self-directed learning

Are You a Self-Directed Learner?

I have been reading the book, Self-Directed Learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers, because of the writing of my Master's thesis. I feel extremely inspired by it because I identify myself as a self-directed learner; moreover, the students whom I tutor Chinese online are mostly self-directed learners as well.

1. What is self-directed learning? 

According to the definition provided by the author Malcolm Knowles (1975), self-directed learning describes "a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes" (p. 18). Moreover, he stresses that self-directed learning does not mean one studies entirely by oneself or learns in isolation; rather, "self-directed learning usually takes place in association with various kinds of helpers, such as teachers, tutors, mentors, resources people, and peers."

This description reminds me of my students who take the initiative to learn Chinese, study on their own whenever possible and meet with me online once to three times a week to facilitate learning. 

2. Why is self-directed Learning important?

Knowles states that "people who take the initiative in learning (proactive learners) learn more things, and learn better, than do people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught (reactive learners)" (p. 14).

I genuinely agree with this statement. When I am interested in a subject, I research and read about it. I learn more because I actively participate in the process of learning and thus I own the experience. 

In today's Information Age, finding free learning resources online has indeed become so much easier. YouTube videos and open university courses are two immediate examples that come to mind. As a self-directed learner, I have benefited so much from these amazing online materials. Recently, I watched open courses offered by Yale and Harvard University on psychology, philosophy and linguistics. But this extends much more generally and practically to my everyday life as well. I also learned how to use my first DSLR camera, how to put on make up, how to cook, how to properly workout at a gym on YouTube and other online resources. 

Are you also a self-directed learner? Have you taken advantage of resources the Knowledge Age has to offer? What online materials do you employ to facilitate learning?