We’ve become interested in the long-term benefits of self-directed learning: a process in which individuals set their own educational goals, identify appropriate strategies and resources to achieving those goals, and then evaluate outcome of their efforts.
Sound familiar? Self-directed learning is something that adults have to do everyday. Whether we’re starting a business, trying new parenting strategies, or making an investment, self-directed learning is a crucial skill for those of us who’ve left the structured world of the education system.
As a great article on Help Teaching’s website puts it, self-directed learning is all about learning how to learn: “When your boss asks you to take on a new project, you don’t toss your arms up and say, ‘I can’t do it.’ Rather, you develop an action plan and get to work. If you encounter something of interest, you learn more by reading, watching videos, listening to podcasts, or interacting with others in person and virtually. You have learned how to learn.”
So how can we empower our children to be self-directed learners? For parents and educators, the answer is a combination of gently pointing kids in the right direction and staying out of their way.
In school, theme-based projects are great opportunities for kids to take ownership of their own education. If such an opportunity arises, be sure to encourage your child to steer the project toward something that interests them rather than just ‘what the teacher wants.’ That process of negotiating creativity within the confines of an assigned criteria is as valuable as the educational subject itself. Information has never been easier to access, and kids have never been more tech-savvy.
While a great teacher will create opportunities for self-education, most independent learning takes place outside the classroom. Like adults, babies and toddlers are natural self-learners; guided by their curiosity, they’re constantly gathering information and drawing conclusions about how the world works. One of the best things we can do as parents is to allow our children the time and resources to maintain and develop that instinct.
Between school, homework, and extracurricular activities, kids these days are busier than ever. But a little unstructured time can go a long way toward allowing your kids to pursue their own educational goals. Whether they’re building legos, drawing comics, making a mess of the kitchen, or noodling around on that dusty guitar they found your the closet, your children will make their interests clear with a little time to explore. Ask questions to help your kids identify their own educational goals. Is there something you’d like to to build? Draw? Cook? Play? You’re there to help your self-directed learners identify and access the resources they need to achieve their goals. After that, it’s in their hands.
As the Laurus Crew prepares for March Break Camp, we’re excited to implement more self-directed learning into our programming. Have any suggestions? Be sure to let us know!
The Laurus Crew