What is self directed learning? What are the small but effective tricks to master it? Read on!
Self-directed learning is not a very new trend in education. It is a common road to deep understanding and effectiveness. By being aware of how self-directed learning can occur in the classroom, and utilizing it as an integral part of how we learn.
We can generate a more meaningful learning environment for students that will last beyond memorized content parroting. Indeed, we live through self-directed education. In this article, you will find information on what is self-directed learning, self directed learning models, and strategies.
Self directed learning definition
A learning strategy that encourages learners to take responsibility for their learning process (diagnosing learning needs, determining learning objectives, choosing learning strategies, and evaluating learning success and outcomes).
A self directed learner can formulate a strategy and recognize the tools, resources, and strategies needed for his or her own learning. Self directed learning habits and characteristics contribute to intrinsic motivation, honesty, authority, commitment, perseverance, and grit.
What is self learning?
We often find gaps in our knowledge can be daunting, it can lead to procrastination. Self learning is a process where the individual or self learner is proactive with or without the help of others in identifying their learning needs, making realistic learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, and evaluating their outcomes.
Learners have the responsibility to retain and understand the content without help from another human resource. Self directed learning gives learners the flexibility to teach themselves the relevant skills and knowledge. Self study methods are not looking to replace traditional learning processes but provide an alternative platform for acquiring knowledge for those interested in learning.
Also Read: Remote meeting | A comprehensive guide
Who is a self learner?
Self learner describes a temperament rather than when a person is self-taught. Characteristics of self directed learner people take the initiative when they evaluate what they need to learn and build from there. They tend to have grit, perseverance and are motivated. Self learners feel empowered by self learning. Students today have access to a range of programs on the internet.
They have the flexibility to pace themselves in problem-based learning. Self directed learning allows learners to develop other skills. It encourages them to make their own goals. They tend to be reflective while they evaluate what they want to learn. Self learners tend to seek out help when required and tend to be more inquisitive and responsible.
Also Read: Work life balance | Everything you must know
Self directed learning Knowles definition
Self direct learning or SDL describes a process in which people show initiative with or without asking others for help in identifying their needs, making learning goals, identifying different learning resources, choosing and implementing learning strategies, and evaluate the learning outcomes.
Mr. Knowles, an educator, propagated the theory of adult learning or the Theory of Andragogy. According to Knowles, learners become self-directed as they mature. SDL or learning by oneself or auto-formation, as opposed to learning through the action of others or hetero formation. Self-learning has three goals,
- To improve the ability of the learners to be self-determined in their studies
- To encourage transformational learning
- To promote emancipator learning and social actions as a part of SDL.
Also Read: Organize your life | A complete guide
What is direct learning?
Direct learning is a learning program that people pursue independently. Faculty members often develop exercises for students to gain more concepts or skills introduced in class. A DLA (direct learning activity) differs from homework assignments. There are two components of direct learning,
- Short assignments 30 to 45 minutes long
- Follow-up session with a tutor.
DLA is not graded, but some instructors assign the completion of a certain number of DLAs per semester as a percentage of student’s evaluation. Assigning the DLA ensures the students are getting extra practice and ask for assistance when required. The self direct learning of direct learning activity focuses on key skills and concepts rather than the entire content.
What makes self directed learning effective?
In the latest years, educators have come to focus increasingly on the value of laboratory-based research, hands-on participation, student-led exploration, and the use of “manipulable” in the curriculum.
The underlying principle seems to be that students are better at learning when they can control the flow of their experience or when they are “self directed” in their learning. Although the advantages of self directed education are well known, there is limited understanding of the reasons why a sense of control contributes to better knowledge acquisition.
- A few researchers have emphasized the motivational aspect of self directed learning in the classroom, arguing that such learning is successful as it makes students more eager and motivated to learn.
- Some other researchers have explored how self directed learning, such as those involved in attention and memory, could affect cognitive processes.
- Cognition research offers several explanations which help to take into account the benefits of self directed learning in the classroom.
A self directed learner, for example, can maximize his educational experience. He can concentrate on valuable knowledge that he does not already have. The successful aspect of self directed learning also helps us codify and retain knowledge over time.
Also Read: Remote work | A how-to guide for everyone
Benefits of self directed education
Many people believe self directed education is not just a new educational method but a new approach to life. One of the basic principles of self directed learning is that people have the right to live their own lives and follow their path.
Self direct learning techniques encourage a collaborative culture where individuality is valued. We base it on the assumption that we will all benefit from increasing the resource rather than fighting and competing for the same resources. Self directed learning has a win-win philosophy. Significant benefits of self-learning are,
Self-education plans promote self-confidence
We are in charge of our lives even though our lives are affected by several external factors like environmental, genetic, etc. We are responsible for our choices and destinies. A self education plan helps a self-learner to make informed, intelligent, and self affirming decisions in different spheres.
We need to practice decision-making. Students who practice making their own decisions after analyzing their ideas, feeling, wants, and needs against the options available are more likely to become mature, sensible, healthy, productive, and compassionate adults capable of making well-rounded decisions.
Self directed learning strategy improves coercive learning
Students often face verbal abuse or suggestions that they are incompetent in the school environment. Students are often labeled as unmotivated, lazy, or stupid because they have their learning curve or follow their path.
A book (How Children Fail) by John Holt wrote that some children learn to feel stupid at school, and others feel like winners because they get high grades. Elaborating on the subject, a book by Kristen Olson (Wounded by school) said children often have secret fear they will be exposed by failures, especially when they are labeled based on arbitrary tests.
These insecurities carry over as adults people try to overcompensate. A sound self directed learning strategy ensures students do not feel the pressure to prove their knowledge. They tend to more open and inquisitive. Self directed learning ensures their self-esteem is not shattered or falsely bolstered.
Self-studying provides opportunities to pursue a range of interests
The curriculum in schools is predefined with a fixed schedule. It cannot accommodate individual interests or the flexibility to go into greater depth of topics within the curriculum. In a curriculum-based approach, students move on to the next topic, instead of analyzing why and how things can improve.
Self studying allows us to explore the subject in greater depth, rather than just memorizing content in the prescribed text. Self directed learning allows students to have a more hands-on approach, and learn from their mistakes and take steps to rectify them. Students to explore and develop their interests.
Self directed learner gets better training
Without the imposed requirements of the school syllabus, children and their parents can create, discuss, negotiate, design, and decide what will help them their goals, values, and desires. Self directed learners become adults who are comfortable in their skin and tend to be more sensitive and empathetic to the need of others.
The ability to decide translates into their choice of occupations and how they work. Self directed learning emphasizes the need to collaborate with others rather than impose their opinions and power play. The learners feel they are in charge of their lives and are less likely to undermine others.
Self directed learning strategies for teachers
Here is a list of self directed learning strategies for those in teaching professions,
Self directed learning enables open questioning
Planning high-order, open-ended questions lesson plans is a strong tool for engaging students and stimulating their curiosity. It eventually brings them to the road of self directed learning. Develop questions that compel students to think, analyze and research critically.
Including open-ended questions to illustrate various aspects of the lessons, rather than straightforward goals, opens the door to conversations and debates. This approach requires direct input on the understanding and awareness of students. This also bolsters critical thought.
Implement a hybrid or blended style in selflearning
This learning method focuses primarily on blending the interest and curriculum of the teacher, with the students’ needs and interests. It is required to create a learning environment that is focused on the students. Engage students in the determination of learning objectives and the formation of lesson plans. This stirs a sense of duty for learning inside them.
Use technology efficiently as a self-learner
Technology encircles us all the time, especially in the world of online learning that is now prevalent. Incorporating it as an instructional resource is an important solution to developing a diverse learning environment.
Technology broadens the academic horizons and offers students the ability to participate creatively in the learning process. Learning comes to them internally when it stimulates their curiosity. Hence, it promotes constructive learning.
The Internet, then, becomes their teacher-substitute. Create assignments that encourage them to utilize technology to find answers. This would prompt them to delve into the subject further. Use interesting videos to make learning more enjoyable.
Self directed learning strategies for students
Here is a list of self directed learning strategies for students,
Make SMART goals as teaching steps
Identifying the ultimate objectives is the first step towards beginning self directed learning, but it does not stop here. Creating goals for each stage is crucial. It is very easy to lose focus. So, short-term concrete targets can help keep you focused and also improve the learning process.
One of the most effective strategies to start self directed education is using the SMART system. SMART is an abbreviation for,
- Specific: Specify what you want to earn. Do not rest with general goals.
- Measurable: Build targets in a way that you can keep track of your success.
- Attainable: Build achievable expectations. Challenge yourself, but do not make accomplishing them impossible.
- Relevant: Make sure that the goals are important to you and consistent with what you want to accomplish. Build realistic targets that will get you motivated.
- Time-bound: Fix deadlines. Time limits will help you stay focused and unwavering.
Choose a self directing method that suits you
Self-directed learning offers flexibility in choosing a learning method that is tailored to individual needs. Hence, analyzing the learning process utilized and choosing the methods that correspond with the interests of the learner is essential. Different topics demand different approaches. Hence, you must choose the most appropriate one. It can even be updated along the way.
Develop a self studying productive mindset for learning
Building a positive and ‘never give up’ outlook is necessary for self directed learning. This is often assessed at every curve of the learning process. Learners will have to accept the fact that failure is a component of growth.
Having confidence in one’s ability and believing that he or she will achieve the objectives is a prerequisite for a fruitful experience in self directed learning. Moreover, learners would have to tackle one of the biggest enemies of learning – procrastination. They will have to forward with perseverance and a strong, dedicated mind that remains focused.
Use the self directed learner sandbox approach
Below are the steps involved in setting up sandbox approach,
Step 1: Create your sandbox
Creating a place where one can explore and build on their abilities is advisable. It will give learners an incentive to work more actively. From the very beginning, share any completed works with friends, teachers, and family. This would help you overcome public fear and at the same time, receive valuable feedback.
Step 2: Do some research
Regular research has to be carried out diligently to master a skill. The sandbox’s limits will broaden as new ideas are tried and perfected. The immediate resources that will help with research are books, online courses, blogs, forums, and so on.
Step 3: Implement and keep practicing
Practice progressively as much as you can. Self directed learning eliminates naïve action, where there is always motivation given to repeat the same items endlessly. Instead, self directed education encourages the study of concepts and then the application of them in different scenarios. This will also open up cracks in learning and offer an incentive to fill the gaps.
Step 4: Receive feedback
Constructive feedback provides growth opportunities. Having someone who can provide positive input on learning goals, development, and the work being done goes a long way towards making any self-learning project productive.
This would also help determine possible gaps in the learning approaches employed. Without a doubt, mentors, instructors, or targeted topic experts act as excellent guides. Repeat this process for every phase of self directed learning.
Tip: Follow Benjamin Franklin’s five-hour rule for an enhanced self-directing learning outcome.
Also Read: Virtual gift ideas | A comprehensive guide
Staged Self Directed Learning (SSDL) model
Staged Self Directed Learning (SSDL) is one of the most widely used self directed learning models. This model is based on the work of Hersey and Blanchard, which related to situational leadership in the business setting. It was then incorporated by Gerald Grow into the atmosphere of education as the SSDL model in 1991.
There is a significant hierarchical system of SSDL teaching styles. Its fundamental principle is that teaching is situational: at a specific point in time, the style of teaching must be matched with the ability and motivation of the learner. This is called readiness. Grow suggested four styles for learners and four equivalent styles for instructors.
Only if you figure out where they are currently and match them first, you can move trainees to the next level. Problems arise when dependent learners are inconsistent with non-directive teachers, and when self directed learners are inconsistent with highly authoritative teachers. Thus, this model has the function of helping you,
- Identify where the current learners are when it comes to self-direction.
- Compare your activities or sessions of education to that level.
- Enable their advancement to the next higher level.
Remember that effective teaching does two things: it matches with the self-directing stage of the student, and it encourages the student to advance towards greater self-direction. Below is a summary of the staged self directed learning (SSDL) model,
Stage 1 – Self-directed learner undergoing rigorous learning
- Status of student: Dependent
- Status of teacher: Expert
- Providing rigorous coaching that is immediately followed by feedback.
- Offering an informative lecture.
- Adopting a directive and pedagogical teaching style.
- The teacher can be very controlling.
- The learner’s initiative might get stifled.
- The dependency of the learner on the teacher might increase.
Stage 2 – Self direction skills based on inspiration & guidance
- Status of student: Interested
- Status of teacher: Motivator
- Providing inspiring lectures.
- Offering guided discussions.
- Implementing and teaching goal-setting and learning strategies.
- The teacher might end up being very entertaining and less informative.
- The learner might be left with little skills of learning and/or motivation.
Stage 3 – Self guided learning based on discussions & collaborations
- Status of student: Involved
- Status of teacher: Facilitator
- Facilitating a discussion in which the teacher also takes apart as an equal.
- Providing collaborative and group tasks.
- Adopting a non-directive teaching style.
- The teacher might end up giving acceptance and value to any kind of work.
- The learner might show only a little respect for the teacher and the work.
Stage 4 – Self directed learning model based on internships and dissertations
- Status of student: Self directed
- Status of teacher: Delegator
- Delegating internships and dissertations.
- Providing individual work or self directed study.
- Encouraging creativity.
- Offering mentorship.
- The teacher might withdraw too much from the learner and therefore, lose touch.
- Losing touch could cause the teacher to fail in monitoring the progress of the learner.
- The learner might not be able to receive valuable external feedback if the teacher loses touch.
Tip: Use the 80/20 rule for effective prioritization.
How to perform self directed learning?
Below are the 4 steps to be followed for self directed learning,
Step 1 – Begin learning process steps with assessing the student
For successful independent study, students need different skills and attitudes towards learning. This phase includes students performing a self-assessment of their current circumstances, study patterns, family condition, and supportive network at school and home.
They must also evaluate any previous experiences with independent learning. Indications of readiness for self directed learning include being autonomous, organized, and self-disciplined. You must also be able to communicate effectively, accept constructive feedback, and engage in self-assessment and self-reflection.
Students need different skills and attitudes to succeed as self-directed learners. In this preliminary step, student conduct evaluates their current situation, study habit, family circumstance, and support mechanism at school and home. It includes any previous experience the student has had with self directed learning.
Several self-assessment tools help in the evaluation process. Signs of self directed learning approach are independence, the ability to stay organized and communicate effectively, and the openness to accept constructive feedback. Students need to learn to self-evaluate, self-reflect, and course correct.
Step 2 – Set self learning goals
Interaction between a student and the advising instructor regarding learning objectives is critical. The learning contracts are essential to developing a clear understanding of learning goals between students and instructors.
Self direct learners and instructors need to communicate. A set of questions will help students make their self-learning goals. Besides goals, there needs to be a clear contract between directed learner and their instructor. The self-learning plan generally covers,
- Self-learning goals
- Structure and sequence of activities
- Details of resources of required
- Grading procedures
- Once completed, assessing and modifying the goals.
- Set the agenda before meeting with the advising instructor
- Agreement of unit policies
Once established, the advising faculty member must assess these contracts and pose concerns about viability (for example, what can go wrong? Is it too much or too little work? Is the timetable and assessment reasonable?). After drafting the contract, evaluate the contract, by the advising faculty for feasibility and time frame.
Self learners need to engage in the learning process – Students need to evaluate themselves to understand their needs as self-learners. Self directed learners need to consider the following,
- What are their needs? Or instructional methods?
- Who is my favorite teacher? Why? What did they do differently?
Direct learners need to understand different methods to approach studying,
- A direct approach to self-directed learning involves understanding the ideas yourself, applying the knowledge to new situations, and using examples to explain concepts. This approach requires more than unit learning.
- The surface approach is a self directed learning model involving reproduction. It involves sticking to the unit requirements and learning only what is required. In this approach, students use examples and explanations used in the text.
- The strategic approach involves achieving the highest possible grades by studying what is required to pass examinations and memorizing facts.
The traditional learning method encourages a surface and strategic approach. Self-direct learning requires a direct approach where students understand the material and apply knowledge.
Step 3 – Directed learning activities with the help of peers
Self learning is not a solitary activity. Students need the support of others to get some structure in their learning. They may need a friend or another learner to increase accountability, competition, and help them when they are stuck. Students need to be proactive about getting help, looking for like-minded groups online.
In terms of physical space, students can consider coworking and hackerspaces, etc. Another way to get help is for students to approach someone they admire for an internship or mentorship program. When students have to embark on the self-direct learning journey, they must remember to have a positive approach and become indifferent to anything negative.
It is vital to try to build a learning community to become a successful learner. To recognize their requirements as self-directed learners, students must understand themselves as learners. Students may also consider answering questions such as,
- What are my specifications for methods of instruction?
- Who had been my favorite teacher? Why?
- How was what they did different from that of other teachers?
During their program, students must focus on these questions and replace the teacher with the advising instructor. Learners should also have an understanding of their study approach. A few study approaches are mentioned here,
- A deep study approach includes transformation and is suitable for self-driven learning. This approach includes discovering concepts for yourself, applying experience to new scenarios, and using new examples to illustrate a concept. Also, learning more than what is required to complete the unit is done.
- A surface approach includes reproduction. This means coping with unit requirements and learning only what is needed to complete a unit in good standing. There is also a tendency to regurgitate examples and explanations present in the readings.
- A strategic approach includes organization. Obtaining the highest possible grades, learning what is necessary to pass tests, memorizing information, and spending time by attempting previous exams happens here.
Earlier academic studies may have facilitated studying with a surface or strategic approach. Such methods will not be enough (or even suitable) for effective independent study. Independent study needs a deep study approach, where students can grasp concepts and apply them to new circumstances. Students have to create their associations and be motivators for themselves.
Step 4 – The learning step of self-evaluation
For self directed learning to be successful, students must engage and reflect on their learning goals and the progress made. Part of learning steps during self-evaluation involves,
- Consult regularly with their advising instructors
- Seek feedback
- Reflect on their achievements which involve asking
- How do I know I have learned something?
- Am I able to adapt and apply the knowledge?
- Do I have confidence in the course content?
- When have I learned enough?
- When do I self-reflect, and when do I go for a consultation with the faculty member?
Also Read: How to motivate employees | A complete guide
Self directed learning examples
For a clearer understanding of this topic, refer to the self directed learning examples provided below:
How to self learn by implementing design thinking?
One excellent element that teachers use to encourage the use of learning tools, versus telling students how to learn, is through activities promoting design thinking. They create opportunities for students to write their critical questions about the material discussed in the online classroom.
This process is started by asking them, “What do you think you have to know about this information, event, or perspective ?” or “What questions could be asked about this subject to reveal new knowledge and perspectives?”
Self directed study by vetting of information
One great way to explore the origins and effect of the various viewpoints is not only to rely on the information presented. Self directed learners should build ways to interpret knowledge and understand how ideas and viewpoints can be built on it.
- Creating tasks that help students assess outcomes, taking into consideration the potential results.
- Accepting a range of viewpoints using Mind Mapping or Infographics.
- Comparing and analyzing student maps that help the students in identifying differences.
- Using reflective methods such as journaling and conversation helps to discuss the relational consequences and impacts on social circumstances and the common environment.
Self directed learning activities and modeling experiences
Decisions made during important tasks are emulated and piloted. Experiments and theories based on experiential and problem-related learning are encouraged. The following inquiries are considered:
- Will the students discuss their results healthily and responsibly?
- How will students scaffold their own learning experiences as a way to find new ways to communicate and explore them?
- How do we assist students through the learning process and help them handle moments when they ignore others, display prejudice, or become involved in discrimination?
- Do we, as educators, create the room for students to pursue new ideas and identities without making them feel stigmatized, reduced to stereotypes, or considered wrong for their decisions and opinions?
Self directed training using experimental learning
Experimental learning was developed in the 1970s. Self directed training using the experimental method uses hands-on training. In experimental learning learners will,
- Actively participate in the learning process
- Reflect upon their experience after participating, developing, and reinforcing their knowledge.
- Evaluate the success and failures of the learning process and suggest improvements for the learning process.
The self direct learning method of experimental learning teaches professionalism, customer service, or supply chain management. One of the disadvantages of experimental learning overemphasis on individual knowledge at the cost of social context. Role-playing exercises and virtual reality to simulate situations they may face at work.
Directed learning activities with project-based learning
Project-based learning was introduced in 1987. Direct learning activities by project-based learning,
- Acquire knowledge more holistically and deeply when they actively explore real-world issues.
- Should work on the problem for an extended timeframe, investigating developing, and testing potential solutions.
- Will understand knowledge more completely as a result of having to actively apply it.
Project-based learning is a great fit for organizations that want to develop the long-term project management skills of their management teams, improve the process, and research and development projects. A disadvantage of PBL is some members participate wholeheartedly while others slack off.
Limitations of self directed learning strategies
Evaluating self-directed learning packages involves analysis of the following – if the course material is up-to-date if the course is being used as intended, if the material is easy to use, and if the learners are mastering the objectives. As with any learning method, self-directed learning has advantages and disadvantages. The limitation self directed learning strategies are,
- Does not work if the learner has no self-discipline
- No face-to-face interaction
- Lack of inputs from trainers
- Slow evolution
- Good e-learning is difficult to do
- No peripheral benefits
- Lack of transformational power
Assumptions of self directed learning theory
Self directed learning theory focuses on deeper learning and assumes that adults are self-driven and expected to take responsibility for their decisions, and the learning program must support the basis. The basic assumptions in self directed learning theory are,
- Self-concepts – As we grow older, our relationship changes from a dependent relationship between student and teacher to an independent self-seeking experience. It means adults can thrive in independent learning/training scenarios.
- Adult learning experiences – Adults retain past experiences and can reference them while learning.
- Readiness to learn – Adults are inclined to learn where there are incentives.
- Orientation to learning – Adults are keen to learn skills that they can apply to and improve the quality of their work.
- Motivation to learn – As adults learning stems from internal motivation rather than external factors.
A healthy learning culture is one made up of self directed learners who make a powerful commitment to encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring one another. To establish this degree of inclusion and creativity, all learners (students and teachers alike) have to know how to learn and effectively collaborate by taking responsibility for their contributions.