For our new column, Ask an Educator, we turn to educators, whether teachers, tutors, or principals, to answer frequently asked questions from parents. To send in your question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, our question is:
“What is self-directed learning and playing, and why is it important?”
Answering for us is Paul McKenney, Elementary Principal of Springboard International Bilingual School.
What is self-directed learning?
In a self-directed learning environment, the student decides what they want to learn about. It allows the student to optimize their educational experience, which in turn motivates the student to want to learn, because they are learning about a topic that they have chosen themselves. Self-directed learning exposes children to new information and allows them to retain it at a higher level, which also puts the student onto the path of becoming a life-long learner. As any adult who is continuously upgrading their skill sets knows, we can only continue learning if we have the motivation.
What is self-directed play?
Self-directed play is another part of a child’s development that is very important. Children that grew up in previous generations directed their own play away from the supervision of teachers and parents, allowing them to use their imaginations and be immersed in a world that they had created themselves.
Self-directed play allows children to learn what their own boundaries are and also encourages them to become more curious about the world around. It allows children to become masters of their own domains and to feel in control of themselves and their creativity. And this does not even take into account the benefits in dexterity and improved physicality, not to mention mental wellbeing. After all, a healthy child is a happy child–and a happy child is more likely to learn at a higher rate and to retain all that is taught.
In conclusion, parents and educators alike need to be aware of self-directed learning and playing and what an important part these activities play in children’s lives. Teaching children via self-directed learning or playing methods instills in children that learning is fun, and in the world is a wonderful place to explore and be curious about. They can learn to solve their own problems, know what their boundaries are, and develop the ability to overcome adversity–all the skills that are invaluable in the world we live in today.
Photo: courtesy of Springboard International Bilingual School