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Published on October 21, 2019

13 Ways to Develop Self-Directed Learning and Learn Faster

13 Ways to Develop Self-Directed Learning and Learn Faster

Learning all alone is not a simple task. It takes trying out new study methods, knowing how you learn, and the motivation to keep doing that.

While this all sounds simple on paper, it’s important to note people’s overall mood towards learning. For many people, it’s been years since they last picked up a book, let alone a textbook. I wouldn’t be surprised if most people stopped learning seriously after university or college.

It’s good now that you are focusing on your learning anew. Because once you delve into what learning is, you’ll realize how school learning wasn’t the most optimal.

Take self-directed learning for example, there are so many ways to develop it and it’s one of the many effective learning methods around.

What Is Self-Directed Learning?

Self-directed learning at its core is taking learning into your own hands and growing from it. It’s a technique that’s drastically different from what’s taught in most schools. In other words, it’s a highly effective technique that anyone can use and would be great in a school setting.

In fact, there is one school in the US that can attest to that, Brisbane Independent School or BIS. Because the school wasn’t restricted by Federal Curriculums – which are lacklustre at best – they could adopt this form of learning.

This push for self-directed learning came from Jennifer Haynes, who started teaching at BIS in the 1990s. From there, the buzzword at the time evolved into a curriculum program that emphasizes on seven characteristics:

  • Playfulness
  • Autonomy
  • Internalized Evaluation
  • Openness to Experience
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Self Acceptance
  • Flexibility

From those seven characteristics, Haynes noted:

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“These characteristics are planned into our curriculum and each student is tracked on a continuum of development. It is wonderful to see how a student can go from needing a teacher to help them even come up with an idea for a project and then observe them in their final years developing planning and implementing a project… They learn how great it feels to develop their own idea and most importantly how to complete the task without anyone standing over them to get it done.”

Characteristics of a Self-Directed Learner

The students at BIS give a birds-eye view of some of the characteristics of a self-directed learner. Exploring further, we’ll find more. Especially when we consider the methods I mentioned above as ways of improving this learning style.

From those methods, many research papers have emerged over the years showing all kinds of positive side-effects to this method.

First, self-directed learning allows us to take the initiative of our own learning. One study noted that when this happens, people uncover and grow their grit, perseverance, and improve their intrinsic motivation and integrity.[1]

Second, students feel more empowered through self-learning. With programs moving to the internet,[2] we can see this as a form of self-directed learning. After all, you need to pace yourself when it comes to online courses.

Thirdly, people who take up self-directed learning develop other helpful skills. They’ll have an easier time setting goals and finding their own motivations. After all, these sorts of skills can apply to other areas outside of learning.

For example, we all need to set goals if we want to grow and enrich our business, career, and life. Learning how to set meaningful goals that we are excited to achieve means more than the act of setting a goal we don’t care about.

Some other characteristics of these learners are:

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  • Highly reflective – It takes a lot to know your interests and how to motivate yourself. As a result, many of these learners spend time in their heads evaluating and reflecting.
  • Self-efficient – From effective learning to effective motivation, these individuals become more efficient with their learning. This behavior can translate to other parts of their lives as they learn methods and strategies to better manage their lives, work, and more.
  • Supportive – Being this type of learner means you need to value collaboration and teamwork. This teaches you to seek help and guidance and to offer help when need be. They work better in a team dynamic now because of this.
  • A higher sense of responsibility – It’s obviously important to look after ourselves but often, we associate that with the physical side of things. This type of learning focuses on the mental side which is just as crucial. All in all, it helps us realize that we need to manage both sides of ourselves and we become more conscious of what we are putting in our heads.
  • More inquisitive – This teaching method encourages us to ask the question “why?” and to not settle with “I don’t know” as the answer. As a result, we learn to ask the more important and impactful questions that spark discussion, discovery, and learning.

What’s amazing about self-directed learning is that we can adopt it in our own lives. So how to become a self-directed learner?

How To Develop Self-Directed Learning

Well, developing this strategy isn’t that hard. For most people, it needs to be taught explicitly, but the following ways will help in growing and learning this strategy.

1. Identify Learning Goals

You can never achieve anything unless you’ve envisioned it. Identify what you wish to learn first.

2. Question the Significance

Make a habit of not taking everything at face value. Always have a cat-like curiosity and ask questions that make you care about the answer.

3. Find Challenges

Challenges are not unpleasant. They can be exciting and rewarding. Provided that the challenge is on a problem you care about solving.

4. Check Your Learning Process

Learning is better when you’ve set your own learning standards. Regardless of grades, measure your progress against personal learning goals.

5. Understand Your Learning Approach

There are tons of resources to help identify learning styles. But do you really know what your style is?

Take a moment to look at the format and medium of your learning approach and change it around from time to time. My other article can help you: How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

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6. Uncover the Background of a Topic

Get to know the topic you are learning by checking the background of the topic. Read various articles, or check the Wikipedia page on the topic.

7. Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation

is motivation driven from internal rewards. It seems like a simple concept but many people struggle with it. Fortunately, it can be learned. One form of it is planning on sharing what you learned with others.

8. Making Something out of What You Learned

A song, a journal entry, a picture… These are examples of things that you can create from what you learned. Not only does this help solidify what you learn, but it gives you something to look forward to.

9. Leverage Time

Sometimes we get busy and don’t have time to learn. But that lack of time is more of a reason to leverage the time we do have.

Take your thirty-minute lunch breaks to eat and squeeze in a learning session. Do you go to the gym? Why not listen to a podcast or listen to an audiobook during the session?

10. Create a Topic List

Think of it as a to-do list of things you want to learn about. These can be broad topics or narrow ones. These lists can help you in creating goals and working towards them to achieve them.

11. Value Your Progress over Your Performance

We never truly stop learning. There will always be tiny bits of information or views we are exposed to every day. But when you want to actively learn, focus more on the stimulation of learning over your actual performance.

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12. Have Realistic Learning Goals

Self directed learning is built on a system that we create. To ensure the system is sound, you want to make sure everything is set within your own limits. The last thing you want is to feel discouraged from learning.

13. Build a Network of Learning Colleagues

Have a group of people that you can collaborate with and connect with. This group of people will push you to learn more and can give you an outlet for when you want to talk about what you’ve learned. Best of all this group can be either offline or online.

Final Thoughts

Self directed learning is the key to us having a more enriched learning experience. While everyone’s taste for learning has been diminished, it is due to an old and ineffective system — a system that doesn’t encourage deeper learning and doesn’t support students to learn more or set higher learning goals they care about. Such system focuses on the grades and performance of students which isn’t the point of learning.

Self-directed learning is so important because it teaches people to be more independent and responsible individuals. They develop skills to be internally motivated, self-sufficient, to ask meaningful and impactful questions, and more.

Now is the best time to get into self directed learning and to fall in love with learning again. After all, there is so much information at our fingertips that it’s worth exploring.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Amy Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them 15 Performance Goals For Delivering Uncommon Results At Work 9 Types of Goals to Help Get Your Life on Track 6 Ways To Make Progress (And Realize All Goals) How to Prevent Decision Fatigue From Clouding Your Judgement

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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