Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning can be defined as “the ability to use one’s innate sense of curiosity and personal experiences to discover how to learn and to internalize what is learned.”

Note that we use self-directed education which is not the same as independent learning. It is not learning that takes place in a vacuum, but rather it is interdependent and relies on a supportive, interconnected community.

In this model, the teacher’s role expands to include training, coaching, guiding and counseling. We become more mentors, facilitators and advocates than just knowledge-imparting instructors. In this 21st century world where information is ubiquitous and often overwhelming, we need teachers who coach students to find meaning in the sea of information, to focus their efforts and to collaborate with others toward productive, purposeful work. As such, we call our teachers advisors/learning facilitators.

Referenced from The Self-Directed Learning Handbook by Maurice Gibbons


Decides the course goals and the content to be studied

Presents course content to students in lessons

Sets exercises and assignments for study

Monitors completion and assesses accuracy of student work

Tests and grades student performance


Teaches students to set their own goals and eventually choose what they will study

Teaches students the skills and processes involved in setting goals, making plans, and initiating action

Negotiates student proposals for learning and acting

Guides students through self-directed challenge activities

Reviews students’ assessment of their work

Ten Characteristics of an Effective Self-Directed Learner

Referenced from Lives of Passion, School of Hope by Rick Posner and the "Community Owner's Manual" for the Jefferson County Open School.

There are ten characteristics of an effective self-directed learner that serve as goals for each student, supported by their advisor/learning facilitators

1. Has a vision and goals for learning
2. Is able to develop a strategic plan for education
3. Is willing to take calculated risks
4. Is determined and persistent
5. Is organized (time, effort, resources)
6. Is able to develop a solid support network
7. Is self-motivated and self-disciplined
8. Takes initiative and is action oriented
9. Is self-assessing (able to evaluate self clearly and honestly)
10. Has positive self-esteem, confidence, and self-efficacy