Is it really such a nuanced concept?
I fail to see why it remains so difficult for educated people to grasp not only the value of students, indeed people, being self-directed, but also of simply grasping what it even is. A New York Times story from about a week or so ago (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/business/11digi.html?src=busln) reported on middle school students and their ability to waste time on a computer. The story focused on research revealing that with the great push to put computers into homes of those who cannot afford them, and an internet connection, the academic performance of these students actually declined after the introduction of the computer. The premise was to “level the paying field” by giving the “advantage” of a computer and the internet to children who otherwise would be missing out. The experiment failed.
What was also noted, however, was that “when devising ways to beat school policing software, students showed an exemplary capacity for self-directed learning. Too bad that capacity didn’t expand in academic directions, too.” This comment inadvertently reveals just what self-directed learning is all about: the interest and motivation of the learner. The students act with self-direction when trying to subvert the school’s internet “protections” because they want to get around them with great interest. Why don’t these students show the same ability with their academic work? Really? You have to ask that question? The way the academic work is presented (disconnected and abstract) it has no hope of gaining the students’ interest.
Why is this so difficult to understand?
Yes, self-direction is the much sought after remedy for much of what is failing in traditional schools. But you can’t get there without understanding that it rests on personal interest and motivation.