What makes self-directed learning effective?

October 4, 2012, Association for Psychological Science

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 , such as those involved in attention and memory.

In an article published in , 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 , 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 .

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 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.

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not rated yet Oct 04, 2012
There is an obvious and direct reverse correlation between the growth of educational theorist and their theories and the decline in academic performance in US students. However, the computer models have learned a lot about how to sell ed. theory grants.
not rated yet Oct 05, 2012
As far as humans are concern the hypothesis:
The purpose of life is to learn - learning is unavoidable.

is consistence and without contradictions.

The MEANING of life is constantly contested - no one knows.

What makes self-directed learning effective? - Article's title

The answer is a word labeled/called 'motivation'.
A closely related word to this is labeled/called 'inspiration'

The sources for both words are key to what you label 'effective' and what makes 'learning' 'effective'.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
If motivation alone were the key, then everyone would be the "Roger Federer" of their own chosen hobby, sport, or profession.

One of my martial arts instructors once told us that the statement, "Practice makes perfect" is a lie. He was right.

He then went on to proclaim, "perfect practice makes perfect," but he was wrong, but he was trying to say practicing something right from the beginning will make you better than merely practicing.

Most people, without a coach, will never be world class at anything, because almost all sports, games, or professions are known to a nearly exact science, with only very small margins of improvements remaining, because those things are discreet and bounded by a certain, usually small, rule set.

While our bounds in engineering, math, biology, medicine, and cosmology are much less limited, they are nevertheless dependent on larger and larger hierarchies of previously learned knowledge, usually taught by the ineffective textbook, rather than hands-on.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
In this modern world where everyone specializes in one tiny step of a single process, I feel disconnected from experiencial reality. I would like to work in something like mining and refining, even if just for a few months or years, just to learn "hands on" from top to bottom how the processes are done, and yet even that isn't possible, because often the mining company isn't even the one who does the refining!

Cosmologists and particle physicists search for a "Theory of Everything," but anyone who postulates a theory of everything would need to have p.h.d level knowledge of all fields of science to unify all interactions.

I think it was Groethe who developed a universal law of attraction, which theoretically can be applied to all interactions involving two or three entities, including humans, and yet in many cases it's effectively useless, because there are too many variables, unknowns, and unknown unknowns "hidden" in those radically simple terms he wrote.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
In many cases, I rather doubt that the p.h.d. holding materials scientist even knows all the processes involved in refining and mining the materials he studies in his very lab!

It's one thing to say what the young's modulus or the tensile strength of a substance is in the lab, or the electrical properties, it's quite another to know all the details of the process of finding, mining, and refining that material from raw material to 0.999(9) laboratory grade material.

The same can be said for biology and genetics. There are so many species of macroscopic organisms, never mind bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and prions, that no person could ever possibly know everything about genetics to be able to fully understand life's maximum and minimum limits in any dimension.

So all learning is limited. Directed learning can be good, but a teacher is needed, and I rather say a teacher who is willing to take the time to really teach, whenever possible, on a one-on-one basis.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
What we have in university is a failed paradigm of education.

Those who pass, pass, and those who fail are looked over, ignored, and discarded to lower ranks of humanity (unless they get lucky or have some other breakthrough,) but there is no accomodation nor accountability on the part of the professor to actually TEACH those students who are struggling.

If a student struggles in college, the atmosphere is "tough luck" or at best "hire a tutor, no money? that's your problem".

In the ancient world, and especially in the Medieval and Renaisance teaching was often done in the format of a master and a few apprentices, and apprentice learned from master, and on an occasion or two, an open-minded master learn from his apprentices.

Modern education is by and large, not like that at all. It is just rote memorization, and if you don't get it right on the first try, tough luck, you fail. Fail enough, and they ostracize you to a lower class of human being.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
In my own case, my experience with university was nearly useless for several reasons, first of all, about half my professors weren't there to teach, and should have been fired and replaced.

But more importantly I have Aspergers Syndrome, I think, which I was never diagnosed with, and have not yet been diagnosed with and I'm 32 now. In the past two years, I have even had 3 of my family members, two cousins and my own sister, tell me that I seemed to have most of the characteristics, and a self evaluation said the same thing.

Nobody could possibly know that, but how could I sit through a lecture class and pass it with 100, 200, 300 other students, whenever I've always engaged teachers in two-way conversation (deemed disruptive to other students).

I have an I.Q. way above normal, but I could no concentrate in class, and found myself doodling like a child, or distracted by other hobbies to the point that I could not pay attention.

not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
And the professor isn't going to say, "Well, what the heck's wrong with you, do you need some help?" The closest I ever came to that was one of them accusing me of being "lazy". That wasn't the problem in and of itself, because I tend to work hard and even obsessively at the things I enjoy. I can run Pythagorean theorem in my head in 3 dimensions while converting from feet and inches to metric an back, etc, and used to be much faster than I am now.

As people well know, I catch people in unit errors, formula errors, logic errors, interpretation and application errors, etc all the time on here (even though I make quite a few myself as well,) even people who are definitely far more qualified than me, at least certainly formally and experiencialy.

The point is, I know for a fact that I did not get what I paid for at university, I came away with nothing, even though I tested out of an entire degree's worth of course work. The counselors and staff were useless to me.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
Just to give an example of how I am, I aced the physical geology class, was top 5 I think in that class, and several times had perfect scores on tests were many others failed...

...yet, in the physical geology lab when asked to identify the same types of rocks we had studied in the textbook class, I could not do it and other similar excercises, and eventually failed the class(not with a zero, but an below a D nonetheless). Obviously somethings are easy, like obsidian, limestone, and sandstones were not a problem, but identifying an off-color granite from certain other igneous or metamorphic rocks simply did not work. I don't know if there was a problem with me, or if I didn't have enough time for hands-on to see and recognize, or what, but it seems ridiculous, thinking back to those things.

The reason I'm typing all of this is not to waste space, but because brain science and learning science has come to interest me ever since I first heard of "borderline" aspergers or savant cases.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
Like why did I often ace a multiple choice test or a test with a "word bank" (even when many false or nonsense answers were inserted in a few cases,) but if I take a "fill in the blank" test on the exact same subject, I would struggle or even fail.

It's as if "recognition" worked very well in some cases, while "recall" did not.

Yet paradoxically, I find it hard to forget certain combinations of video and auditory stimuli.

Self directed learning can be huge in some cases, like I taught myself typing, but then again I used MAvis Beacon eventually. When I tried to learn through a typing manual I could never do it, but with the visual aids on screen, it somehow clicked for me and I type 65wpm when I'm warmed up. Not bad.

But in a school or university environment the "teacher," very often, doesn't give a damn, or seemingly so, and doesn't recognize this, or misidentifies.

Oh yes, I once had an employer ask me if I was mentally disabled, but I didn't realize Aspergers existed.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012

Whenever I'm at work, it's the same thing, I find myself wandering in thought, not able to do what I'm supposed to do, but thinking about things and doing things that interest me.

When I was in JROTC in high school, my fellow team mates on the exhibition drill team mocked me and nick-named me "Machine," because I was always talking about things that didn't interest them, but were of a keen interest to me. It was only recently that I realized that is one of the classic signs of Aspergers syndrome. My sister and cousins who also identified this are not aware of these events.

BUT the clincal psychologist claims I do not have Aspergers nor ADD, even though whenever I self diagnose in a non-biased manner, I seem to have most of the symptoms/markers to at least some degree.

Now I know why I was always so different from other people, and always found it so hard to interact with people and make new friends. A person is supposed to have friends in college; I had few to none.
not rated yet Oct 06, 2012
But the fricken doctor diddn't even know the definiton of Aspergers. He had Aspergers confused with either full Autism or else Down Syndrome, because his description of Aspergers is nothing at all like what I saw on the science channel today.

The higher functioning savants or the higher functioning Aspergers cases they discussed were VERY much like me,b ut the psychologist was so shocked by what I could do, that he failed to properly recognize my weaknesses.

I want a second opinion from someone like the Mayo clinic, but I don't have the money or insurance to make a trip to them, nor pay for the services.

Sorry for eating up this entire thread with my thoughts and problems, but I am absolute sick and tired of basically useless teachers, parents, and doctors who refuse to diagnose my health problems and concentration problems.
not rated yet Oct 07, 2012
No one 'taught' breathing to you.
You ace it on your first breath.
All biologically intact humans do.
No human being falls short of genius or brilliance.
You are no exception.

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