Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This article dredges up the straw men arguments offered by Paul Kirschner against self-directed learning: people don't know enough about the subject to make good choices, people choose to learn what they like rather than what they need, and the making of choices interferes with learning. The counter to Kirschner is that some people do learn on their own, but not everyone, posits the author, is an autodidactic; she even suggests that the skill is innate. But is it? Is learning on our own really so difficult? Is it reserved only for certain special people? No, to both questions. The author writes, "the psychology of motivation and interest suggests that self-directed learners are not only born, but can be made." Take a bunch of people who don't care what they're learning, as Kirschner does, and they won't learn unless you pretty much force them to. But when people are pursuing their own interests, they'll find help, they'll try again and again, and they'll figure it out. That's not unusual or innate: that's true of every person.


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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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Last Updated: Sept 22, 2023 12:48 a.m.

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