Friday, 21 August 2015

On Being a Self-directed Learner

from John Milton Gregory's book The Seven Laws of Teaching, published in 1888.

Yes 1888! Wow, what has changed since then....

I recently read a blog that shared seven laws of the self-directed learner. It was very interesting to see that everything and very little has changed. Yes we now have digital technologies, yes we live in a vastly different world, yes so much has developed in education but people are intrinsically the same and the essence of good teaching and learning seems timeless.

The idea of who is the learner and who is the teacher has blurred and so to the 'Seven elements of the self-directed learner', as adapted by Bernard Bull:
  1. Everyone (including the self) and everything is a teacher. 
  2. A self-directed learner establishes the desired learning goal and attends to pursuing and achieving that goal. 
  3. The self-directed learner learns the languages and discourses necessary to reach the desired learning goal.
  4. The self-directed learner builds cognitive bridges between what she already knows and can do and what she aspires to know and do. 
  5. The self-directed learner aspires to learn how to motivate herself and what motivates her.
  6. The self-directed learner strives to embody the new knowledge or skill. 
  7. The self-directed learner reviews, refines, and re-creates what she learns. 
  8. The self-directed learner establishes feedback loops that give her insight on whether she is progressing toward the desired learning goal(s). 

The idea that I am a learner at all times and in all places and roles: as a teacher, a wife, a parent, a child, a friend, a scientist,  a member of the human race, ...

Ah, but am I setting specific goals, learning the discourses I need, linking to what I already know, motivating, working hard, re-creating, and reflecting?  Well, sometimes. Sometimes I do this process formally, often times incompletely, sometimes in isolation, usually as a random loop that gathers data and wonders.  It might be in the car, in the shower, in the middle of the night. At times I do this with others.

Working through the process with others is especially important as there are things others know about me which I might not know about myself, as demonstrated in the Johari window.  This allows for the collected understanding. It means I need to trust others viewpoint and trust my own understanding about myself as well, to build a more complete picture. Not to mention a less biased one.

Spirals of inquiry is a way to formalise and discipline the self-directed learning process that has be developed to help me as a learner,  who happens to also be a teacher. This is a deliberate practice that I need to ensure is in place. I need to put time towards this and have a way to record what I am doing.

I am learner. To be a self-directed learner means I need to ensure I am deliberately reflecting and challenging myself. Reflecting is how I can ensure I am not just going round in circles, that my 'spiral of inquiry' is not just a circle. Rather I need to be able to track progress towards a stated goal, point to evidence towards this and see what the next steps are.  Then of course do them.

1888 or 2015, taking responsibility for my learning is still the same.

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