Oh goodness me. I promised not to rise to this, but autonomous education is being so appallingly traduced in another arena, that it seemed irresponsible not to, and I have firmly promised myself that I will maintain some basic standards and ground-rules in the process.
It has been said (by a consistent and to date, impervious critic of autonomous education) that there is little evidence that it works. In fact, in comments, this critic goes further. He claims there is active evidence that it positively doesn't work and supports this claim by citing the article:
'Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching'
Having considerably less time than I used to have, I haven't read anything other than the synopsis of this article, but this alone is sufficient to ascertain that it is not a criticism of autonomous education. It is instead, a criticism of the neglectful form of education which, well, let's face it, does seem likely to fail.
However, autonomous education and neglect are not one and the same thing. Indeed autonomous educators frequently spend quite a lot of their time offering guidance. Guidance, in the form of the offer of tentatively held theories, is not precluded by the practice of autonomous education. What is precluded is coercion.
Coercion is defined by many UK HEors (and others who are concerned with the subject) as "being forced to enact a theory that is not active in the mind". Conversely, this simply means that autonomous education is learning with the theory active in the mind. This is the defining essence of autonomous education and means that it can happen in highly structured situations, where the individual is being taught in entirely pedagogical fashion, or when the learner is getting on with what he is doing entirely by himself.
Given this oft-repeated error about AE, (ie: the one about confusing AE with neglect), it is worth spelling it out all over again: an autonomous educator would be failing in their task if they were to fail to offer theories when a child wanted them.
As to the evidence that AE works? One group we used to attend was largely made up of much older autonomously educated children. I saw a lot of them again last week. Aside from the three who have gone to or are going to Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial, all the others are now either in some other university/college or work and all are happily doing what they want to do.
I personally don't feel the need to trawl for irrelevant scholarly articles on the internet to be certain that that autonomous education actually works.