Learning all alone is not a simple task. It takes trying out new study methods, knowing how you learn, and the motivation to keep doing that.
While this all sounds simple on paper, it’s important to note people’s overall mood towards learning. For many people, it’s been years since they last picked up a book, let alone a textbook. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people stopped learning seriously after university or college.
It’s good now that you are focusing on your learning anew. Because once you delve into what learning is, you’ll realize how school learning wasn’t the most optimal.
Take self-directed learning for example, there are so many ways to develop it and it’s one of the many effective learning methods around.
What Is Self-Directed Learning?
Self-directed learning at its core is taking learning into your own hands and growing from it. It’s a technique that’s drastically different from what’s taught in most schools. In other words, it’s a highly effective technique that anyone can use and would be great in a school setting.
In fact, there is one school in the US that can attest to that, Brisbane Independent School or BIS. Because the school wasn’t restricted by Federal Curriculums – which are lacklustre at best – they could adopt this form of learning.
This push for self-directed learning came from Jennifer Haynes, who started teaching at BIS in the 1990s. From there, the buzzword at the time evolved into a curriculum program that emphasizes on seven characteristics:
Openness to Experience
From those seven characteristics, Haynes noted:
“These characteristics are planned into our curriculum and each student is tracked on a continuum of development. It is wonderful to see how a student can go from needing a teacher to help them even come up with an idea for a project and then observe them in their final years developing planning and implementing a project… They learn how great it feels to develop their own idea and most importantly how to complete the task without anyone standing over them to get it done.”
Characteristics of a Self-Directed Learner
The students at BIS give a birds-eye view of some of the characteristics of a self-directed learner. Exploring further, we’ll find more. Especially when we consider the methods I mentioned above as ways of improving this learning style.
From those methods, many research papers have emerged over the years showing all kinds of positive side-effects to this method.
First, self-directed learning allows us to take the initiative of our own learning. One study noted that when this happens, people uncover and grow their grit, perseverance, and improve their intrinsic motivation and integrity.((IGI Global: Leading P-12 Transformative Initiatives in Personalized Learning: Empowering Teachers and Students to Assert Agency in Their Own Development))
Second, students feel more empowered through self-learning. With programs moving to the internet,((IGI Global: Teaching Medical Statistics over the Internet)) we can see this as a form of self-directed learning. After all, you need to pace yourself when it comes to online courses.
Thirdly, people who take up self-directed learning develop other helpful skills. They’ll have an easier time setting goals and finding their own motivations. After all, these sorts of skills can apply to other areas outside of learning.
For example, we all need to set goals if we want to grow and enrich our business, career, and life. Learning how to set meaningful goals that we are excited to achieve means more than the act of setting a goal we don’t care about.
Some other characteristics of these learners are:
Highly reflective – It takes a lot to know your interests and how to motivate yourself. As a result, many of these learners spend time in their heads evaluating and reflecting.
Self-efficient – From effective learning to effective motivation, these individuals become more efficient with their learning. This behavior can translate to other parts of their lives as they learn methods and strategies to better manage their lives, work, and more.
Supportive – Being this type of learner means you need to value collaboration and teamwork. This teaches you to seek help and guidance and to offer help when need be. They work better in a team dynamic now because of this.
A higher sense of responsibility – It’s obviously important to look after ourselves but often, we associate that with the physical side of things. This type of learning focuses on the mental side which is just as crucial. All in all, it helps us realize that we need to manage both sides of ourselves and we become more conscious of what we are putting in our heads.
More inquisitive – This teaching method encourages us to ask the question “why?” and to not settle with “I don’t know” as the answer. As a result, we learn to ask the more important and impactful questions that spark discussion, discovery, and learning.
What’s amazing about self-directed learning is that we can adopt it in our own lives. So how to become a self-directed learner?
How To Develop Self-Directed Learning
Well, developing this strategy isn’t that hard. For most people, it needs to be taught explicitly, but the following ways will help in growing and learning this strategy.
1. Identify Learning Goals
You can never achieve anything unless you’ve envisioned it. Identify what you wish to learn first.
2. Question the Significance
Make a habit of not taking everything at face value. Always have a cat-like curiosity and ask questions that make you care about the answer.
3. Find Challenges
Challenges are not unpleasant. They can be exciting and rewarding. Provided that the challenge is on a problem you care about solving.
4. Check Your Learning Process
Learning is better when you’ve set your own learning standards. Regardless of grades, measure your progress against personal learning goals.
5. Understand Your Learning Approach
There are tons of resources to help identify learning styles. But do you really know what your style is?
Take a moment to look at the format and medium of your learning approach and change it around from time to time. My other article can help you: How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?
6. Uncover the Background of a Topic
Get to know the topic you are learning by checking the background of the topic. Read various articles, or check the Wikipedia page on the topic.
7. Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation
Intrinsic motivation is motivation driven from internal rewards. It seems like a simple concept but many people struggle with it. Fortunately, it can be learned. One form of it is planning on sharing what you learned with others.
8. Making Something out of What You Learned
A song, a journal entry, a picture… These are examples of things that you can create from what you learned. Not only does this help solidify what you learn, but it gives you something to look forward to.
9. Leverage Time
Sometimes we get busy and don’t have time to learn. But that lack of time is more of a reason to leverage the time we do have.
Take your thirty-minute lunch breaks to eat and squeeze in a learning session. Do you go to the gym? Why not listen to a podcast or listen to an audiobook during the session?
10. Create a Topic List
Think of it as a to-do list of things you want to learn about. These can be broad topics or narrow ones. These lists can help you in creating goals and working towards them to achieve them.
11. Value Your Progress over Your Performance
We never truly stop learning. There will always be tiny bits of information or views we are exposed to every day. But when you want to actively learn, focus more on the stimulation of learning over your actual performance.
12. Have Realistic Learning Goals
Self directed learning is built on a system that we create. To ensure the system is sound, you want to make sure everything is set within your own limits. The last thing you want is to feel discouraged from learning.
13. Build a Network of Learning Colleagues
Have a group of people that you can collaborate with and connect with. This group of people will push you to learn more and can give you an outlet for when you want to talk about what you’ve learned. Best of all this group can be either offline or online.
Self directed learning is the key to us having a more enriched learning experience. While everyone’s taste for learning has been diminished, it is due to an old and ineffective system — a system that doesn’t encourage deeper learning and doesn’t support students to learn more or set higher learning goals they care about. Such system focuses on the grades and performance of students which isn’t the point of learning.
Self-directed learning is so important because it teaches people to be more independent and responsible individuals. They develop skills to be internally motivated, self-sufficient, to ask meaningful and impactful questions, and more.
Now is the best time to get into self directed learning and to fall in love with learning again. After all, there is so much information at our fingertips that it’s worth exploring.
More About Learning
10 Ways to Find Learning Motivation (Even After You’ve Graduated)
How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want
15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain
Re-learn How to Learn in the Information Age
Read more: lifehack.org