The Significance of Collective Self-Directed Learning Competencies for the Sustainability of Higher Education

The Significance of Collective Self-Directed Learning Competencies for the Sustainability of Higher Education

Jean Henry Blignaut, Charlene du Toit-Brits
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6172-3.ch014
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Few scholarly studies have addressed SDL in HE. Competency improvement and curriculum change are important HE learning opportunities. Curricula should emphasize knowledge acquisition, future-oriented evaluation, and global accountability to meet HE's SDGs. Sustainable learning, living, and working must be explored alongside HE for sustainable development. New learning strategies and cultures are needed. It should be sustainable, open-minded, self-directed, and participatory. CSDL is essential for sustained capabilities and HE's growth. HE must promote SDL to engage pupils. This chapter claims that SDL skills are vital for HE's progress. Participatory learning builds these skills, which needs a university-wide approach. Using explicit, null, and hidden curricula creates meaningful learning experiences, linking theory and practice. Self-directed, sustained learning ought to be HE's focus. SDL should replace directed learning in HESD. Lastly, participatory learning might generate independently responsible and accountable thinkers who respect sustainable development.
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Since the 1970s, the idea of SDL has been evident in HE. To us, SDL has always been a HE catchphrase that commonly appears in academic writing. However, experience has shown us that, although SDL has been discussed in theoretical terms in conversations about education, it has seldom been put into full practice in HE. The construction of appropriate educational learning environments in HE is still a problem that must be overcome to enhance and promote student-centered learning capabilities and ensure higher education sustainability (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2019; Du Toit-Brits, 2020; Loeng, 2020; Olivier, 2021).

The current shortage in higher education is an apparent reason for the rising emphasis on SDL skills since it is critical to transforming educational practice from a traditional lecturer responsibility to a facilitator and mediator of SDL competencies (Du Toit-Brits, 2018b; Du Toit-Brits, 2020). Considering that SDL is based on social constructivism as a theory of learning (see Piaget, 1928; Vygotsky, 1978), it is widely recognized that it offers a solid platform for planning constructively engaged student learning (Brockett & Hiemstra, 2019; Sun, Hong & Dong, 2022). Although SDL is often provided as a type of individual learning, it should not be forgotten that learning environments must support CSDL capabilities for HE to remain sustainable (Gusmão Caiado et al., 2018; Martins et al., 2019).

The authors believe that describing the core elements of CSDL is essential for incorporating such skills into HEand ensuring that a lack of information does not constrain practice. Consequently, we review the academic production of CSDL competencies concerning pursuing HE’s sustainable development. This chapter aims to explore CSDL competencies to contribute to sustainable HE and as a way to ensure the survival and quality of HE. The discussion follows the curriculum in HE as an essential vehicle for promoting sustainable development, supported by SDL and collaboration among many stakeholders associated with HEIs and those served by the HEI.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Hidden Curriculum: What students take away from university that is not explicitly taught but profoundly impacts whom they become and how they see the world.

Null Curriculum: Subject matter intentionally or inadvertently overlooked by an educator as they regard particular concepts as irrelevant.

Contextual Learning: Learning supported by knowledge that helps students make personal connections.

Collective Learning: Learning together in a group with individuals from various backgrounds.

Social Constructivism: A school of thought that maintains that individuals do not learn alone but as part of a larger group engaging with the subject matter.

Overt Curriculum: The explicit subject content students are exposed to intentionally throughout their chosen courses in HE.

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