How do we become self-directed and self-aware learners in our academic and professional life?

Today, the process of learning is crucial for the professional success and personal development of an individual. In actuality, the learning process becomes a lifetime process since people need to acquire new knowledge and develop new skills in the course of their life to attain their professional goals and simply to keep pace with a rapidly changing environment. In this respect, it is important to understand that learning skills of an individual are developed in the childhood, while in the course of the development of an individual his or her learning skills and abilities evolve and become better and better. Consequently, school education may be viewed as a foundation on the ground of which the lifetime learning is developed. At the same time, it is obvious that educators cannot always accompany an individual throughout his or her life. As a result, an individual needs to develop self-directed learning skills and become a self-aware learning. In such a way, an individual can achieve a tremendous success in the learning process since learning becomes a conscious process, in which an individual keeps being motivated and aware of significance of learning.

In fact, it proves beyond a doubt that the development of self-directed learning and self-awareness of learners are shaped in the course of life of an individual. In this respect, childhood is one of the most important stages in the development of self-directed learning and self-awareness of learners. Since the early childhood, children should grow aware of the importance of learning and, what is more, they should focus on self-directed learning which implies that learners are independent from educators. Therefore, they are able to learn, to acquire new knowledge and develop new skills without external assistance from the part of educators. In this respect, specialists (Biemiller and Meichenbaum, 1992, p.78) argue that the role of teachers is particularly significant because they should help children to become self-aware and understand the importance of learning. Moreover, educators should focus on the encouragement of children’s learning which is an essential condition of a successful learning.

At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that teachers normally guide students throughout their learning. But, today,  this traditional role of teachers has to change because children should become self-aware and self-directed learners. Otherwise, they will be unable to keep progressing without the assistance of educators in the future. In school, such a situation may not really evoke serious problems, but, in the future, in the adult life, students will confront serious problems, when they will be unable to self-directed learning. Moreover, the lack of learning self-awareness leads to the gradual degradation of an individual since he or she is unable to compete on the labor market. Instead, to take an advantageous position in the competitive struggle on the labor market an individual needs to learn successfully and without the assistance of educators. In fact, self-directed learning is the only effective way of learning an individual can use in adult life because educators are unable to provide an individual with essential knowledge or develop essential skills whenever an individual needs them.

Hence, an individual should become an independent and self-aware learner. The more successful teachers are in the formation of students self-awareness as learners and in the development of their self-directed learning skills, the easier it will be for students to become independent learners in their adult life.

Basically, teachers should contribute to the formation of habits of mind in their students (Costa and Kallick). In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that Costa and Kallick define the following habits of mind students should develop and attend to: value (choosing to employ a pattern of intellectual behaviors rather than others, less productive patterns); inclination (feeding the tendency toward employing a pattern of intellectual behavior); sensitivity (perceiving opportunities for, and appropriateness of employing the pattern of behavior); capability (possessing the basic skills and capacities to carry through with the behaviors); commitment (constantly striving to reflect on and improve performance of the pattern of intellectual behavior) (Costa and Kallick, p.3). In such a way, through the formation of mind habits people can develop their self-directed learning and become self-aware learners because they grow confident of the importance of learning and, what is more, they get used to analyze their intellectual behavior and improve it in order to meet their goals. Thus, through mind habits, people become accustomed to learning as an essential of their life and their nature.

In such a context, the role of teachers cannot be underestimated because it is their responsibility and one of the major goals to develop learning skills in their students. In fact, students should achieve mastery in the learning process, which can be achieved only through the formation of students’ self-awareness as learners (Biemiller and Meichenbaum, 1992, p.76). In other words, students need to be confident in their own power and in their abilities to achieve positive results in learning independently of teachers or other adults. In their adult life, learning self-awareness facilitates the learning process, when people accustomed to learn independently, i.e. when their learning is self-directed.

At the same time, Dunning and Turner lay emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning. To put it more precisely, they stand on the ground that people cannot stop learning since their knowledge and skills are not self-sufficient. Therefore, they need to keep pace with the constantly changing environment that is impossible without self-directed learning. At this point, it is also worth mentioning the fact that self-directed learning is closely intertwined with self-awareness of learners. Nah (1999, p.18) argues that self-directed learning is hardly possible without self-awareness of learners. In fact, learners need to be independent and autonomous but, what is more, they need to be confident in their own abilities.

In addition, learners should be constantly motivated to develop their self-directed learning and to remain self-aware learners. Specialists argue that it is quite difficult to keep learners motivated, especially adult learners. In this regard, the use of alternative methods of measuring potential benefits of learners can keep them motivated and self-aware (Jiusto and DiBiasio, 2006, p.197).

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that self-directed learning is extremely important in the contemporary world. In fact, it is an essential condition of successful learning and development of an individual as a personality as well as the development of a professional career of an individual. At the same time, self-directed learning is grounded on students’ self-awareness.

Learning process should be a conscious process. In such a context, one of the major tasks of educators is to encourage students self-directed learning and their self-awareness.

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