EDUCATORS in the higher education sector have an important role to play in nurturing self-directed or independent learners.
They must know how to design programmes that promote self-directed learning, while maintaining educator control.
To succeed, they need to devise learning activities and facilitation strategies according to
the learners’ level of self-direction.
I believe instructional design should be intellectually challenging, but within the learners’ zone of proximal development (the difference between what learners can do without help and what they can’t do).
Educators are responsible for matching the instructional design with the learners’ level of self-direction while prepa-
ring them to advance to higher levels.
Educators are also responsible for guiding learners from their preferred and comfortable learning style to a greater self-directed style.
This can be achieved by initiating a challenging and supportive learning context on a gradual basis, without learners feeling discouraged.
It is obvious then that self-directed learning requires a transformation of educators from an authoritative role to a facilitator of learning.
The rationale is that to promote an active learning approach, educators should acknowledge learners as equal learning partners who make decisions about their learning.
The shift from teaching to facilitating means that learners, rather than educators, are the central figure in the learning and teaching process.
This shift, thus, requires educators to empower learners to take responsibility for and control of their learning.
Educators’ role in supporting learners’ direction of learning has provided new insights into our understanding of self-directed learning.
However, not all Malaysian educators have accepted their role as facilitators of learning.
Instead, they remain attached to their traditional roles of knowledge experts, comfortable with one-way knowledge transmission.
While recognising learners’ role in the self-directed learning context, I would like to highlight the need to blend the conventional mode of teaching with contemporary self-directed learning approaches to ensure meaningful learning experiences for learners.
Most importantly, it is suggested that in fostering self-directed learning:
EDUCATORS should establish a positive and collaborative relationship with learners;
EDUCATORS should recognise learning resources and restrictions in the learning context, as this allows for implementation of self-directed learning; and,
UNIVERSITIES should assist educators to plan their teaching strategies by conducting training programmes and encouraging self-development.
Dr Nurkhamimi Zainuddin
Deputy director, GOAL-ITQAN, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia