5 best techniques to boost self-directed learning

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You have to be self-directed to be a successful online learner. What does this mean?

Let’s compare classroom learning and self-directed learning:

Classroom setting:

  • The teacher gives lessons and tells students what to study;
  • The teacher gives directions for projects and tests;
  • Students get a grade at the end of the course.

The teacher directs the class; the student participates.

Self-directed learning:

  • Students decide how to learn, what materials to use, and the learning pace;
  • Students are responsible for their studies.
  • e-facilitator/teacher provides support.

The student directs his learning; the teacher helps.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages. It depends on a person’s learning style.

Advantages of being self-directed:

Self-directed learners:

  • find their own learning resources
  • are good at collaborating with others
  • are better at applying what they learned
  • are better equipped and competent
  • are life-long learners

5 techniques to become a self-directed learner:

  1. Develop intrinsic motivation
    Intrinsic motivation means learning because you enjoy it. You study because it is interesting and you feel happy when you learn.

    For example: Learning English because you enjoy new experiences (intrinsic). You will continue learning English until you master it because every new discovery will encourage you to learn. If you’re learning English to reach a certain language level (extrinsic), you may stop learning after you reach the level that you need.

    Develop intrinsic motivation by staying curious, setting high goals and knowing your life’s purpose. Focus on being a better person.

  2. Set SMART goals
    SMART goals will help you know your priorities. SMART means specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals. Write them down. This is your reminder. It will motivate you to achieve more.
  3. Have a growth mindset
    A fixed mindset says that a student is either good at a subject or not. This is proven by the grades they earn. A growth mindset believes that anyone can learn even if it isn’t easy. A person with a growth mindset will try as many times it takes to learn something.
  4. Make your own learning habits
    Develop your learning habits and stick to them. Examples:

  5. Apply what you learned
    Apply what you learned in a project. Teach someone what you learned. Application can be the reward that can push you to keep learning.

Sources: Extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation: What’s the difference? Kendra Cherry, verywell mind; 7 habits of the best self-directed learners, Kevin Dickinson, Big Think; and Intrinsic motivation: How to pick up healthy motivation techniques, Adrienne Santos-Longhurst, Healthline. Accessed August 9, 2019.

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