Based on your assessment of your learners and your prior experience, you probably listed several methods for enhancing the skills of your learners to enable their progress on the self-directed learning continuum. Below are a few approaches and methods that you may also consider.
1. Use the Self Rating Survey of Self-Directed Learning as a learning opportunity. “Knowledge of learners’ levels of self-directedness will benefit both learners and educators. Firstly, students responding to the SRSSDL items will not only reveal their own levels of self-directedness in learning but will also have the opportunity to develop an insight into self-directed learning and a better understanding of the concept, which is crucial for developing of self-directed, independent, and lifelong learning. Secondly, teachers, having identified learners’ levels of self-directedness and deficits in learning, will be better able to guide students from their positions of learning dependence to independence, considering each student’s individual learning needs.” (Williamson)
2. Create an environment of inquiry. Support the development of study skills, investigation, and inquiry by providing an environment where inaccuracies are acceptable throughout the learning process. Educators can enhance self-directed learning by providing opportunities for students to monitor and revise their work, and contemplate their thinking and learning methods. Journals and study groups within the classroom can accomplish this. Also, problem-based and project-based learning should be strong elements in self-directed learning, as well as, teamwork and collaboration (Connor, 2004). (Devine)
3. Create a Collaborative Environment. “Establish a collaborative climate in which all learners are valued and have equal opportunity for expression and ownership of views. In this environment, teachers give minimal input, ask open-ended questions, offer diplomatic validation of differences, relinquish teacher-centered and controlling instructional methods, and guide learners in appreciating the significance, meaning, and applicability of new learning. Taking this approach, teachers can develop lessons that combine collaboration with modeling activities that lead to perspective transformation.” (California Adult Education)
4. Create instructional activities using problem-based learning. Problem-based learning (PBL) “aims at helping students learn how to learn, to develop a learning habit that is taken as a key competence for lifelong learning. PBL students assume primary responsibility of the learning process. Tutorials are used instead of lectures. In the PBL tutorial, students are provided with some information about a case situation/problem. The case situation serves as a stimulant. Students try to analyze the case situation together based on what they know. In the process, they would become aware of their own learning needs–things they need to learn more in order to master the situation. They, then, do their own search to acquire relevant knowledge and come back to discuss about the problem again. Students work collaboratively in small groups and learn from each other. The role of the teacher shifts from lecturer to facilitator and supporter. The role of expert is played down (Jonas, Etzel, & Barzandksy, 1989).” (Lam)
5. Provide explicit training in self regulation. Using a model developed by Zimmerman, instructors would serve as a self-regulated learning coach and provide explicit training a cyclical, feedback loop of self-regulation. This coach would highlight and model "various self-regulation processes (e.g., goal setting, self-observation, self-evaluation) with task strategies (e.g., study, time-management, and organizational strategies) and self-motivational beliefs (e.g., self-efficacy, intrinsic interest)." (Cleary and Zimmerman) Instructors and instructional designers can build these concepts into existing learning experiences. The intent is to empower "students by cultivating positive self-motivational beliefs, increasing their knowledge base of learning strategies, and helping them to apply these strategies to academic-related tasks in a self-regulated manner." (Cleary and Zimmerman)
Let's Have Some Fun
The opportunities for incorporating the skills needed for successful self-directed learning are endless. The most important step for instructional designers and instructors to take to begin incorporating the development of these crucial skills into his or her existing lessons. With that in mind, let’s go have some fun!
The best way to learn how to incorporate the methods into your instruction is to try it out. Let’s begin simple – we can always add on later.
Take one of your existing lessons. Review the lesson and assess how well it cultivates the critical skills for self-directed learning. Here are some questions to consider: - How does the lesson encourage students to work independently or as a group? - How does the lesson encourage learners to evaluate their own learning? - In what ways does the lesson encourage students to plan how they will learn? - In what ways does the lesson address some of the aspects contained in the Self-rating survey of self-directed learning?
Take some time to modify the lesson to address some of these considerations. Remember, you don’t have to revamp the entire lesson. If you are struggling, talk it over with one of your colleagues.
Now, the fun part – go try it out!
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