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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


DU TOIT-BRITS, Charlene. The educator as a self-directed learner and agent. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.2, pp.376-386. ISSN 2224-7912.

Self-directed Learning (SDL) has been one of the most researched domains of education and the consciousness is spreading that SDL is an essential skill for the 21st century (Nantz & Klaf 2012). Knowles' (1975) research indicates that SDL takes place when individuals (educators and/or learners) take the responsibility for recognizing and identifying learning needs, developing learning goals, discovering learning resources and evaluating the outcomes of their own learning process; thus taking responsibility for directing their own life and learning. Given the above, Knowles (1990) further claims that self-directedness is a characteristic of individuals who are proactive rather than reactive learners; learners who tend to apply SDL in their life-long experiences. Opportunities for SDL exist in numerous instructional approaches and every learning situation holds the probability of developing the necessary skills in educators and learners alike - supportive of SDL (Knowles, Holton III & Swanson 2015). It is believed that SDL will occur in certain learning circumstances, although in other learning circumstances it may not - depending on individuals' (in this case educators') personal characteristics such as attitudes, values and capabilities (Knowles et al. 2015). These attributes tend to determine whether or not SDL will take place in certain learning circumstances (Wang 2013). Through SDL, educators can develop the ability to extend and improve their professional development and ways for managing problems with which they may be faced in their teaching careers. Hence these SDL skills can transform their teaching and the learning in their classrooms into a personalised process during which imperative SDL skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, learning to learn and self-directedness are developed (Kirk, Shih, Smeltzer, Holt & Brockett 2012). Traditional methods of teaching and learning are still alive and well within some classrooms in which SDL skills are not offered to learners. SDL affords learners the opportunity of taking ownership oftheir learning and being self-directed while demonstrating independent thinking, creativity and critical thinking, as envisaged by the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) (Department of Basic Education 2012). The vision for education is that educators need to encourage and model SDL within their classrooms so that learners can develop the ability to use SDL skills with a view to be more self-directed in their learning, which will also benefit their way of living. It is also argued in the article that the success of SDL does not exclusively depend on the self-directedness of the learner and the SDL environment; it also depends on the "guide" (educator) on this journey. In any given learning situation SDL needs to be promoted by an educator who plays a central role whereby he or she provides appropriate guidance to support learners in actively participating in SDL activities. Educators need to be encouraged to promote and foster SDL in their learners and within their classrooms - to make SDL their own. To be able to make SDL their own, educators ought to attain certain characteristics. They must namely: a) take personal responsibility for their teaching and learning; b) set specific goals for their academic, personal, and career endeavours; c) approach teaching and learning from a growing mind-set; d) be determined; e) employ critical thinking; f have control over their strengths and weaknesses; g) be able to ascertain teaching and learning strategies; and h) possess good self-regulation and self-management skills (Knowles et al. 2015). Therefore the self-directed educator needs to be ready and willing to adopt the characteristics of a self-directed learner. A desire needs to exist in the educator to learn and teach which implies self-motivation and preparedness for every learning event. SDL therefore is a life-long process, and self-directed individuals (educators and learners) need to be aware of their own needs (teaching and learning) and interests, to feel self-confident about their skills (teaching and learning), to be skilled in setting their own goals (in teaching and learning), to be capable of selecting strategies for their own teaching and learning, to be capable of being self-motivated, self-disciplined, and to develop self-awareness concerning their strengths and weaknesses in this respect. It was further argued in this article that not only learners need to be granted the opportunity of describing what they are doing in the learning environment - educators also need to become more self-directed in their doings in the classroom environment.

Keywords : control; learning; teacher; self-directed learning; self-directedness; learners; continuous; life-long.

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