This paper is about the distinct connection between discourse (learner choices) and the need for commitment of self-directedness in order to become an independent adult learner. As adults we have many commitments to take care of such as work, school, training, family and personal responsibilities. The same goes for learners, as information is given to us, our experiences and interpretation of it is different, which is why there is a need for another perspective. This difference should be presented or brought forward represented in a form of a project or paper. In order for a learner to grow and adapt to the information received, they have to make choices to adapt to the changes required of learners to become independent learners. Those choices are the discourse or unwritten median between learner and academic institution providing learning the path.
Discourse in my opinion is the choices that a learner has to make to either commit/adapt to change in order to become a self-directed learner. The role of support that is available through the instructor, tutors, school staff etc, is what the learner utilizes as they move toward self-directed learning. When students leave a program or a course, they may feel that it’s not the right time for them to go to school, or they have something going on in their lives. I do agree that timing is everything and that the choice is in the learner’s hands. What ever the case may be, each individual student has to make a choice to change, persists, self-motivate, coordinate, communicate and adapt all within the contextual learning environment wither traditional or online, all in order to become an independent learner. Some students of course prefer traditional and are committed to self directed learning, but are also not willing to adapt to taking online course. In many cases the reverse applies, but the overall goal is to become adaptable to both environments of online and traditional.
Teaching perspective of Self-directedness
As an instructor my goal for all my students is for them to adopt independent learning. To do this I have them complete a project that is broken up into multiple sections. At the beginning of the quarter I assign students a project that incorporates the entire courses course work. To encourage independent study, I provide each student with a template of the project, which includes an outline. The student’s role is to complete the work that fits into each section of the project. This requires a lot commitment each week to complete the project. Most students I find wait until the middle of the quarter to start the project, and then come to realize that they should have invested more time in the beginning of the quarter. A common response that I have received from them quite often is, “only If I knew the scope of the project from the beginning.” This is learning experience for them, as I advise them that they were provided the project from day one, and they could have read ahead to see the involvement required for the project. It is defiantly a mentoring process, a coaching/ social relationship with the students as they discover new things about how much they can accomplish as individuals.
Learner’s Perspective of Self-Directedness
When I first started online courses, I never experienced a “forum”, a place where I could interact with other students and teachers. In a since I was isolated. This experience was gained during my bachelor degree program at Grantham University. The university has since then upgraded their technology and it is a wonderful experience interacting with other military members and professional from around the world. When I first started, I created a mindset that I was my own teacher; I adopted this approach because I knew the dedication that was required to complete the course work that was ahead. The support from all the staff was outstanding, which is also the reason why was able to transition to becoming a self directed learner. My experiences through traditional schools were at face value, if I had a question I could ask the instructor in class. Online, I didn’t have this luxury; I interacted via email, where I learned how to construct an email with my concern/question. I benefited greatly from this process; I now have strong written communication. I learned that I pretty much had to teach my self the material in order to meet the objectives set for each course, which made me dig into the material. I have actually learned more than I did in a traditional class room. It was a mindset that I had to adjust, and the discourse would be the choices that I had to make to commit to self directed learning, and I did.
I moved on to my masters program at Jones International University (JIU) MBA program in 2007. With the orientation class, support from staff, online forum format, online library, and my experience of online classes, I felt that I was ready for any challenge. My first class was very difficult, but I would have been able to complete it with as much ease without support from my family and friends (encouragement). I definitely told them that I was going for my MBA, and if I quit at that point, well I now I would hear some people questioning me. I learned a lot about, how I learned and also my own writing style as I developed it through forum posts and projects. I believe that I had to increase my drive to research an obtain more information outside of the contextual learning’s in order to grow as a professional learner, to complete my journey toward my MBA. As a self-directed independent learner, I do strongly believe the schools role in aiding each student towards this transition is very important; the awareness of this transition necessary, especially by the instructors.
-Shaun Manzano, (08/2009)