At age 6 I learned to read. I read about dinosaurs from a set of children’s science and nature books. A small story about T-Rex was the first one I read all by myself. After that a steady flow of childhood interests varying from dinosaurs and astronomy to Egyptology ended up on my dedicated notebooks with drawings and notes.
Waldorf -high school really catered to any self directed learner in all classes and also in the final projects, that students could organize based on their interests. The projects can vary from building a rowboat, to writing and printing a collection of poems. My final project ended up being a small study on literature on inheritable diseases and a mapping of the potential inheritable diseases in my family tree. During undergraduate studies self-directed learning as a habit was helpful as lectures were not always the most informative.
My development into a self directed learner was supported by my parents. They provided trips to museums once it became clear that amusement parks did not entice me or my brother. My dad even brought me a mummified field mouse he found and allowed me to study fox sperm under microscope at the fox farm. Taking into account student’s own interests and providing support for those interests in Waldorf -school really cultivated self-directed learning.
During Connected Courses -seminars the importance of mentors and modeling co-learning to students comes up often. To me this is the value higher education can give today and in the future. It is not about knowing the right people and being in the right place. It should be about being in a place that is right for you and with people who can support you, be it live or online. Educators will be balancing with giving the students support but also avoiding being the “camp counselors”. The question now is, how do I support students, who have not had the support to become self directed, but have had all the encouragement to fit in a box labeled “admission to college”?