Self Directed Learning-Why? How?

Photo by Julia M Cameron on

More and more we are expecting young people to direct their own learning similar to how they navigate their own social stream or gaming consumption. Sometimes they are assigned a study period during their school day other times teachers set a task for students to do with limited direction or maybe students are at home doing their own studying. Regardless of the scenario students benefit from having some kind of structure or tool to help them manage their time and achieve.

Tools for self directed learning:

Recently a friend of mine shared a video he created to help students sharpen their memorization skills. Sad but often true students need to memorize for a test or exam and these strategies definitely help one remember. Here is the link.

As we are entering ‘exam season’ it is important that students set specific targets of what they want to accomplish in a given time period whether it is at home or school. I created this goal setting spreadsheet for the school I am coaching to help them help their learners with study periods. Though a bit rudimentary the key is for students to engage actively and set targets for how they plan to use their time followed by a check to see what they accomplished afterwards. Using this kind of tool will help them build their own methods for how to maximize their time.

In a group context the use of roles is really helpful. In recent school based experience I was covering a teacher who set a group task without roles. In the duration of the 50 minutes one student in each group commandeered the task while the rest were basically goofing off. Only one out of 6 groups figured out how to divide and conquer the task though I did shed light on the idea at the beginning of the class period. None the less if each student had a specific role to perform that contributed to the end product they all would have been engaged and learning the material. Ideas for how to set up these roles come from the practice called Literature Circles. Here is a list of different roles that could be amended for every content.

The benefits of self directed learning include the opportunity for students to go at a pace they are comfortable with and have the space to really think. It used to be that we as teachers would chunk our classrooms into 5-10 minute learning intervals- each interval would be a new set of directions, tasks and expected outcomes from learners. This practice no longer works especially with the given the needs of Gen Z and Gen Alpha. They are so accustom to content delivered ‘on their terms’ that by setting whole group paced activities students get bored and lose interest quickly. These generations are very accustom to using the internet as a tool in their learning and can flit between several different resources and ideas. What is missing is the context and understanding how these different bits fit together. This is where self directed learning tools helps push the metacognition and the deeper thinking.

What are your favorites? Share your ideas and reach out with any questions.

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: