Self Directed Learning Environment

How to Put Self-Directed Learning to Work in Your Classroom

Self-directed learning is not a new educational trend; it has been around for quite some time. It has been around since the beginnings of cognitive development (think Aristotle and Socrates), and it is a natural pathway to deep understanding and efficacy in a variety of situations and situations. When we are aware of the various ways in which self-directed learning can manifest itself in the classroom, and when we use it as an integral part of our learning process, we can provide students with a more meaningful learning experience that will last longer than the regurgitation of memorized content. Self-directed learning is something we practice daily.

What is Self-Directed Learning, and how does it work?

The progressive education movement and John Dewey, who believed that experience was the cornerstone of education, were responsible for some of the first modern formal theories of self-directed learning. Students would learn the most effective if they integrated both past and present experiences based on their interpretations and the subject matter being studied. Consequently, the educator’s role is to act as a guide, encouraging students to investigate their surroundings, formulate investigative questions, and conduct hypothesis testing.

Modern educational systems, which incorporate self-directed learning as pedagogy and are founded on the premise that all humans are capable of and should be responsible for their cognitive development, are available. Democratic Free Schools and programs, such as the Institute for Democratic Education (IDEA) and the Sudbury School, which emphasize educational freedom, democratic governance, and personal responsibility, are notable examples of progressive educational models.

Simply discovering new information and thinking critically about it can be considered self-directed learning, as actively participating and contributing to a learning community, or designing your learning path and selecting resources, guides, and information.

What Am I Supposed to Do With It?

Whatever method you use to incorporate self-directed learning into your learning community, there are several strategies that teachers and parents can employ to help students take greater ownership and responsibility for their learning and to assist them in creating their learning path:

Critically Examining a Situation

The ability to be aware of oneself and one’s surroundings, as well as the willingness to inquire deeply about both, is the most valuable resource for engaging in self-directed learning. Even though there are numerous interpretations of what critical thinking is and does, Robert Ennis defined it as “reasonable, reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do” (Ennis, 1996, p.166). Critical thinking is typically taught in the classroom through the use of the 5 W’s and the H.

Although asking questions is an important part of being a critical thinker, being a self-directed learner entails much more than that. All of these are more in-depth aspects of critical thinking:

Self-awareness and responses to one’s self-interests
Taking the credibility of the content into consideration Being open to new sources of information and viewpoints
Making discoveries while continuing to build on the combination of feelings, information, and discoveries
What applications does this have in the classroom?
Engaging students in design thinking activities is a great way to encourage the development of learning tools, rather than instructing them on how to learn. In the classroom, provide opportunities for students to write their critical questions about the content being covered. Begin by asking them questions such as “What do you believe you need to know about this information, event, perspective, or whatever else?” or “What questions can be asked to uncover new information and perspectives about this topic?”

Identifying and Obtaining Resources

The first step in learning a new subject, skill, or event is for students to express an interest in it. However, it can be difficult for them to know where to begin. As students progress and their learning evolves, new questions arise, and new resources are required to support their progress and learning. There are various types of resources available, including guides or mentors who are experts in a particular field, information and media resources, access to learning programs, and processes and steps to unlock cognitive scaffolding.

The excitement of discovering new resources and learning about new opportunities spreads like wildfire among those who participate. As students gain confidence in their ability to figure something out on their own, the more they will feel empowered to continue learning and will be more likely to repeat the pattern of discovery when applied to new interests and subjects.

What applications does this have in the classroom?
For example, if a student expresses an interest in languages, the school curriculum will direct the student to a language course; however, a course alone will not be sufficient to allow the student to truly experience the language and achieve fluency. Students will require additional information to fully immerse themselves in the process, information that will go beyond understanding and analysis. The availability of numerous resources is dependent on the individual’s knowledge of how and where to look for them. Free online programs like Duolingo, travel opportunities such as AFS, or a peer group in their community who speaks the desired language are all available to participants.

There are many different areas of interest. Language is only one of those areas. Another important component of the Open Education movement is the inclusion of valuable platforms for self-directed learning opportunities. It is possible to access literature, scholarly work, instructional materials, and open courses through reputable institutions through the Open Education Resource Commons (OER) ( All open educational resources (OER) are free to use and do not require permission to do so. The benefit of this is particularly significant for students who do not have the advantages of privilege and access.

Information Regarding Vetting

“Fake news,” which is sensationalized by the media itself, is not necessarily a new phenomenon, but it is spreading at an alarming rate as a result of the Internet of Things’ proliferation. Knowing how to think critically and locate sources of information is essential for effective self-directed learning; however, if students do not also know how to investigate sources, they may end up on a tangled web of confusion. Several social media platforms, such as Facebook, have begun to evaluate the sources of news on social media to assist the general public in meeting this need. Other websites, such as Snopes, serve as an online fact-checker, helping to debunk false information. Even though these measures may be beneficial, self-directed learners should not rely on larger organizations to complete their assignments for them. Institutions such as Georgetown University provide students with methods for determining the credibility of their sources (see the section below for more information). Remember that even fake news is based on someone’s point of view and contributes to that person’s perception of reality.

What applications does this have in the classroom?
One excellent way to investigate the source and impact of various perspectives is to refrain from simply accepting the information that is presented. The impact of forming ideas and perspectives on the information should be considered by self-directed learners as they devise new ways to experience it. What might this look like in a classroom setting?

Developing activities that assist students in weighing outcomes while taking into consideration all of the possible outcomes
Understanding multiple points of view through the use of mind mapping or infographics.
Students benefit from comparing and contrasting maps because it helps them to notice and appreciate differences.
The use of reflective techniques such as journaling and dialogue can aid in the exploration of the emotional implications and effects of social situations as well as the collective environment.
Modeling Practices and Experiments

When self-directed learner is in the zone of critical thinking, locating resources that support their growth and development, and investigating the validity and impact of those resources, it is critical that they can apply what they have learned in new situations. Deeper learning, as defined by Bloom’s Taxonomy, includes our ability to generate new possibilities, which in turn lead to the generation of new information.

What applications does this have in the classroom?
Seek out ways to “pilot” and “emulate” the decisions that have been made through critical exercises. Allow for the testing of hypotheses and the development of tests based on experiential and problem-based learning Consider the following avenues of investigation:

Is it possible for students to explore their conclusions in a safe and responsible environment?
When it comes to trying new ways of interaction and discovery, how can students scaffold their own learning experiences as a method of trying new things?
Is it possible to guide students through the process of experimentation and assist them in dealing with situations in which they are dismissive of others, biased, or complicit in discrimination?
In what ways, as educators, can we give students the freedom to experiment with different theories and identities without making them feel stigmatized, reduced to labels, or wrong for their judgments and opinions?
A strong learning community has been built by self-directed learners who have made significant contributions to supporting, elevating, and positively empowering one another. To achieve this level of inclusion and innovation, all learners (students and teachers alike) must be aware of how to learn and collaborate effectively, as well as how to take responsibility for their contributions to the process. Even if we don’t try to force it into the curriculum, self-directed learning will always be present; however, a curriculum that illuminates and seeks intention through self-directed learning will elevate our communities to a transformative level.