College Essay Examples

Self-Directed Learning

What is a self-directed learner? What are the essential aspects of self-directed learning?

Self-directed learning occurs when an individual takes an initiative over, and responsibility, for their own education and learning goals (VanBriesen, 2019). This means that individuals select, manage, and evaluate their own learning activities and growth. This type of learning is not necessarily intended for all learners because it requires a considerable amount of motivation and volition, as well as independence in goal setting and determining what is worthwhile to learn. The role of the teacher is generally greatly reduced in self-directed learning, as they typically only offer mentoring and advising (VanBriesen, 2019).

As Knowles (1975) described, a self-directed learner initiates a learning process without needing others to tell them what to learn, creates goals, and works to achieve them. Further, successful self-directed learning students engage in self-reflection and self-evaluation of their learning goals and progress (University of Waterloo, n.d.). Finally, students adequately understand themselves as learners and their learning needs so as to remain autonomous, organized, and self-disciplined (University of Waterloo, n.d.).

What are your two biggest strengths as a student? How will these strengths help you become a self-directed learner?

My first strength is that I have always been inquisitive and an appetite for learning and knowledge. This will help me as a self-directed learner because it will motivate me to continue on in my learning goals even when I am met with challenges, because I am always curious and eager to expand my current knowledge base. On that note, my resilience and self-determination are a second strength. This will be beneficial in the event I experience challenges or obstacles that need to be overcome in my self-directed learning, as I will not give up easily.

What are your two biggest weaknesses as a student? How do these affect your readiness to be a self-directed learner?

My first weakness is my time management skills. This is something I struggle with, as I am often inclined to try to accomplish many things all at once when that is often an impractical and unfeasible strategy. It also will likely contribute to less learning. Relatedly, I am often prone to procrastination. As I try to accomplish many tasks simultaneously, I inevitably do not end up getting much accomplished. This might contribute to a reduction in learning since I am always “putting things off”.

Describe at least three strategies to become a more self-directed learner. How will you hold yourself accountable for your growth as a learner?

The first strategy would be to cultivate a strong intrinsic motivation. This will help ensure that I complete my self-directed learning journey, because I am intrinsically motivated and feel a personal sense of reward for completing this self-directed learning (Briggs, 2015). It is also very important for me to set realistic goals and maintain perspective, so that I do not get easily overwhelmed and feel dejected. The goals should be a balance between ambitious and doable, so that I continue to keep learning and moving forward. Third, I will verbalise my achievements so that I have a deeper understanding of what it means to know what I have learned (Briggs, 2015).

To hold myself accountable, I will create a long-term set of goals with tentative deadlines for when I wish to complete them. This will allow me to keep on target with a range of short-term and long-term goals. Writing out a personal mission statement or some other reminder of my goals and why I am doing this, and then posting them on sticky notes around my learning space is another way to remain accountable.


Briggs, M.S. (2015). 20 steps towards more self-directed learning.

Knowles, M.S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Group and Organization Studies, 2(2), 256-257. doi:10.11177/105960117700200220

University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Self-directed learning: A four-step process.

VanBriesen, J.M. (2018). Self-directed learning.

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By Sandra Arlington

Sandra Arlington is a contributing writer to the Motley Fool. Having written for various online magazines, such as Ehow and LiveStrong, she decided to embark on a travel blog for the past 10 years. She is also a regular contributor to My Essay Writer.

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