Encouraging Your Child To Embrace Self-Directed Learning

In the digital era, children with a good knowledge in reading, writing, math, and science are not guaranteed a stable career for the rest of their lives. In addition, an increasing number of graduates will have to create their own jobs, and write their own future. 

How can parents foster the creativity, entrepreneurialism, and lifelong curiosity necessary for their kids to thrive?

Rote style didactic learning and achieve high marks in a subject, it doesn’t mean that this passive recipient style of providing information is even close to optimal. The antithesis of meaningful learning is self-directed learning. You may be thinking that this is impossible if your kid is too young to do so. We need to inspire children to explore their world, follow their interests, think for themselves, ponder ideas, question everything, create and produce. And the answer lies in self-directed learning. 

A self-directed (or child-directed) activity is an activity wholly decided on by the child, and is the result of an intrinsic motivation to explore a project, follow a current passion or interest, or express an idea. Starting with small tasks can be a good way to foster creativity and develop such forms of independence from young. 

 I believe that self-directed learning is an invaluable learning technique, empowering children to take ownership of their own learning process and continually refining it by identifying their strengths and optimal learning strategies. As a skill that is nurtured rather than innate, self-directed learning requires the help of both parents and educators to be instilled in children. Here are some helpful parenting tips for Singaporean parents to do so.

Encouraging Your Child To Embrace Self-Directed Learning

Resist the urge to step in and help them.

Early childhood development refers to the period from birth to 8 years of age, where children experience incredible growth and brain development. Naturally, children will make many mistakes across this period, as they embrace new skills and awareness across social, emotional, cognitive, and physical domains. As parents who are familiar with basic Math calculations or motor skills such as tying shoelaces, it can be tempting to step in and show our children how to properly do them, especially if they are struggling. However, I strongly advise that this is actually counter-intuitive for self-directed learning, as it is honed during the experience of struggling through something novel and devising new approaches towards mastery. Instead, start with demonstrating the concept at the beginning, and provide constant support and encouragement as your child figures out how to replicate it.

The goal of early childhood education

is to set the stage right for learning in the later years. 

~ Carean Oh, early childhood educator

Creative Development Activities In Early Childhood

Provide ample opportunities for exploration.

I have found that self-directed learning is prevalent in many aspects of life here in Singapore and a useful parenting tip is to expose your child to diverse challenges from young; be it learning how to play an instrument, engaging in a sport, or learning basic coding skills. As children find themselves facing new challenges, they will also hone different learning strategies to best learn and grow, as well as develop creativity in terms of expression and draw connections to concepts they learn from other areas.

In addition, having ample opportunities for exploration provides children with the freedom to discover their innate passions, empowering them with greater agency over their lives while also teaching them the value of perseverance and resilience as they step into greater challenges and responsibilities. 

Here are a few examples of self-directed learning.

A key feature of this example is that the learner herself, as opposed to the parent or teacher, controls the learning sequence through her choices and actions. An example of self-directed learning in everyday life. In the scene, a young child is flipping through the pages of a storybook. At some point, the child comes to a picture she finds interesting and requests the name of the object from the parent. A key feature of this example is that the learner herself, as opposed to the parent, controls the learning sequence through her choices and actions.  

Encourage children to adopt a problem-solving approach.

As children enter higher school in Singapore, parents may not always be able to adequately address all academic concerns. A valuable parenting tip I suggest  is to encourage your child to adopt a problem-solving approach by posing a series of purposeful questions designed to help them think about the overall process. These questions help your child to define the problem, brainstorm available ideas, before devising a plan and trying it out to see if it works.

Through constant trial and error, I am sure that children will learn which strategies work best for their learning, be it a visual approach, rote memory, or creating mental maps. This is particularly valuable for both tertiary education and the working world, where there are no longer clear-cut textbook answers to rely on and your child has to seek their own answers.

Celebrate their effort over success.

Another parenting tip is to praise your child’s efforts rather than results, which is important especially in Singapore where grades play a huge role in your child’s self-esteem. Research has found that students who are praised for their effort rather than their outcomes of a task are more likely to put in effort when faced with future challenges. This is because it instills the concept that effort is valued and that failure is a natural process of learning something new, rather than something to be feared.

Children who are not frightened of failure, in my opinion, will actively seek out new challenges and chances, even if they lack the necessary knowledge or skills. This greatly grows their creativity, confidence, and self-directed learning, enabling them to embrace the unknown and live enriching lives.

Have some comments about self-directed learning. Leave your comments below.  

- Carean Oh

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