What makes a good learner?
The NREL maintains that "to understand and help students achieve the many traits characteristic of a self-directed learner, we must examine the disciplines of motivational psychology and educational psychology. Teachers, parents, administrators, and students must understand the concepts of student motivation, metacognition, self-efficacy, self-regulation, locus of control, and goal orientation. These concepts provide the foundation for a student seeking to become a self-directed learner. Although a student can become a self-directed learner without explicit instruction and development of these traits, it is more likely to occur when teachers and administrators understand and foster them at the classroom or school level (Lumsden, 1999; Renchler, 1992; Biemiller & Meichenbaum, 1992)."
They list traits as: (I have summarised these)
Student motivation: a slippery concept, in that a student may be intrinsically motivated to perform a particular task (e.g., "I want to do well on this for my own satisfaction") but extrinsically motivated to perform another (e.g., "I want to do well on this task to increase my grade point average")
Goal orientation the individual's ability to make plans and set goals, it works in conjunction with self-efficacy to increase motivation.
Self-efficacy is defined as "people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances" Self-efficacy is more specific to a task (e.g., "I can reduce fractions correctly") instead of a generalized notion of competence (e.g., "I am good at math").
Locus of control the tendency students have to ascribe achievements and failures to either internal factors that they control (effort, ability, motivation) or external factors that are beyond control (chance, luck, others' actions)." A self-directed learner would have a higher internal locus of control than an external one.
Metacognition is the ability of the student to analyze, reflect on, and understand her own cognitive and learning processes. Students who identify appropriate learning strategies in the right context are using metacognition. For example, a student may know that she has trouble picking out the main idea in a reading passage. If she has been taught a simple graphic organizer—such as webbing — http://www.readwritethink.org/student_mat/student_material.asp?id=38 to identify the main idea, and then chooses on her own to map out the passage in a web, then that student has used metacognition to complete the task. Students who are aware of their own cognitive strengths and weaknesses are more likely to be able to adjust and compensate for them.
Self-regulation is the ability of the learner to control interest, attitude, and effort toward a task or a goal. The key to self-regulation is the ability of the learner to understand the requirements of the task or goal, and then to monitor and adjust his effort without reminders, deadlines, or cues from others such as teachers, peers, or parents. A student who has a clear understanding of an academic task.
A student cannot become a self-directed learner without becoming engaged in a curriculum that allows it to happen. Here are the features that help foster self-directed learners and learning:
1. The curriculum has opportunities for student choice in the way mastery of content and subject matter is demonstrated and investigated.
2. Teachers raise awareness of students' role in their own learning
3. Educators encourage study skills, inquiry, questioning, and an atmosphere where errors are acceptable during the process of arriving at correct answers. Teachers need to be able to comfortably inhabit "a world of ambiguity."
4. Teachers provide opportunities for students to self-monitor, revise work, and reflect on their own thinking and learning processes. Journals, study groups, and critical friends' groups are just a few of the ways to achieve this in classrooms.
1. The curriculum has a strong strand of problem-based and project-based learning. Students have opportunities to explore solutions to real-world problems and focus on innovation. Students also have opportunities to transfer conceptual knowledge to new situations.
2. Collaboration and cooperation are high. Interestingly, self-directed learners are not nurtured in isolation but where there are ample opportunities to collaborate and interact with their peers.
3. Rewards are used sparingly and when they are used, they reward achievement, perseverance, risk taking, and collaboration. Remember, rewards are part of an ethos that reinforces extrinsic motivation.
4. Teachers model the behaviors they wish students to exhibit. Teachers should model critical questioning, risk taking, and subjecting assertions and hypotheses to public scrutiny and debate. Teachers need to model the discipline it takes to really investigate complex problems and formulate possible solutions.