Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cultural effects on self directed learning

Strange semirandom question here that I'm hoping folks might be able to help me shape or track down an answer to. It's not formed very well yet; I'm still trying to mold it into something useful.

In your opinion/personal experience, how is culture a determining factor in the amount, type, extent, or depth of self-directed learning a student tends to do and his/her attitude towards it?

By self-directed learning I mean anything a student decides to teach themselves and does (as opposed to something someone else orders you to learn, or formally teaches you without you asking them to.) Independent studies, self-started side hobbies/projects, and other things that could be construed as "building an airplane while flying it"-ish count as self-directed learning. Classes you're only taking because you're "supposed" to don't.

Rationale behind the potential hypothesis that it does: one could, for example, imagine the (stereotypically) individualistic American culture making it more common to see self-directed learning in this country than in a culture where group identity and/or tradition is stressed. Or that, say, males are more encouraged to pursue self-directed learning than females, or that lower-income students are forced to pursue more self-directed learning than higher-income students to cover comparable material in their studies. Are there differences in who does or values self-directed learning? Why? What does this mean about how we design learning experiences to facilitate student-driven pursuits in various cultures?

Somewhat behind this is my unchallenged assumption (which I'm working to eliminate or at least understand the flip side of) that enabling self-directed life-long learning should be a primary objective of education. I want to thank Nikki especially at starting to chip away at this long-held bias of mine, and Kristen for reminding me that individual psychology matters as much as if not more than group membership in determining how students learn (in other words: stereotypes are generalizations, and can only go so far if they go anywhere at all).

Workin' on it.

No comments: