As a student, it is important to recognize that the world is constantly evolving to adapt to the 21st century. Higher education institutions are responsible for keeping up with these changes to instill 21st-century skills in students. However, it is up to you to equip yourself with the knowledge and self-directed learning skills required to thrive in this rapidly changing environment (du Toit-Brits, 2020).
To be a student in a distance education institution entails being able to take responsibility for your own learning (in other words, to be a self-directed learner) (Van der Westhuizen & Golightly, 2019). Self-directed learning is defined as a process in which students actively formulate their own learning goals, identify their own learning resources, select their own learning activities, and reflect on their own learning outcomes. Self-directed learning has emerged as one of the most prominent means of adapting to changes in order to meet future lifelong learning desires. Self-directed learning enables students to become responsible for their own learning by consciously deciding and actively pursuing their own learning objectives. It is, therefore, imperative for you, as a higher education student, to adopt self-directed learning, which will help you become a student who is ready for potential challenges in your teaching career.
As a SANTS student, how can you develop self-directed learning?
Being a student teacher in a distance education programme, you must take responsibility for your learning. Set goals at the start of the semester to plan accordingly and to achieve those goals. Becoming self-directed requires self-discipline. You need to manage your time well by allocating time for studying as well as personal commitments. At the start of the semester, consider the number of modules you have and plan how long it will take you to work through them. Also, allocate sufficient time for completing assignments in order to submit them on time. Review the example schedule as a guide to assist you in developing your own schedule.
Here are some tips to help you set academic goals for the semester:
- Create a study schedule: Allocate time slots during the week to work on your studies. For example, plan to work through a module for 2 hours every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
- Break the module content into smaller parts: Break up the information in the module into smaller, manageable parts, like units/sections. For example, set a goal to finish one section every week.
- Engage with the content of the modules: Make it a point to focus on the content during your study sessions by making notes, highlighting important points, and making a list of questions you might have.
- Ask for assistance: If you come across difficult content, ask for clarification from the lecturer on MySANTS.
- Submit assignments: Plan time to complete your assignments, for example, 4 hours over the weekend. Also, set a goal to complete your assignments early and submit them before the deadline. This will prevent technical challenges from keeping you from submitting on time.
- Be curious: To be self-directed, you need to be curious and open-minded. Don’t limit your readings to only your Curriculum and Learning Guide (CLG), but do research on the internet and read articles on EbscoHost, the library source on MySANTS, to investigate other points of view, and question pedagogical practices.
- Reflect on your learning progress: At the end of each week, consider what you have learned and how you may improve your learning process. Also, review your responses before submitting your assignments and reflect on the feedback received on your marked assignments. This will assist in your preparation for the examination.
Your academic journey is filled with boundless opportunities and growth, however, you hold the key to your growth and success. As you make your way as a teacher, embrace curiosity, believe in your potential, and set measurable and specific goals. Developing self-directed learning will enable you to excel academically and become more effective, creative, and impactful teachers in the future.
1. du Toit-Brits, C. (2020). Unleashing the power of self-directed learning: Criteria for structuring self-directed learning within the learning environments of higher education institutions. Africa Education Review, 17(2), 20-32
2. Van der Westhuizen, C. & Golightly, A. (2019). ‘Developing self-directed learning skills of Geography student teachers through online problem-based learning designs’, in E. Mentz, J. De Beer & R. Bailey (eds.), Self-Directed Learning for the 21st Century: Implications for Higher Education, pp. 283–312, AOSIS, Cape Town. https://doi.org/10.4102/aosis.2019.BK134.09
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