Self-Direction

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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I strongly believe that self-directed learning is the best way to learn. It can be challenging, even for the brightest and most motivated students. Students need to understand themselves as learners in order to understand their needs. I have learned that adults are very often internally motivated. Most adults are self-directed, but, we can see on a day-to-day basis that adults for the most part are externally motivated. A perfect example of that is when an employer insists that an employee be retrained or must take courses to maintain certification. Candy (1991), an Australian adult educator, suggests that continuous learning is a process in which adults manifest personality attributes of personal autonomy in self managing learning efforts. Confessore and Confessore (1992) conducted a study involving 22 self-directed learning experts from several countries. Consensus was reached in several areas, such as the most important self-directed learning research findings, research trends, practical applications, and published works. We as educators often think that an adult is internally motivated to complete a course, but the reality is that, it’s really an external motivator, like an employer. The bottom line is, anyone that does not engage in self education, voluntarily or not, lags behind the demands of the time. (Ruvinsky 1986 p. 31). My “Aha” moment was, that there are a lot of external motivators. I always knew this and had it in the back of my mind, but now it has been confirmed that self-direction in learning is a term recognizing both external factors that facilitate a learner taking primary responsibility, and internal factors that predispose an adult accepting responsibility for learning-related thoughts and actions. At the same time there is a strong connection between self-directed learning and learner self-direction. I have a better view on how to better understand adults that participate in my courses, as well as differentiating who is here for what reason. If you are aware of this as an adult educator, you are half way there in properly educating students. I have learned that my adult students may have internal and external motivators, and that it is my job as an educator to differentiate each and every student. Most important of all, I now know that self-directed learning works. Many adults succeed as self-directed learners when they could not, if personal responsibility for learning decisions were not possible. Some adult learners will excel in ways never thought possible, when they learn how to take personal responsibility. Future learners will need to become very self-directed just to be able to deal with all the information available to them in today’s world.

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