Identify 10 learning principles
Now that you have had some short learning experiences, you are ready to consider ten important learning principles for the self-directed learner.
A principle is a proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior. Learning principles are therefore what guide and inspire your learning process.
These principles were developed by the Alternative University of Bucharest, which is dedicated to self-directed learning.
The first principle is: “I craft myself consciously”
This refers to designing yourself by choosing what you want to learn. What you know and what you are capable of is an essential part of your identity. If you know who you want to be in the future, you can then learn yourself into that new you.
The second principle is: “I can learn anything, anytime”
This refers to the understanding that you can learn anything you are willing to put enough effort into. Any time is a good time: it only requires your decision.
The third principle is: “Learning happens outside the classroom”
This reinforces the point that you don’t need a classroom or a formal process to learn. Once you learn how to learn, you can self-direct your learning. As we will see further ahead, this does not mean you don’t need teachers: it only implies you can choose who can be your teacher, and design your own “programs”.
The principle also challenges the idea that learning only happens in school. You learn all the time, and your most profound education often come from everyday life. So why do we associate learning with school?
The fourth principle is: “Learning is connected to the environment”
Where and with whom you learn affects learning. Different physical, virtual and social environments influence your abilities and motivations.
It is different to learn in the subway, than in a park; to learn with peers who have similar goals, rather than with friends who do not care; to learn while concentrating, rather than looking at social media notifications every five minutes.
What is an appropriate learning environment for you is something very personal and depends on your preferences, habits and character.
The fifth principle is: “Learning is meaningful”
This refers to the idea that we most easily learn what is meaningful for us.
Things which seem meaningless are quickly forgotten.
You are the only one who can give meaning to your learning.
The first step in any learning process is, therefore, to be clear on why or how it is meaningful for you.
The sixth learning principle is: “Learning is fun!”
Many school experiences leave us with negative feelings about learning. It may be difficult, but it does not have to be boring. In fact, it can be a very happy experience. The joy of learning is one of the greatest rewards that come from acquiring self-direction.
The seventh principle is: “Learning involves changing my brain”
It is a scientific fact that your brain is plastic. Learning is about changing your brain - and yourself. Therefore, it is not only about acquiring knowledge or abilities, but also about modifying your cognitive structure, which is the basic mental process you use to make sense of information.
The eighth principle is: “I integrate failure”
This principle turns failure into learning. Many school processes make us believe that the point of learning is to avoid making mistakes, which are rarely celebrated - but should be.
A self-directed learner integrates failure into their learning processes without feeling bad about themselves. It is empowering to transform failure into knowledge.
The ninth principle is: “I take responsibility for my own learning”
This means that you are in charge of your own learning. Other people can help you learn, but no one else can learn for you. Learning is your choice.
The tenth and last principle is: “We are all learners”
We are all born to learn. Learning is a fundamental characteristic of being human. Teachers and students are learners. It is a horizontal relationship in the sense that everyone has something to teach and something to learn.
Becoming a self-directed learner includes being guided by learning principles:
I craft myself consciously.
I can learn anything, anytime.
Learning happens outside the classroom.
Learning is connected to the environment.
Learning is meaningful.
Learning is fun!
Learning involves changing my brain.
I integrate failure.
I take responsibility for my own learning.
We are all learners.
Now that you have adopted a stance that encourages learning, you're almost ready to define your personal learning strategy, your first step towards becoming an autonomous learner. But first, let's check your understanding of what we've learned so far.