A few weeks, I engaged my colleagues at EdLab on an activity and discussion around self-directed learning. As part of the activity, I made my colleagues write down keywords on a whiteboard that comes to mind when they think of self-directed learning. After several minutes, we delve into what turned out to be an interesting discussion about self-directed learning. Specifically, my colleagues were interested in:
- how self-directed learning was being taught (or even if that is possible),
- potential connections between self-directed learning and the Montessori model
- learner’s socioeconomic status (i.e. minority students) and their ability to self-learn
The last topic about the role of learner socioeconomic status and their ability to self-learn brought me back to a pilot study I conducted with some of my colleagues last summer for a conference. Since there is a dearth of research on minority students and self-directed learning, our study sought to address how college, college-bound, and recently graduated college minority students direct their own learning? What tools and resources do they use to direct their own learning and what is the impact on their educational goals? Though we didn’t specifically focus on their socioeconomic status, the participants were entirely immigrants from sub-Sahara Africa and the Caribbean who moved to America prior to adolescence.
Several reasons might explain why there is a dearth of literature on minority students and self-directed learning. First, research in self-directed learning has traditionally been around adult learners and workplace learning. Stephen Brookfield provides a good overview in this chapter
. Second, research around self-directed learning and K-16 students is slowly growing in the literature mainly due to increased learning opportunities via platforms such as Khan Academy, YouTube, Coursera, and Udemy. A lot of the learning (e.g. playing drums, the stock market, cooking) that participants in our pilot study reported were informal learning. Research is also thin in regards to self-directed and informal learning. Since there is already a body of research on the impact of socioeconomic status on minority students’ learning outcomes, researchers might not be compelled to add to that exhaustive body of work.