Have you ever had a toddler become extremely excited by the sound of the garbage truck approaching your home? Hearing the squeals of delight, the whole family is immediately distracted and alerted to race and help your little one witness the truck’s creaking mechanical action as it clamps, lifts, and dumps your trash cans.
The toddler, with a fascination for garbage trucks, was actually teaching us really important lessons about self-directed learning:
We are most energized, receptive, and ready to learn about things we want to know about… and
Wonder-filled learning opportunities are all around us.
We can contagiously inspire others by sharing our own interests with enthusiasm.
Self-directed learning is wonder-filled learning. On the heels of curiosity, it can ignite imagination, increase energy, awaken the senses, present interesting problems to be solved, and evoke questions that want answers. See: Nurturing a Learner’s Sense of Wonder.pdf
In the classroom, there are two facets to student-directed learning. The first is engagement–how and what a child chooses or is drawn to learn or do. The second facet is the student’s ability and accountability to monitor his own feelings and behavior, work independently, and improve his own academic efforts.
Ideally, self-directed learning can be applied to any curriculum or method of instruction. It happens whenever the student chooses to be engaged in the process. We can summon increased student engagement by providing learning options that are presented in a variety of interesting ways, and by providing clear expectations for accountability and quality effort. The work of learning will certainly include some boring aspects, but everyday learning can be inspired when our children are given choices and have some stewardship for how and what they learn.
What can we do to guide our children to become more self-directed learners?
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