In recent years, the Agnew School has adopted a self-directed approach to learning. In self-directed learning (SDL), it is the student who takes both the initiative and the responsibility for their learning. In essence, students are “learning to learn”. The self-directed journey is one in which students learn to think critically, to process information perceptually, to analyze data accurately and evaluate situations intelligently in order that they fulfill their true potential.
Students begin to integrate self-directed learning into their approach in Year 3. This is accomplished with the use of student diaries in which students set out their goals for learning and reflect on how and whether they have achieved those goals. As they progress through the lower school, they take more and more responsibility for the process of their learning until they reach the high school environment, where the majority of student learning is self-directed.
In SDL, once the student takes the initiative for their learning, that student then assumes complete responsibility and accountability for their learning experience. It is the student who then follows that learning through to its conclusion. This does not mean that there is no input from others, quite the contrary. However, in the SDL model, the teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage” but rather a “guide at the side”, and students learn from many different resources, including each other. The crucial element is that the student drives his or her learning experience, beginning with recognizing a need to learn.
The benefits of self-directed learning are numerous. It promotes in students a natural development of self-confidence, perseverance, initiative and accountability. With self-directed learning, students become lifelong learners, and its benefits can be felt long after a student has left school.