ould children be in charge of their learning with the help of their parents? Last year in 2020 when the schools were closed down, I got an opportunity to choose what my son wants to learn and what interests him most. We joined various classes that were available online like Earth School by Ted-ed- which was about climate change, farming, sustainability, etc. Online magazines like Nat Geo Kids facts with interactive and informative material on different topics. Scholastic #learnfromhome provided free content on different subjects like science, maths, etc. He attended live drawing classes with Wendy Mac. Coding classes by code.org. He attended exercise sessions by @thebodycach, we listened to podcasts.
The learning became more like picking and choosing from the myriad of topics available on the internet. I realized that we were not fixed on a pattern but instead we were exploring various things directly from experts and exceptionally good content creators. It made me think, about how schools limit the content that is provided to the kids. There are of course well planned subjects in schools and it is taught interestingly but if you look at the other side kids are missing out on so many things that are trending worldwide and easily available.
Villa Monte (https://www.villamonte.ch/en/) in Switzerland has a radical model of school that has no teacher, no exams, and no report cards. Children reach the schools and decide for themselves options like cooking, practicing for a theater play, programming a robot, etc. The difference that the kids have in their learning abilities is accepted and it is found that they have lesser stress and anxiety.
Is Online Schooling encouraging Self-directed learning in kids?
Online schooling in some way is encouraging self-learning in kids. Though there is a facilitator to take kids through the lessons, no one handholds them to complete the task. Students make projects by themselves, participate in different quizzes, and prepare dances and songs. They are quickly learning to make presentations on different platforms like Google slides and Canva. Children are self-motivated to wake up and sit for their classes, they are learning to manage all their work by themselves. Children are becoming responsible and accountable for their decisions and actions.
Ways in which schools can encourage self directed learning?
- Give students task to create solutions for water wastage- Students do group discussions, manage to come up with a solution, design the project and present it to everyone.
- Give students enough time to work on the project, because we need to understand that every project is different at the same time check on their progress and provide help when necessary.
- The choice should always be provided to students to pick what they would like to work on and how they would like to work in a group or alone.
- Set up a goal with the students so that they are accountable for their work.
Benefits of Self-Directed Learning
Self-directed learning promotes the natural development of self-confidence, making their schedule themselves by planning how much they could do in a day is a good idea as it teaches them to take responsibility for their work in a day.
Self-directed learning can prevent children from being victims of the school's expectations. Children can choose their pace, there is no need to learn the multiplication tables because other kids have learned. Children can read and write based on their learning abilities. As John Holt puts in his book How Children Fail, “A school is a place where children learn to feel stupid.”
The labelling in schools stays with kids for a lifetime, the comparisons made at a very early age, and the realisation of not being able to meet the standards by the school does not disappear with time. The pressure of succeeding and scoring gives rise to anxiety and stress from a very early age.
We cannot expect the schools to cater to all kinds of needs that students can have, it's difficult for schools to accommodate a wide variety of interests, and wait till all the students in the class are ready. Students are different – some prefer structure and timelines and others have their own pace.
How can parents help?
Parents should see self-learning as the opportunity to introduce life skills to kids, which is almost absent in typical schools. Parents and students can work together and decide on their interests, and plan the activities and classes. They can research and choose the programs that they are interested in.
Parents' enthusiasm matters a lot, when we as parents are involved and help our kids explore things that they like, it's a win-win situation. Sometimes exposing children to different genres like music, dance, writing, reading, mathematics, etc. can help them choose and foster in the area where they find a spark.
I would love to know as an educator, school, parent or decision maker what do you think of self directed learning? how do you encourage self - directed learning?
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