International Conference on Self-directed Learning in Education
An International Conference on Self-directed Learning (SDL) in Education was held by the Faculty of Education Sciences from 8-10 April 2013.
The research focus of the SDL-group of the faculty of Education Sciences (including research partners/colleagues from other faculties on the NWU Potchefstroom campus) is to generate new knowledge regarding the promotion of self-directed learning (SDL) in teaching-learning environments (Mentz, 2013). The aim is to contribute to the scholarship of teaching-learning (SoTL) through theory building in primary, secondary and higher education, which ultimately enhance the self-directed learning skills/abilities of learners, students and teachers (Mentz, 2013).
Self-directed learning is defined as a process in which individuals take the initiative for their own learning, with or without the help of others. It implies that students diagnose their own learning needs, formulate their own learning goals, identify their own resources for learning, choose and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluate their own learning outcomes (Mentz, 2013). The demand for career and life preparation in a world that rapidly changes is not for the mere acquisition of a fixed body of knowledge, but for skills in order to independently acquire and apply knowledge effectively throughout their lives. A teaching-learning environment like the traditional lecture and mere knowledge transfer should make way for more creative teaching-learning strategies to foster self-directed learning (Mentz, 2013).
The Dean’s Forum
On the Dean’s Forum-day three international experts read their keynotes. The title of Prof Lucy Gugliemino’s presentation was Fostering self-directed learning: The challenges and rewards; prof Thom Markham’s title was Project-based learning: Bridging the old world and the new; and Prof Zemira Mevarech’s title Metacognition: New discoveries and open questions. The keynote presentations were followed by a round table discussion chaired by prof Cornelia Roux and with respondents prof Elsa Mentz, dr Marietjie Havenga and prof Marthie van der Walt. At the gala dinner for the SDL conference participants, our dean, prof Robert Balfour, presented a keynote (TITLE????).
Presentations and workshops
The conference included eight presentations on Self-directed learning, Project-based learning or Metacognition by several researchers. Proff Markham (Project-based learning) and Mevarech (Metacognition) each conducted relevant and informative workshops. Feedback from the conference participants between 55 and 75 on different days) was positive.
Scholarship of Teaching-Learning
On Wednesday (10 April) Prof Juliana Smith (Vice-dean, Faculty of Education, University of the Western Cape presented the final keynote Teaching-learning Scholarship in Higher Education. Various discussions during the conference focused participants on common ground in SoTL.
Reflecting on the three days’ presentations, academic discussions and networking, the conference was successful because the inputs of keynote speakers (both national and international), of our own researcher-colleagues provided thinking about our thinking and challenge us to be self-directed to value and use new and improved insights more focused research questions in the SDL project.