Best Tips for Effective Self-Directed Learning
- Nov 16, 2015
As a school-girl, I was seldom solely dependent on my teachers to complete my assignments or work on important projects. I remember how I invested time in a good research, identifying the key points and finding out the answers to the questions offered at the end of every chapter in my textbook!
It somehow gave me immense pleasure to pour my personal efforts into analyzing academic ideas and finding out solutions to different Math problems.
Of course, my teacher did guide me about how to go about my tasks. She explained to me various academic topics and the basic concepts associated with them. However, when it came to solving exercises, I preferred working on them independently. So, it was all about ‘self-directed learning’ for me right since a tender age, and it enabled me to master challenging learning processes quite simply, in the future.
What is Self-Directed Learning?
SDL or self-directed learning is a learning procedure in which students take the responsibility of learning academic ideas and topics. They are self-motivated to select, deal with and assess their very own learning activities through different techniques.
This can happen at any age.
Several educational institutions emphasize on the significance of this sort of a learning process, instead of traditional assessment tools like examinations. SDL simply implies overcoming challenges and developing the essential skillsets to master a particular academic idea independently.
In SDL, students collect their own academic resources, dedicate time to research, interpret ideas on their own and participate willingly in classroom discussions to clarify their doubts about any subject.
What I mean is, the students are completely in control of their learning activities in a self-directed learning approach.Also, this kind of a learning model is also collaborative, since learners need to coordinate with their peers and teachers in order to learn their lessons.
How Teachers can Implement Self-Directed Learning in Classrooms
Although self-directed learning represents adult education, it is being largely embraced in numerous elementary as well as secondary schools.
This kind of a learning approach is the need of the hour since students need to learn ‘how to learn’, and not just recite facts and figures or memorize formulae blindly without understanding how they were derived.
Read on to discover the best tips for effective self-directed learning in classrooms.
#1. Accept all Kinds of Failures
Failures, as you already know, are the pillars of success. As teachers, it would be better if you could make room for failure in your classroom. Students must be offered the ‘opportunity to fail’, as they would ‘learn’ from their mistakes.
And, would think twice before committing similar errors in the future.
Be it Math, History, Geography or Biology, students tend to make mistakes. While some students might make mistakes in identifying the appropriate formula for a particular Math problem, a few others might struggle with implementing the formula properly. On the other hand, some others might face challenges while learning theorems in Physics or the dates in History.
When your students fail, try to be patient with them and do not lose your composure.
Try to understand the weaknesses of your students and work with your students to overcome these issues. Accept the failures of your students, dear teachers. If you do that, your students would not be fearful of failing in their attempts to learn.
#2. Inspire Curiosity
Young students must be curious to know the unknown and explore the environment. Unless they are curious to see the unseen, their learning would remain incomplete. Being curious means to think outside the box and ask a lot many questions in the classroom!
It is the responsibility of teachers to encourage curiosity among their students in all the subjects that they are required to learn.
As children grow up into teenagers and finally young adults, the element of curiosity gradually fades from their hearts. Do you know why this happens? It is simply due to the fact that innumerable academic exercises, assignments and examinations rob students of their urge to know something new.
You can definitely assign them tasks.
But at the same time, you have to check if your students formulate new questions in their minds. They must come up with new ideas and questions about topics that are associated with their lessons and discuss them with you. This is one of the main reasons why you should never restrict your students to working on any one area of topic while assigning projects.
#3. Encourage Student Participation
Next, you should encourage your students to participate actively in every classroom discussion and lecture.
Once you complete a lecture, make space for a feedback session for your students. During this session, your students need to think about questions and approach you with their queries. If they have failed to grasp a certain portion of your lectures, instruct them to discuss it with you so that you can help them comprehend it. Let this session continue for ten minutes or more, if required.
Make sure every student makes his presence felt and gets his voice heard in the classroom.
Your students would feel more empowered if they could voice their opinions or their doubts regarding the topic that you might have just explained to them. Similarly, if they have any questions related to the project you just assigned them, let your students speak up.
Now, if your students do not agree with a certain point that you might have discussed in your lecture, you must also encourage them to offer their opinion about it.
#4. Promote a System of Peer Support
Have you ever noticed how tough it is to get a child to practise Math? Most of the times, some students would end up coming to your class with incomplete Math assignments!
However, the very same students turn out to be sporting once they are amidst a group of students, and put their best foot forward in solving the Math problems that they had once avoided.
Do you know why students behave in such a manner?
It is because, though ‘teacher support’ is essential for student progress, ‘peer support’ is equally important. When a particular student observes that his classmates are trying their best to solve a Math problem, he feels inspired to do the same. Thus, students develop a positive approach and a growth mindset towards learning anything new that drives them towards improvement in any subject.
You can foster a spirit of peer support if you let your students work in small groups.
For instance, you can assign a Math problem to two people seated beside each other and ask them to solve it together. Peer support sometimes leads to ‘peer tutoring’ that is extremely beneficial for students.
#5. Build Confidence
Students need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. So, teachers are expected to organize activities that boost the self-esteem of their students!
For instance, if they have scored brilliant grades in their exams, you can give them a compliment. Tell them that you appreciate the amount of hard work that they have put in, in order to accomplish a particular task or learn something complicated. Praise them if they display progress in Math or any other subject.
It really helps them to understand their strengths and also know their weaknesses.
But, teachers should also build confidence so that students are convinced that they are capable of performing better in the subjects that seem challenging to them. Teachers need to understand that most students are not great in the subject Math. But then, every student is born with a talent that needs to be recognized and celebrated.
You can organize a spelling competition in the class.
Students who are great with spellings and English would certainly love you for it, I am sure. It provides students with the chance to explore their talents to a great extent.
#6. Never Impose Limitations
One of the common mistakes almost every teacher makes is: to impose restrictions on the assignments or projects.
When you specify the number of problems that your students need to solve for an assignment or describe the process of completing a particular project, you are indirectly imposing limitations on your students. Please watch out for this and consider avoiding it in future.
For instance, avoid asking your students to write a three-page essay in the English class.
Instead, you can ask them to write as much as they wish to, on the topic. When you remove the restrictions on the goals, you automatically make way for progress and also success! Let their thoughts flow freely and encourage them to express themselves in the best way possible.
If you follow this practice, you shall discover your students are achieving more than you had ever hoped for, and you shall be pleasantly surprised!
Similarly, make room for experimentation while assigning projects to your students. Let your students work on concepts that are dear to them, for they can perform much better if you do assign projects to students.
#7. Teach Students How to Set Realistic Goals
Success not only depends on dedication and perseverance, but also depends on how you set goals. Therefore, try to teach your students how to set goals that are manageable and of course, realistic!
A majority of students fail to earn decent grades in their exams simply because they set too many goals for themselves.
‘Goal-setting’ is an art that needs to be mastered skillfully. For instance, you have assigned a project to your students. Teach them how they can break it down into miniature activities. For example, you can instruct them to create a blueprint of the project, as soon as they are asked to do it.
In this blueprint, they must jot down the essential components of the project, and the different resources which they would utilize to complete the project.
Next, your students must do the research necessary for the project. They must look up websites, magazines and books to collect materials for doing so. Once they have finished all these tasks, they can sit down to work on their project.
#8. Help Students get Rid of Disappointment
Disappointment is an emotion that grips students whenever they fail to complete an assignment, deliver a project within the specified deadline or receive good grades in their exams.
When students are disappointed, they experience an anxiety that is tough to ignore.
Consequently, they feel too exhausted to memorize the formulae or the definitions. In addition, they also feel a lack of energy and motivation to strive for the best results. Eventually, students could also feel like giving up!
Teachers play a crucial role in motivating students and helping them get rid of their disappointment, since youngsters spend a large chunk of time in learning environments. Once students overcome disappointment, they can march forward with the “I still can” attitude. Teach your pupils how to see the bigger picture, and accept failures gracefully.
For instance, if they secure miserable grades in Math, do not let them be terribly upset about it.
Take them aside and talk to them. Ask them to take a deep breath and calm down. Then you can ask them about the complexities they might be confronting in the subject.
#9. Offer Reflective Questions after a Project is Over
So, your students have succeeded in completing their History project, right? And, they have already submitted their projects to you. What is your next course of action?
I would advise you to offer your students some reflective questions right after they finish working on a project. Ask them the following questions to know how they enjoyed working on the project that you had assigned to them:
- Which parts of the project seemed the easiest for you?
- What, according to you, was the toughest part?
- Which are the areas that you feel could have been better?
- What do you think you could have worried a little less about?
- Is there something that you could have mentioned at the beginning of your project?
- Do you feel you have done justice to your work? Why?
These are some of the best classroom techniques for incorporating self-directed learning in different learning spaces. I am certain that your students would be inspired to engage in SDL if you implement the ideas I have mentioned. If you have more ideas up your sleeve, why don’t you share them with us?
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