and title each room the skill of interest — create enough rooms that all the skills can be covered.

Then ask students to self-filter into a room to pair with someone else. It’s a bit of a challenge to get each student in a room paired with someone of the same skill, but is doable and easy once you get the hang of it!

5. Self-study on target skill — students work by themselves to improve their skill by using the resources linked within the specific cell of the rubric — readings, tutorials, videos. Throughout this step, consider leaving students paired in the breakout rooms so they can ask their old partner questions if they get stuck.

6. Peer Feedback — have students meet back up with their partner to reflect on their learnings. Some useful discussion questions:

  • What can you do now (or now know) that you couldn’t do before?
  • How are you thinking about the topic differently, if so?
  • What are you still stuck on?

This discussion reinforces their learning.

7. Celebrate level up — at the end of class bring everybody back to the main room. Do a poll on if they were able to move to the next rubric level. Have students give each other shout outs.

In some courses, rubrics are our curriculum for the entire course! They give students agency while ensuring they cover all the essential content.



Daniel Morse

2x Founder. Community Organizer. Educator