5 Values for Self-Directed Learners

As I learn more and more how to guide self-directed learners, I find it very important to have an ‘exit strategy’ in mind for each of them at graduation. Begin with the end in mind, and all that jazz. Of course, a personalized educational path will mean very individualized goals for graduation. In general, there are five values that I want each student to have by the time they leave my advisory group.

5 Values for Self-Directed Learners

  1. To know your own strengths and weaknesses as a learner. Intimately. Be who you are, but be prepared to bolster yourself in some areas and allow yourself to shine in others. Understand how to manage your procrastination, etc. Know your personality type and what that means for yourself and your coworkers.
  2. To be confident in your ability to learn anything, anywhere, autonomously. Know what works best for you- and do that. Pick a MOOC or an internship or a book or a university class or research a topic to the end of the internet. Take notes in pictures or graphs or words. Record a lecture and listen to it while running. Be an expert researcher in every way possible.
  3. To understand that passionate interest does not absolve you from hard work. I love the recent quote by Ashton Kutcher-  “Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.” Just because you love something does not mean it will be easy. You will have to work hard, even while loving what you do. You may even work hard at something you hate, just to get the chance to do what you love. Take personal responsibility. Have a work ethic. Ask your grandparents what that means.
  4. To work within the system while changing the system. Know how to package your independent and personalized learning adventures in a way that works for universities and employers. Be a translator. Keep plugging away at change, but do it through your own personal excellence. You do not always get to pick how things are done, even in a self-directed environment.
  5. To network, collaborate, and value people with humility. Others invest in you because they want to see you succeed- you are not entitled to anything. Value your mentors. Thank your parents. Work well with others. Forgive. Reach out. Know when to move on. And make sure you give back when and where you can. You may think you are an expert, but there are generally others out there that are much further along the journey than you… and know more than you. Be passionate about your area of expertise, but listen. Learn from others even when you think they have nothing to teach you.

Of course, I’m still learning.  And growing. And I’m confident that this list will change…. I leave you with Ashton’s Kutcher’s speech. If you haven’t see it already, it’s worth the 4 1/2 minutes of your life.  

What are the five values you want your students to have prior to leaving your classroom? 


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3 thoughts on “5 Values for Self-Directed Learners”

  1. Hi Julie,
    Excellent! Love the “Five Values for Self-Directed Learners” that you selected and the examples you gave.

    My daughter and other self-directed students should thrive if they follow these principles!

    Values and goals are needed, but do all students understand the steps to take to attain them?

    Here’s where I see needs in directing self-directed students.

    Sometimes students don’t know where to start in reaching out to others and the community. They may not have much experience in searching for mentors and experts in a particular field, identifying local people to whom they may have easier access, or in how to elicit a response from someone when they do contact them.

    Satori is very reluctant to call someone she doesn’t know. Many kids are more comfortable texting than picking up the phone, even with best friends! They may feel uncomfortable crafting and sending an email to someone they don’t know.

    Online safety issues should be discussed with the students, too, since they’ll be communicating with some folks online and posting information/videos, etc. I know they have heard some of this before in school – such as never give out your personal information without a parent’s (or mentor’s) permission.

    Game Plan
    It would be very helpful to have you or Diane sit down with each student and help each one set up a game plan to implement.
    You may know the logical steps and how to accomplish them but the kids may not find this so easy.

    The game plan could include:
    – what kind of information do they want to study (passion-driven)
    You both have been very good about asking this at the beginning and coming up with ideas for how the student can gain the skills/knowledge within the context of what does the school district/many colleges accept.

    – what else might they need for their particular area of interest (though they may not like learning these practical skills/info)?
    (For instance, Satori might need more grammar basics as a writer, to read works by some masters of science fiction literature or to read a broader range of literature so she can draw on them)

    – who might have that knowledge?

    – how might they approach researching/learning that subject/topic (watch how they research online) and experts in the area (or around the world on the Internet)?

    – how you and Diane can assist the student(s) in reaching out to possible mentors. An email introduction to the mentor and student might be one of many ways to approach this. I know Diane approached Harrison on Satori’s behalf, for instance.

    Other Thoughts
    What should a student or parent say in describing the e3 program? Is there a simple “elevator speech” explanation of the program that a student can include in explaining why they are contacting a prospective mentor or when they are discussing their educational program with another student or teacher?

    Again, love the values! Would like to make sure there is ongoing guidance to help students live up to them. Also, please let us know what we as parents can do to support the values and the e3 program!

    Best regards,

    1. Thanks for sharing your awesome thoughts, Mary. Let’s keep talking about these things in person. I so appreciate your willingness to share your ideas and help us find the best learning path for Satori.

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