Sunday, September 8, 2013

Self-Directed Learning

Forwarded from Nick's blog:

This is a response to a college prompt on “self-directed learning” and “flipped classes”.
I hear the word student and sometimes I feel the need to divide between a philosophical student (someone who is eager to learn whether in the formal setting of a classroom or not) and an official student (someone who sits in a desk and takes down notes without engagement), so I just divided them.

The idea of being a more self-reliant student — a philosophical student — has appealed to me since the beginning of high school. The article briefly talked about the use of averages, standards and comparisons as a mode for measuring how successful a student — an official student — is in their formal education. IQs, ACTs, SATs, GPAs, class ranks — they all just tell me one thing about the educational system, and that is that our system of education is more capitalistic than socialistic in its approach to helping younger generations achieve higher learning and self-reliance. We constantly compare, we constantly standardize- as if we could ever measure someone’s success, performance and intelligence through a single test, or a single standard number, that doesn’t change to adhere to the differences between us. As a teacher I had last year said: “In my several decades teaching at this school, and several years being a dean and getting to know all the students, I would say that I have not seen a single year where the valedictorian was actually the smartest kid in the class”.

We’re humans, not robots being manufactured on the assembly line, right? There’s no single way to measure how we’re all succeeding.

That being said, the idea of self-directed learning seems to appeal to the independence and autonomous erudition of every student — both kinds — that participates in the process. It’s aimed less to compare and contrast, more to hone the skills and abilities of each student as an individual and adhere them to the educational process to ensure that anyone, regardless of their differences or preferences, can learn, and subsequently break the bell curve of education and success. It’s less reliant on a standard set by the educator, and more so on the engagement and direction of the student. By this point, all students involved should be philosophical students.

Everything about the concept of a “flipped class” and self-directed learning sounds good to me, but here is where my pessimism comes in.

My first impression of “flipped classes” was a groaned: “Oh, another attempt at dividing the line between servile education and engaged, critical thinking/learning”.

I love everything about the concept, but I’m skeptical of whether or not it will actually succeed, or will even be attempted at properly. It’s been mentioned and discussed many times before, but it seems that nobody can figure out a way to work the system.

But I guess that highlights the issue, right? For self-directed learning, there is no “system”. It’ll be different every time, and there’s no guarantee that it will work.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to the try.

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