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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.

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Featured photo credit: Amy Tran via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

You’re never too old to learn, and this isn’t just some fancy statement; this is many people’s motto in life. If you agree, there are various learning methods to help you ensure that you continue to learn day in and day out.

We have all been learning since childhood—our parents teach us morals, our teachers teach us math, society teaches us acceptance, our work teaches us how to do our job, etc. Even if you’re 70, life has a whole new book of things to teach you; you just need to have the heart and willingness to learn.

What you learn today will always benefit your current and future self. The question is, with such limited time in life, how can we learn effectively?

In this article, I’ll introduce to you the essential learning methods and some of the best ways to learn.

The Best Ways to Learn

There are so many different ways of learning, and here, I’ve handpicked some of the best ways that will definitely help you in being an effective learner[1].

Here Are The Best Learning Methods for Retention

    1. Your Comfort Zone

    For most people, staying in their own comfort zone opens their minds and helps them retain information. For instance, many learn and retain information when they’re taking notes on a piece of paper; others learn by watching videos and documentaries relevant to the topic.

    By finding out how you’re comfortable learning will surely help you in effectively retaining new information, and you will remember it for a longer period of time.

    2. Learning Through Play

    Just like children learning actively, you can learn through play. This doesn’t literally mean building blocks out of plastic Lego, but by implementing what you have learned[2]. If you’ve just learned a new way to make quiche, the best way of making sure you know it properly and remember it is by immediately making it at home.

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    3. Pass That Information on

    If you’ve learned something, avoid passive learning, and, instead, pass the information on to someone else.

    When you go through what you’ve learned and are explaining the process to someone else through this teaching method, you will learn and remember better.

    One study found that teaching information is so effective in introducing it to our long-term memory because it forces us to retrieve that information over and over again[3].

    In classrooms, there is a frequent activity of dividing students into groups, and one of them explains to other classmates what the day’s lecture was about. This not only helps the speaker understand concepts better, but when other classmates are being reinforced with the lesson, they also remember better.

    4. Rote Learning Is a Big NO

    Many people try to memorize word by word what they have been taught, as if they were sitting in a written exam. Teachers discourage rote learning in students as well because by only memorizing some words, the goal isn’t met. The main point here is to truly understand and connect the dots of what you’ve learned.

    The generation today has grown up with computers and is used to getting all the information needed at the click of a button, which means they don’t really absorb the true meaning of what they’re learning.

    Rote learning is just like that. You just pick up the information from somewhere and learn it word for word, which doesn’t really help you understand anything, only to memorize.

    Learning is all about being able to express what you have understood about a particular concept. It is being able to give your own opinion about a certain event, instead of just knowing the facts. Somewhere along the line, we do want to learn new things, but some of us have the attention span of a goldfish or simply don’t know the smart learning methods.

    Some people may be more receptive to one kind of method, and some to another. A smart person would try and find out which method of learning is best suited to them, and use that to enhance their learning process. The following learning methods will be helpful for you.

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    Types of Learning Methods

    Essentially, there are 7 types of learning methods that researchers have compiled over time. If one resonates with you, it’s likely that it’s your preferred learning method.

    Visual

    This type of learning requires visual material to understand. This could be in the form of videos, graphics, and images. This method helps people in visually understanding what they see.

    You may be this type of learner if you often imagine faces to remember someone’s name, use landmarks to give directions, or need to write down information to remember it.

    Aural

    This kind of learning style uses audio like music and sounds to understand. You may like this learning method if you often remember information after lectures or are good at memorizing the words to songs.

    Verbal

    This method is usually for people who like to speak and narrate their stories in order to learn. This can be done through scripted speeches, impromptu narrations, or even just daily conversations.

    Logical

    Many people like learning through logic; they won’t understand a concept if they’re just spoon-fed it.

    They want proper reasoning to why and how something happened for them to properly learn something.

    These people are often very good at forming arguments, problem-solving, and participating in debates.

    Social

    This is when people learn better when they’re divided into groups and are with other people. These social groups help expand their horizons and give them confidence to ask questions and solve problems.

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    Solitary

    This learning style is usually best for people who prefer to learn alone in a confined place that has no distractions whatsoever. They are either easily distracted with other people.

    Physical

    This is a learning technique where people learn through physical acts, like using their hands or simply by the sense of touch.

    This technique is used when a child actively participates in order to learn. For example, to help them understand what “fluffy” means, they are asked to touch a cotton cushion or a hairy cat. This is how children learn and understand better.

    However, many adults learn with this learning method as well. If you enjoy building or designing things, this may be your preferred learning method.

    What types of learning methods suit you better? You can find out in this article: How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

    In order to support any kind of learning listed above, you have to be physically fit and healthy. Your mind and body need to be nurtured in order for any kind of learning method to be effective. Here are some of the things that can be done on a daily basis to maintain a receptive mind and body.

    Habits to Help You Learn

    To be an effective listener, you also have to be able to retain that information. People learn new things every day, but only a portion of those people are able to remember what they learned by the end of the day.

    There are some tried and tested home remedies that have worked like a charm for people who are looking to enhance their memory.

    Sleep More

    An active brain is one that sleeps almost 8-10 hours a day. If you’re overworked and sleep for barely five hours, there are chances that your brain needs rest to retain information.

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    But if you’re somebody who sleeps for 11-15 hours a day, you may just be too lazy and need to engage in healthy activities to keep your brain active.

    Eat Healthy

    Include lots of protein and Omega-3s in your diet. Drink lots of water and generally stay away from refined carbs.

    You don’t have to quickly switch over to salads, but just generally try to adapt to a healthier eating pattern. Limit the use of alcohol and caffeine because they slow down your brain, causing a hindrance in your learning journey.

    Here are 15 Brain Foods You Should Be Eating Regularly to Keep Your Mind Sharp.

    Socialize

    By meeting new people every day, you’re not only giving your brain a chance to open up, but you’re also having your brain exercise by getting new information. Talking to people and engaging in daily conversations helps the flow of information.

    Do Activities That Challenge Your Brain

    If your brain hasn’t yet been exposed to challenges where you really have to think and work your mind, you may not be an effective learner, despite engaging in the above learning methods. There are many activities that increase your motor skills, like puzzles, mathematical questions, or even solving crosswords in your daily newspaper. You can also try these 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory.

    When your brain is active and running, you possess a better chance of learning new things and actually retaining that information.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning has been a safe haven for so many people, whether it’s about learning to cook a complicated dish for a family gathering or simply about sewing a button on a shirt.

    The best among us are people that don’t let anything get in the way of their learning process; these people make it their life motto to wake up every day and learn at least one new thing before going to bed. And these people are all around us; we are these people.

    The knowledge we gain today can benefit our career, relationships, and our everyday life, so get started now.

    More on Utilizing the Learning Methods

    Featured photo credit: Sarah Noltner via unsplash.com

    Reference

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