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Are You A Self-Directed Learner?

Good-bye framed diploma, hello continuing education.

An ongoing education, always a career-booster, is now a requirement for most American workers. These are times when workers are flexible, job descriptions are elastic and technology is always changing.

Are you well-equipped for this job market? Are you ready to take charge of your education? Are you prepared for distance-ed classes and computer-based training? Not everyone is, says Mark Rossman, Vice President of Academic Affairs for The Graduate School of America.

But if you're not ready to direct your education, you might get left behind. The questionnaire below has been adapted from one developed by Dr. Rossman.

Instructions: What follows are characteristics of self-directed learners. Using the scale below, rate the degree to which you think the sentence describes you.

1 2 3 4 5
Not at all Somewhat Completely

____ 1. Do you have an understanding of the differences between self-directed and teacher-directed learning?

"A self-directed learner can take the responsibility for learning, and will know what to learn -- instead of being told what to learn," says Rossman. A self-directed learner will ask him or herself, "How do I take a proactive, rather than reactive role?"

____ 2. Do you have a concept of yourself as being increasingly self-directed?

"That's not to say that everyone is going to be fully self-directed," he says. Sometimes event the most self-directed learners need to be told what to do. But the independent student will seek out new ways to learn, says Rossman.

____ 3. Do you have an ability to relate to peers collaboratively?

Do you feel comfortable asking peers for help? Do you see them as resources, rather than as adversaries?

____ 4. Can you see peers as resources for diagnosing learning needs?

Peers often can tell you more than professors about what you need to know about a chosen field.

____5. Do you see peers as aids to your learning?

Says Rossman, "You shouldn't hesitate in saying, 'I don't know that. Help me.'"

____6. Do you have an ability to give help freely to others?

Peer learning should also mean peer teaching, says Rossman.

____7. Can you diagnose your own learning needs?

In this stage, a learner is able to ask, "What are my objectives? What progress am I making?" says Rossman. A self-directed learner will know he or she has accomplished a goal, and won't wait for a grade.

____8. Do you have an ability to translate learning needs into learning objectives?

If you need to use database software in your job, can you turn that into an attainable goal or objective?

____9. Do you seek out additional material and human resources as aids to your learning?

A self-directed learner "looks at resources in a different way," says Rossman. "They're not simply books and articles, but people, tapes and the Internet."

____10. Do you have an ability to collect and validate evidence of accomplishment regarding your learning objectives?

The self-directed student has a strong sense of self. He or she is always "looking for different ways to validate accomplishment," says Rossman. "Evidence of accomplishment is not just the paper degree or grade."

____11. Do you relate to faculty as facilitators rather than as directors?

Do you take a proactive role in you education? A self-directed student works with the instructor to attain educational goals.

____12. Do you have an understanding of your own learning style?

"There are so many different types of learning styles," says Rossman. "I've always felt that learning styles are eclectic, depending on the moment."

Rare is the student who sticks only with one learning style. But a self-directed learner will recognize his or her dominant learning style.

"If they have a notion of what their preferred style is -- and what the other styles are -- they'll be better prepared," says Rossman. "[For instance], if they're not visually oriented, then a course on TV might not be a good idea for them."

Want to read more about learning styles? Rossman suggests the books of David Kolb.

____13. Do you have an ability to identify human and material resources appropriate to your learning style?

Once you know your preferred learning style, are you able to apply it?

____14. Can you individualize course learning objectives?

Do you decide for yourself what it is you need to know -- and how to learn it?

Assessing The Results

According to Rossman, "If you can look at these statements, and fall honestly into the three, four or five range, then you're well-equipped to handle distance-learning type programs."

You're also well equipped to handle changes in the job market. But what if you didn't score well?

Take the questions above and decide how you might adjust your style.

"The whole notion of self-directed learning is an ideal," adds Rossman. "Not everyone is at that point. But a good program will help a student go from teacher-directed to self-directed."

Copyright 2001 by Channel 2000. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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