Internal Medicine

Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed Learning


Adapted from Lowry CM

Self-directed learning has been described as a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, to diagnose their learning needs, formulate their learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes (Knowles 1975).

In simple English, students:

  • Work out what they need to know.
  • Set themselves learning goals.
  • Identify the people, facilities, activities, books, notes, web sites or whatever that will assist them in their learning.
  • Decide how they will learn (see patients, attend intakes or ward rounds, spend time in the library, get hold of particular resources such as CD with recorded heart sounds, etc).
  • Evaluate themselves to see if they are keeping up with their own goals.

The following points provide guidance on how clinical teachers can best facilitate self-directed learning among our students and are adapted from the reference above:

1. Help students identify a good starting point for their learning task; give them some assistance in charting a way to proceed from there.

2. Help students to acquire the ability to identify their own learning needs and objectives.

3. Provide examples of acceptable learning outcomes, in other words, some idea of what they should know or be able to do once they have completed their learning.

4. Make sure that students really aware of their own learning objectives, strategies, resources, and evaluation criteria, and are not floundering or proceeding aimlessly as time passes.

5. Encourage students to view the validity of both knowledge and truth as being dependent on the context in which they are used or encountered.

6. Do not just fed information to the students. Rather act as a guide for their own learning.

7. Teach inquiry skills, decision-making, personal development, and self-evaluation of work.

8. Encourage critical thinking skills.

9. Help students locate appropriate learning resources.

10. Help students develop confidence and independence in their learning.

11. Create an atmosphere of openness and trust.

12. Recognize varying personality types and learning styles among students, and accommodate them.

13. Develop high-quality learning guides and programmed learning materials which the students can incorporate into their learning. Predigested notes however do not meet this objective.

© R J Hift

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