How to Encourage Self-Directed Learning to Increase Learning Outcomes

Osmosis Team
Published on Jan 30, 2023. Updated on Aug 30, 2023.

A well-established education practice that's evolved over the years, self-directed learning involves giving students the opportunity to manage their learning experience. Let's take a look at some effective self-directed learning strategies in today's Osmosis blog.

Self-directed learning provides students with the agency to construct their knowledge, often in partnership with guidance from faculty. Students take charge of their learning experience in this independent learning process by designing, evaluating, and adjusting based on their interests, specific focus areas, and strengths.

The freedom to personalize the education experience in self-directed learning can fuel a passion for lifelong learning and allow each student to fine-tune the best approach to meet their academic goals successfully. Self-directed learning promotes the natural development of self-confidence, initiative, perseverance, and satisfaction for learners.

Initially, navigating a self-directed curriculum may be challenging for any student, regardless of how motivated they are; however, there are a variety of strategies that can make the process easier and more effective. The professor plays a crucial role in these strategies as they become the curator of course materials and the guide for student learning.

A group of students studying together using Osmosis in a library

How to implement self-directed learning strategies in your course

  1. A beneficial way to initiate this process is to include self-directed learning outcomes in the syllabus. Once students know what they should be learning, they can set a pace and plan for how they would like to absorb that information throughout the course. 

  2. At the beginning of the course, provide a list of recommended resources for students. Remember to include resources suitable for various learning preferences, such as books, videos, and journal databases. This way, students have a reliable place to begin their studies and may avoid overloading themselves with too many resources.

  3. Work with students to clearly define their goals and learning outcomes for the course or week through a discussion, a short assignment, or a learning contract. Guide them in exploring and identifying their strengths and weaknesses.

    • Provide them with prompts such as "What concepts most stuck with you? What did you struggle with? And, what connections can you make to other concepts?”

    • Ask students to detail their study time and strategies, examine their test answers to look for patterns, and pinpoint successful and unsuccessful study methods.

  4. Help students comprehend the science of learning. The Osmosis How to Succeed videos educate students about learning science, so they can build healthy habits and implement them throughout their education and career.

  5. Throughout the course, encourage students to analyze their confidence levels on Osmosis quiz questions to reflect on their ability to correctly identify what they know and don't know.

    • Does their quiz accuracy scoring tend to remain unchanged or decrease between the first and last attempts? 

    • Do they have a mismatch in their accuracy and confidence rating, such as showing high accuracy but low confidence or low accuracy but high confidence? These are some possible signs that it is time to adjust.

  6. Encourage students to create Osmosis playlists that reflect topics reviewed in class, cement ideas and concepts, and explore their relation to each other. Creating playlists early in the course allows students to revisit them over time and see how their knowledge has evolved and expanded.

  7. Feedback provides students with the opportunity to grow, be reassured of their strengths, and identify areas of improvement. Provide students with detailed feedback on their learning objectives, progress, and finished work, and ask them to create a plan to address any challenges. Feedback in the first half of the course is particularly helpful so students can adjust strategies early.

  8. Advise students to find and watch an Osmosis video when they have difficulty understanding a concept. Then encourage them to share what they learned and any parts they still find challenging. Doing this encourages a pattern of using reliable resources to independently seek answers before turning to you, so they begin learning how to do independent remediation.

  9. Active learning is an excellent way for students to fortify their knowledge. Create in-class active learning activities where each student must come to class prepared to teach other students a short topic. Ask them to explain how they found the information and recommend resources for other students to use.

Learning preferences and interests vary from person to person. Self-directed learning allows students to customize their experience to fit their interests and self-evaluate to adjust in the face of challenges. The instructor's guidance also helps students stay on track by providing helpful resources, activities, and constructive feedback as they navigate independent learning. Self-directed learning encourages students to take an active role in their education, promoting self-reflection and foundational skills for lifelong learning. 

Interested in learning how Osmosis can support self-directed learning in your program? Schedule a call today.