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Self-directed learning is a type of instructional strategy where students take charge of their learning process.

This lesson will discuss components, benefits, and teaching strategies of self-directed learning.

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What Is Self-Directed Learning?

Self-directed learning (SDL) is an instructional strategy where the students, with guidance from the teacher, decide what and how they will learn. It can be done individually or with group learning, but the overall concept is that students take ownership of their learning.For example, a teacher may give a general learning goal, such as to learn about a geographical area. Students would then work with the teacher to decide the scope of the project, length of time, and the end result that would demonstrate their learning. One student may decide to learn all of South America and create an educational website. Another student may choose to research the deforestation effects of Borneo and write a report for the government.

Another student may choose a specific city and focus on the historical significance, creating a video vignette from personal interviews. By allowing students to choose different learning objectives and outcomes, it allows students to choose based on their personal interests and strengths.

Components of SDL

There are quite a few components involved in self-directed learning. We’ll now take a look at each of them in detail.

Management and Monitoring

The first component is management and monitoring.

With guidance from the teacher, students define the learning goals they wish to accomplish as well as negotiate a time frame for completion. Once they are established, students identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as any obstacles to achieving their goals. The teacher takes on a supporting and advising role while students manage their own learning process and monitor their own progress.

Assessing Learning Needs

The second component is assessing learning needs. Students assess their needs as they progress through the learning process. They will need to find out what resources they need, either materials, help from the teacher, or a combination of both. Teachers will then provide support to help them obtain those resources.


Collaboration is the third component.

Ironic as this component may sound, it is a very important part of the students’ learning process in self-directed learning. Students collaborate with other students in their class, students in other grades, or even adults out in the community to gain knowledge and experience and reach their learning objectives.


The final component is self-evaluation. After students have gone through the process and have finished the assignment, students should reflect and evaluate their results. Students should get input from other students as well as the teacher to find areas that may need improvement.

Teaching Strategies in SDL

While the student is responsible for most of the SDL process, teachers still have a role to play in this learning environment. Before students become self-directed learners, teachers must do several things.

They first must assess whether or not students are ready to undertake self-directed learning. They also need to find out students’ daily needs and interests, and design lesson plans and assignments that relate to those aspects of students’ lives, therefore making learning relevant and enjoyable for the students. They should encourage students to become independent and take responsibility for their learning, while remaining available to help and support the students. They should also ensure students understand the importance of reflection and the self-evaluation process. Finally teachers should be available to discuss the end results with students, either individually or as a class-wide discussion.

Benefits of SDL

As you may have gleaned from the list of its components, self-directed learning can benefit students in many ways.


One of these benefits is motivation. Since self-directed learners must motivate themselves to continue working on their assignments, they develop a strong motivation to take on new challenges and tend to stay motivated for the duration of the assignment and see it to the end.


Another benefit is responsibility. Since self-directed learners are setting and managing the goal, they tend to feel more responsible for their own learning and to meet specified deadlines.


Students also benefit from curiosity because they must solve problems and find resources on their own. This makes learners more willing to try new ideas and methods, and it also develops problem-solving skills and creativity.


Another benefit is sociability. Self-directed learning encourages collaborative learning, whereby students work with their classmates and others who may have relevant knowledge and experience to offer. In doing so, students not only learn resourcefulness, but they also develop social skills and gain valuable experience.


Finally, students benefit from being more independent. Since they learn to accomplish tasks and achieve goals on their own and independent from any constant source of assistance, all the other benefits combine and culminate in students’ independence and self-reliance when faced with challenges.

These are only a few benefits of self-directed learning. These valuable skills can be developed over time and used in life, especially when faced with challenges and difficulties.

Lesson Summary

Self-directed learning (SDL), a relatively new alternative to the traditional lecture-based classroom, is an instructional strategy in which students, with the help of a teacher, decide what and how they’ll learn.The components involved in self-directed learning include:

  • Management and monitoring
  • Assessing learning needs
  • Collaboration
  • Self-evaluation

In this kind of learning environment, teachers set up the parameters for the assignment, helping to establish clear learning objectives, then take on an exclusively supporting role.

Students learn to manage their goals, monitor their own progress, and challenge themselves while staying motivated. They assess their learning needs and find needed resources to achieve their objectives.As a result, learners benefit from:

  • Motivation
  • Responsibility
  • Curiosity
  • Sociability
  • Independence

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