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Self Directed Learning Essays

In recent years, educators have come to focus more and more on the importance of lab-based experimentation, hands-on participation, student-led inquiry, and the use of "manipulables" in the classroom. The underlying rationale seems to be that students are better able to learn when they can control the flow of their experience, or when their learning is "self-directed."

While the benefits of self-directed learning are widely acknowledged, the reasons why a sense of control leads to better acquisition of material are poorly understood.

Some researchers have highlighted the motivational component of self-directed learning, arguing that this kind of learning is effective because it makes students more willing and more motivated to learn. But few researchers have examined how self-directed learning might influence cognitive processes, such as those involved in attention and memory.

In an article published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, researchers Todd Gureckis and Douglas Markant of New York University address this gap in understanding by examining the issue of self-directed learning from a cognitive and a computational perspective.

According to Gureckis and Markant, research from cognition offers several explanations that help to account for the advantages of self-directed learning. For example, self-directed learning helps us optimize our educational experience, allowing us to focus effort on useful information that we don't already possess and exposing us to information that we don't have access to through passive observation. The active nature of self-directed learning also helps us in encoding information and retaining it over time.

But we're not always optimal self-directed learners. The many cognitive biases and heuristics that we rely on to help us make decisions can also influence what information we pay attention to and, ultimately, learn.

Gureckis and Markant note that computational models commonly used in machine learning research can provide a framework for studying how people evaluate different sources of information and decide about the information they seek out and attend to. Work in machine learning can also help identify the benefits -- and weaknesses -- of independent exploration and the situations in which such exploration will confer the greatest benefit for learners.

Drawing together research from cognitive and computational perspectives will provide researchers with a better understanding of the processes that underlie self-directed learning and can help bridge the gap between basic cognitive research and applied educational research. Gureckis and Markant hope that this integration will help researchers to develop assistive training methods that can be used to tailor learning experiences that account for the specific demands of the situation and characteristics of the individual learner.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. T. M. Gureckis, D. B. Markant. Self-Directed Learning: A Cognitive and Computational Perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2012; 7 (5): 464 DOI: 10.1177/1745691612454304

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "What makes self-directed learning effective?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121004134843.htm>.

Association for Psychological Science. (2012, October 4). What makes self-directed learning effective?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 13, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121004134843.htm

Association for Psychological Science. "What makes self-directed learning effective?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121004134843.htm (accessed March 13, 2018).

Self Directed Learning Essay

Self-directed learning has been a central part of the Ohio’s Science & Engineering Talent Expansion Program (OSTEP) and the Pre-Freshman and Cooperative Education (PREFACE) Program. Through various activities and assignment, students are challenged to become actively involved in their own learning. For example, an independent research project allowed the students to design their own experiments and report their findings. In this way, the students did not learn their knowledge from books or from professors. Rather, they gathered knowledge on their own, which might help improving retention. Reading through the literature on this type of learning, it becomes clear that many people believe that self-directed learning is a better approach than the traditional, teacher-directed learning. However, this approach is not necessarily a good fit for everybody. Self-directed learning is better for students who are willing to take initiative and are interested in the subject, while traditional learning is better for people who are not interested in learning a subject.
In the traditional approach to teaching, the teachers are sole source of knowledge. They decide what the learners need to know and communicate that knowledge from books and from their own experience. In addition, they tell the learner how to learn the materials, and decide on a way to test the learners’ understanding of the subject. The responsibility of the learner is to absorb all of these materials and then demonstrate their understanding in the manner indicated by the teachers. The learners are motivated externally, for example, by grades and other rewards. In addition, the approach assumes that the learners have less experience or that their experiences are less important than the experiences of the teachers and the experts (“Self-directed Learning”). This approach may be describes as being one-size-fits-all. Learners with various differences are taught using the same curriculum by the same teachers.
Self-directed learning, in contrast, is centered on the learner. It assumes that the learners are motivated internally by, for example, their needs for esteem. Additionally, it assumes that, as the learners progress, they gain experience that can be used in conjunction with the teachers’ and the experts’ experience. Lastly, it assumes that, since self-direction is a necessary part of maturing, self-directed learning helps the learners develop this habit of independence (“Self-directed Learning”). In this approach, the teachers are not the source of knowledge, but rather supervisors that provide guidance to help students in their study. Self-directed learning, in theory, caters to the individual learners with specific attitude, learning styles, and experiences.
However, because of these assumptions, this approach is arguably incompatible with many people. First, not all people are internally motivated. Many adults are, in fact, externally motivated by the fact that education will help them...

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