Confessions of a Self-Directed Learner

Confessions of a Self-Directed Learner

Jeneva Clark, Jonathan M. Clark
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7661-8.ch002
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After a trio of hour-long interviews with a self-professed self-directed learner, the authors present an honest narrative conveying an authentic account of a real human being who has directed their own learning. In this chapter, vignettes of raw interview data are presented as conversations to tell a biographical story while discussions of related ideas and principles provide context for those stories. The authors analyzed 20,576 words from interview transcripts for emergent themes using a grounded theory approach. After coding, memoing, and sorting data, salient themes that emerged included identity, patience, motivation, agency, trust, and classroom practice.
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Identity As A Self-Directed Learner

Confessions About Identity

Diagnosis by Comparison

  • Author: Did you find out about self-directed learning and think, Ooh! That's me!?

  • Learner: I've never been consciously trying to do it. I took the bull by the horns. It wasn’t something I realized in one day. It was a process. Okay, I tend to do things my own way. Then one day I thought, I do things my own way, by myself. Then also I thought, I tend to think by myself.

  • Author: Are you more self-directed than others?

  • Learner: Yeah. By looking at my peers and students that I've had, I consider it much stronger than the average person, a much stronger instinct. Perhaps it's only an instinct, but I think I embody self-directed learning much more than the average person.

The first time I did self-directed learning was when I read about physics and string theory. I kept reading about it, and I thought, Well, I’ve got to learn math. I had failed algebra that past semester, because I didn't do any of it, but then the next semester, I went to the library, got a book, and taught myself algebra. I had read the book, and my math story did a complete 180. I then taught myself calculus in high school. That was when the trend started.

  • Author: Was this different from your peers’ learning experiences?

  • Learner: None of my friends would’ve done what I did. After I learned calculus, I wanted to jump into theoretical physics. Since right before I was 13, that's all I could think about. I would learn something so I could learn something else. Before my senior year in high school, I bought a tensor calculus book and Schaum’s Outlines for calculus III. I watched Leonard Susskind’s lectures on general relativity. By the end of my senior year, I could derive the Reimann tensor or the geodesic equation. Nobody else would do that because they wouldn't care.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Identity: A concept that one holds of oneself, which is both malleable and enduring.

Motivation: An influence, such as an attitude or knowledge, that influences someone to act.

Agency: Capability to take actions for one’s own behalf or speak on one’s own behalf.

Noodling: Playing or experimenting for fun, as on a musical instrument.

Confession: Admission or honest statement.

Begrudge: To resent or view in a negative way.

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