Society, and especially young people, are presented with a notion that their examination results are the measure of their ‘intelligence’. And, therefore, the measure of their value in society. Traditional exams (closed books) assess one’s ability to regurgitate information. The same information people across the entire country are learning — curriculum-based learning. Our future relies on our ability to apply critical thinking and problem solve.
Instead of trying to provide young humans with the knowledge they need (just in case), the role of education needs to equip people with the tools and skills to acquire knowledge themselves (just in time). For this to be effective, we must nurture a desire, a purpose, and a reason to learn far beyond mere classification. This is most likely to occur when we’re interested in what we’re learning about and understand why we’re learning.
5 Ways To Improve Self-Learning & Enjoy The Journey
1. Allow Yourself to Be Curious
According to a study from the University of California, researchers state that curiosity makes our brains more receptive to learning. When you learn to satisfy a level of curiosity, it makes the learning journey more enjoyable.
Harvard Business Review also found that people who were curious in their roles at work were 34% more creative, less reactive to stress and provocation, more empathetic with others, and better at communicating.
The self-learning process will become more effective and exciting if you can trigger your intrinsic curiosity.
Our intrinsic motivation normally starts with a strong purpose — Your “Why”
- Why do you need to enhance your knowledge about this specific subject?
- Why is this information going to be of use to you?
- Why are you going to use this knowledge to create an impact in your life?
Once this is clear to you learning can become a bug, like anything else that you enjoy, learning can become— Dare I say it — a habit 🙀
When your motivation to learn is intrinsic, it ceases to be a chore. It’s about your personal desire to gain more knowledge and to make progress towards the ‘WHY’ you’re learning.
Moving from a passive learner to an active learner will make your learning experiences more meaningful to you.
2. Set Goals to Create New Opportunities
Goal setting is extremely important because it helps you increase productivity and also improves your focus. Having clear objectives means you are more likely to create a specific plan and take action to achieve your goals. When you’re learning new skills, one potential goal you can think about is how to apply these skills to your working life or how these skills can open new career opportunities for you.
When problem-solving, an interesting tactic they employed was the 20/20/20 rule.
- 20 mins self-learning
- 20 mins working with another learner
- 20 mins with a mentor
Plus, the mentors are now past students of the craft (like any mentor), which means that experience and expertise become self-perpetual.
In a world of self-learners, the opportunity we’re presented with is a shift from learning from one to learning from many.
3) Assess Resources that Support your Learning Journey
Whatever subject you want to learn about, the resources on the Internet are endless. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not as linear as a course or curriculum, but there are opportunities in that.
Typical Learning Environment
Knowledge in a classroom/course is based on curriculum and modules. This is typically a very linear style of learning.
Benefit: Bundled knowledge provides a clear and efficient learning journey towards a set goal.
Weaknesses: You learn a % of the information available, as chosen by a tutor or institution through a set curriculum of which you adhere.
Knowledge in pursuit of an interest, based on curiosity and lifelong learning is collected in a more sporadic fashion.
Benefit: The nature of learning in a curious manner leads to serendipitous discoveries (information and people) and takes you down paths you may never have been exposed to.
Weakness: It’s unknown what you’ll discover or achieve, and you may learn about topics in a broader manner rather than deep (but that’s your choice).
So when you’re on a self-learning journey, here are a few guiding principles to live by:
Be skeptical and verify everything — the Internet is awash with information produced by people who have varying experiences and opinions.
- Use peer-reviewed academic databases:
Google Scholar and World Cat can be useful and powerful tools when you’re looking for reliable sources. Google Scholar allows you to search for free and purchase full-text articles and books from academic publishers and universities. It lists citations and gives you links to peer-reviewed academic journals, abstracts, technical reports, and more. World Cat helps you locate libraries local to you with reputable sources of information. You can even have resources posted to your library or receive e-documents online.
- Online learning platforms: Then when you do discover you want to go deeper into a specific topic, there are numerous sites with interesting courses.
- The World Wide Web: Look for primary sources around industry trends, discussions, or interesting personal views. But don’t ignore secondary resources to cross-examine the credibility of that information, the authors, and their references. Even proactively searching for opposing views can help with enriching your overall perspective and mitigating any confirmation bias.
4) Create Something Out of What You’ve Learned
Make a habit of creating something new from what you’ve learned.
One of the strategies to solidify information in your long-term memory is to use multiple ways to present information. For instance, creating a video presentation, drawing a mind map, telling a story, or creating your own personal learning journal can be helpful.
5) Build a Network of “Learning Collaborators” Around You
We are collaborative learners by nature. Take advantage of online communities that will support you through your learning journey.
In the self-learning process, each learner is also a teacher, so it’s super helpful to become a part of a learning community and share your knowledge with others.
“While we teach, we learn,” — Roman philosopher, Seneca.