As individuals in the business of lifelong learning, we need to embrace—and cultivate—the characteristics related to effective learning habits.
In this encore episode of the Leading Learning podcast, Celisa and Jeff celebrate the self-directed learner including what it means to be one and why it’s important.
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Listen to the Show
Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – In this episode, we’re doing a slight revamp and replay of episode 90, in which we discussed self-directed learning. We feel that the importance of being a self-directed learner has continued to grow since we first discussed it, and it is a topic that bears returning to frequently over time as we consider both our own learning practices and how we best address the self-directed learning needs of the people we serve.
[00:48] – Before we get to the discussion of self-directed learning, we want to thank our sponsor for this quarter.
Community Brands provides a suite of cloud-based software for organizations to engage and grow relationships with the individuals they serve, including association management software, learning management software, job board software, and event management software. Community Brands’ award-winning Crowd Wisdom learning platform is among the world’s best LMSes for corporate extended enterprise and is a leading LMS for association-driven professional education programs. Award-winning Freestone, Community Brands’ live event learning platform, is a leading platform for live learning event capture, Webinars, Webcasts, and on-demand streaming.
[01:33] – Turning back to self-directed learning, as we move through this episode, we discuss several characteristics of self-directed learners. As reflection questions, we encourage you to ask yourself:
- How well do these points describe me as a learner?
- How effectively am I cultivating these characteristics in those I teach (from children, to members, to employees, to students – you name it.)
This is a very brief book Jeff wrote a few years ago really to consolidate his own learning about how to be an effective, successful, self-directed, and lifelong learner. As the title suggests, he identified 10 broad ways to go about doing that and the book covers areas like your mindset for lifelong learning, drawing on, for example, work by Carol Dweck that we have discussed before here on the podcast.
It also looks at very practical tactics like note taking – how to do that better – and then even gets into areas like diet, exercise, and sleep and how important those are for being an effective learner. If you would like to get ahold of that all you have to do is go to leadinglearning.com/better-learner and this will get you to a page where there is an option to download the book for free.
The Self-Directed Learner
[02:57] – Celisa starts off the discussion around the self-directed learner with a quote:
The “why” of self-directed learning is survival—your own survival as an individual, and also the survival of the human race. Clearly, we are not talking here about something that would be nice or desirable….We are talking about a basic human competence—the ability to learn on one’s own—that has suddenly become a prerequisite for living in this new world. – Malcolm Knowles, 1975
This is based upon a description in a 1977 survey that ultimately led to development of the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale, which was subsequently renamed the Learning Preferences Assessment. The description from the survey–and the basis for the discussion in this episode—said,
A highly self-directed learner, based on the survey results, is one who exhibits initiative, independence, and persistence in learning; one who accepts responsibility for his or her own learning and views problems as challenges, not obstacles; one who is capable of self-discipline and has a high degree of curiosity; one who has a strong desire to learn or change and is self-confident; one who is able to use basic study skills, organize his or her time and set an appropriate pace for learning, and to develop a plan for completing work; one who enjoys learning and has a tendency to be goal-oriented. (Guglielmino, 1977/78, p.73)
Characteristics of a Successful Lifelong/Self-Directed Learner
[06:03] – While lifelong learning and self-directed learning are not equivalent, they overlap substantially and we think the following points apply equally to both. The successful lifelong learner is someone who:
- Is comfortable with independence – Self-directed learners do not always act autonomously or independently. Indeed, increasingly they must cultivate their networks to learn effectively. Nonetheless, successful self-directed learners know how to be self-reliant.
- Takes initiative – This first one is core to the entire concept of “self-directed.” The successful self-directed learner does not wait for someone else to say, “you must learn this.”
- Is persistent – Learning takes time, it takes repetition, it takes practice. Successful self-directed learners stick to it.
- Accepts responsibility – The successful self-directed learner embraces responsibility for doing the work of learning and doing it well. We’re going to tuck some of the other characteristics of the successful self-directed learner cited in the 1977 survey under the responsibility umbrella, such as self-discipline, which lets you have the persistence to keep practicing.
And self-confidence – successful self-directed learners have a solid sense of “self-efficacy”, the belief that one is capable of performing in a certain manner to attain certain goals. Study skills are also part of taking on responsibility—skills like taking notes effectively are useful for a lifetime. Also, time—the successful self-directed learner knows how to find and manage time effectively to allow for learning.
Related to that is an appropriate pace for learning—the successful self-directed learner recognizes that learning is as much about the process as the outcome and doesn’t try to do too much too fast. You also need a plan for completing work—setting a plan is part of setting the pace and ultimately reaching the destination. The successful self-directed learner recognizes this.
Successful self-directed learners also have the tendency to be goal-oriented—while not all self-directed learners consciously set goals, they tend to have an end in mind when they start down the learning path.
- Views problems as challenges, not obstacles – The successful self-directed learner embraces a growth mindset and is not easily thwarted when the going gets tough.
- Has a high degree of curiosity – Successful self-directed learners have a high propensity for asking why – and lots of other questions.
- Has a strong desire to learn or change – The successful self-directed learner is intrinsically motivated. She has a will to learn and sees learning as a positive path forward.
- Enjoys learning – The proverbial bottom line:the successful self-directed learner simply likes to learn.
[16:07] – Jeff recaps why they chose to celebrate the self-directed learner and how we now live in an age where so much is possible related to this. The opening up of access to learning opportunities has been tremendous and there has been almost a mandate of sorts for people who want to thrive both on a personal and professional level to embrace lifelong learning.
- How well do these points describe you as a learner?
- How effectively are you cultivating these ways in those you teach (your members, your customers, – whoever it is you are serving)?
[18:57] – Wrap-Up
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[20:38] – Sign off
- Maximizing Learning with Mindset
- 7 Metalearning Moves to Empower Lifelong Learning
- Exploring Motivation and Learning
- Revisiting Adult Learning Theory