Self-Directed learning is an old concept of learning and there have been lots of research and articles published on it. Such type of learning can be challenging for many students, even for intelligent and motivated students. I have seen multiple websites and articles over it and the common thing I found is that they all talk about independent learning which involves being ready to learn, setting learning goal, engaging in the learning process and evaluating the learning.
As per my understanding about self-directed learning, I would define it as follows: “Self-directed learning is a type of learning which can take place in the group or individually, where students take ownership of their learning by knowing the why and how factors of involvement in learning.”
University of Waterloo has defined self-directed learning as a 4 steps process and shared some teaching and learning tips. First step is about readiness to learn which includes analyzing the current situation of the student. Signs of readiness for self-directed learning include being: autonomous, organized, self-disciplined, able to communicate effectively, and able to accept constructive feedback and engage in self-evaluation and self-reflection.
Second step is setting learning goal which can include goals for the unit of study, structure and flow of activities, completion deadline of activities, details about research material for each goal, details about grading system, feedback and evaluation techniques after completion of each goal.
Third step is engaging and involving in the learning process and to do so, students should be able to understand their approach to learning whether it’s deep approach, surface approach, or strategic approach. Also student should answer the following questions.
- What are my needs: instructional methods?
- Who was my favorite teacher? Why?
- What did they do that was different from other teachers? Students should reflect on these questions throughout their program and substitute “teacher” with “advising faculty member”.
Fourth step is evaluating the learning in which students must be able to engage in self-reflection and self-evaluation of learning goals and progress. They should have the motivation to seek feedback on progress and ideas from the advising faculty. Self-evaluation can involves following:
- How do I know I’ve learned?
- Am I flexible in adapting and applying knowledge?
- Do I have confidence in explaining material?
- When do I know, I’ve learned enough?
- When is it time for self-reflection and when is it time for consultation with the advising faculty member?
To encourage the self-directed learning in the adult classrooms, an instructor should be able to build a positive and co-operative learning environment, facilitates the initiatives of learning, motivate the students about it.
There is an article given by K. Ramnarayan and Shyamalan Hande titled as “Thoughts on Self-Directed Learning in Medical Schools: Making Students More Responsible”. I found it very helpful to me as it clears me with all the basic concepts of self-directed learning. This article includes a lot of research on self-directed learning (SDL) and its a worth reading. It describes what is SDL, why this type of learning is important, what are the characteristics and benefits of SDL. It also talks about SDL strategies to follow for the learner and the teacher or facilitator of learning, how to develop self-directed learners and what are some optional strategies to use, two SDL exercises, a comparison of self-directed learning and teacher-directed learning.
Ramnarayan, K. and Hande, Shyamala. (2005). Thoughts on Self-Directed Learning in Medical Schools: Making Students More Responsible. Retrieved from: http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/lifelonglearning/higher-education/medical-schools/
University of Waterloo- Centre for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.) Self-Directed Learning: A Four-Step Process. Retrieved from: https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/tips-students/self-directed-learning/self-directed-learning-four-step-process
Garland, Wendy A. (n.d.). Self-Directed Learning: Definition & Strategies. Retrieved from: http://study.com/academy/lesson/self-direct-learning-definition-strategies.html
Skiff, Dana. (2009). Self-Directed Learning- Be your own CLO…Chief Learning Officer. Retrieved from: http://www.selfdirectedlearning.org/what-is-self-directed-learning