Self-directed learning

Self-directed learning can never be content, or curriculum driven. Self-directed learning is brain or thinking driven.

When a student says: “I am going to study biology – specifically the circularly system.”, it spells out motivation, not self-directed learning. When the student decides to study the heart first and then the arteries and then veins, it is still not self-directed learning, it demonstrates motivation and is curriculum driven – addressing the WHAT and not the HOW.

Self-directed learning needs Thinking Tools which are driven by the critical thinking toolkit which I call the mothership of all thinking which could guide the student to enter into a surface thinking mode to determine the exact point of departure, namely, to analyse the parts of the heart using the white thinking hat and record it on a tree map.

The self-directed learning learner would then know that each part of the heart must have a specific function which is determined by the student deciding to engage into deeper thinking to further analyse the parts of the heart with the white hat, whist evaluating the correctness thereof as it is being record on a bridge map.

The student may then decide to verify the correctness of the later research by evaluating the correctness before embarking on the arteries.

Or using a double bubble map to compare and contrast the left side of the heart with the right side OR the upper part with the lower part before embarking on the arteries.

Without Thinking Tools, it is like traveling with a compass.

With Thinking Tools, it is like traveling in a self-directed way, using a GPS.





Joe: “Miss, I do not understand the sum.”

Teacher: “Joe, what do you not understand?”

Joe: “I don’t know Miss.”

Teacher: “Joe, if you can’t tell me what you do not understand, I can’t help you”

Joe does not understand, because during the lesson, the following words flew over his head:

“The angles at the lower sides of an isosceles triangle are equal, the outer angle of a triangle is equal to the sum of the opposite inner angles. This applies to any triangle. However, if we look at a square, all the angles are ninety degrees. When the angles of a square are placed on a straight line, one can see that they add up to 360 degrees and not 180 degrees as with a triangle. At the parallelogram which is our next theme, there are two lines which are always parallel. Two parallel lines will NEVER intersect. There are also cutting lines and alternating angles. Alternating angles are only equal when the cutting line is 90 degrees to the parallel lines and remember the opposite angles are then equal too, etc, etc”

After the lesson the teacher provides the class with homework.

Joe and at least 30% of the class are clueless, but his mother told him, “Joe, if you do not understand, then you raise your hand and you ASK.”

So, Joe raises his hand and ASKS. The teacher then asks him to explain what he exactly does NOT understand otherwise she can’t help him.

For Joe to be able to point out his problem he must be able to put his problem into words. This means Joe MUST:

  1. Have analysed the sum, but Joe is clueless.
  2. Rationalized to get to the crux of the sum’s question, but he can’t.
  3. Joe must be able to think in abstract ways while his brain cells cannot even understand the concrete examples.
  4. Joe must be CLEAR enough to be able to articulate his problem, BUT not smart enough to be able to solve it.
  5. Joe must be an engineer to be able to verbalise his problem.

The result is that Joe can’t be helped because he is not capable of expressing his problem – he can’t engage in an academic conversation.

The teacher then recommends: “Sit at your table and come back when you can explain what you do not understand, then I will be able to help you.”

Joe feels bullied and sits down. During that afternoon there are huge problems at home because Joe did not listen in class and did not keep on asking …….

The rest is history. When the reports cards become available the blame is shifted from the one stakeholder to the other.

– Joe did not do his best.

– The teacher did not teach good enough.

– The mother is not committed.



This is where the Thinking Tools approach to teaching takes the lead. We have the ability to empower teachers to grasp a student’s #innerspeech to determine what and where the gap is and if the student is Iazy or taking chances.