Importance of self-directed learning Part 1

self direct learning button

I start this my small speech with three experiences. The first experience was when I thought a course to over 300 second year undergraduates in a state university. When I noticed how non serious they were with their studies, I posed a simple question at the beginning of the course demanding by a show of the hand, how many of them had study time table. When they seemed not to understand my simple question I had to re-phrase it by asking them to explain to me how many of them had a private study time-able to guide their private study after lecture hours.

To my utter surprise not up to 15 out of 300 students raised their hands. This forced me to give the first assignment which was for each student to write down the names of courses he/she offered in the semester and to develop a private study time table. I told the class that without a written private study time table, I would not let them into the lecture hall. The following week I stood by the door and collected their private study time tables. I reviewed the submissions and found that many copied. Those that didn’t copy had their friends duplicate theirs. And although it was not feasible for me to individually monitor adherence to the private study time table, the outcome of this exploratory study was quite disturbing. At the end of the semester I demanded for a second private study time table. The disparity in the comparison student by student was alarming.

My second experience was at a Vice Chancellor’s office. A dad had come with his daughter to the Vice Chancellor for a special favour for his daughter’s admission. Since it was not a visitor’s day, the responsibly looking dad had to wait for a longer period. Eventually the young daughter taunted her father by wanting to know whether the Vice Chancellor wasn’t his friend again and it was the dad that was pleading with the daughter to exercise patience.

The third experience was when I asked the same 300 students to give me the three qualities of their best teacher and worst teachers.  The table below shows a few of their responses:

Table 1 Qualities of a good and a bad teacher.

S/N Qualities of a good teacher Qualities of a bad teacher
1 A good teacher is adaptable. Makes changes to lessons or activities on the fly because of unforeseen situations or problems. A teacher must be willing to change. If half the class does not understand a particular concept, then you cannot move on and must quickly come up with a better way to teach that concept.

A good teacher is caring. Goes the extra mile to ensure that every student is successful no matter what. A teacher must figure out the personalities and interest of each student and incorporate components that connect with each individual.

A good teacher is compassionate. Recognizes that students have problems outside of school, and making the necessary adjustment to help them through those issues. A teacher must take outside factors into consideration. For example, if a student has just lost a loved one, the teacher should be sensitive to that and adjust accordingly.


They don’t look for potential.  They only focus on the obvious! It’s too much work for them to look below the surface for the potential that is often overlooked.  To see potential, they would have to study their students, and that takes too much investment of their time and emotion.  Instead, they just look for what is right at the surface and ignore any potential that is less obvious.


One good way to tell if your heart’s in the right place is to ask yourself if you’re only in it for the money. If the paycheck is really your main motivation then you probably shouldn’t be teaching. It takes a lot of thought and preparation time to be a good teacher. Unpaid preparation time. If you’re not prepared then you won’t do well, and you won’t be very successful anyway, so put your heart into something you will enjoy. Sarcastic, cynical people should not go into teaching. This seems obvious yet many teachers have no real empathy for their students. I know a teacher who says she has fifty students but none of them is any good. What does that say about her? I tease my students to ease the tension and make them laugh at themselves and at me, but real sarcasm hurts. And cynicism defeats the whole purpose of teaching. If you’ve gone negative on people, or the art itself, then what will you impart to others.

2 Four things I like about my lecturers:
1. Their engaging personality and teaching style.
2. They have a clear objective for a lesson.
3. They have good communication with the student, making the student feel free to talk to them on issues bordering them.
4. They are passionate about their students and have a great influence
on their students’ lives. 


Four things I don’t like about my lecturer:
1. They play favouritism; they prefer some set of students to others.
2. They think they know everything because of their degrees and they feel they can’t make mistake.
3. They find a teaching method that fits them and expect the students to adapt to that method. Their goal is to cover the material and not
making the student to understand the lesson.
4. They don’t look for potentials, they just look for what is right at the surface and ignore any potential that is less than obvious.
3 Disciplinanarian: She believed in discipline as a tool for regulation and control. She would always stand on her words; she gives assignments and takes it the day we are asked to submit. She hated noise making and would always say “Noise interferes with communication process”, she was young, beautiful and spoke fluent English. She would always discipline anyone who flaunts school rules and regulations and still cheer that person up.

Punctuality: Whenever it’s her period to teach she is always there, she even comes before time and hangs around till the teacher whose period is about to end goes out. Aunty Emmanuella even received an award from the principal for punctuality. Every five minutes of her time she uses it to ask questions about our last class. She covers her scheme of work before you know it and does revision to our satisfaction.

Social: Aunty Emmanuella was social in everything, she would joke in class and make us laugh, and she was a funny person. Once we violate her rules e.g not keeping our notes up to date she would show her anger and still cheer us up. In devotion she would sometimes lead praise and worship section and even the sermon. She was the head of the choir and the drama groups. Students would always go to her for advice and this made other teachers to like her the more. Her skills of being sociable or of interacting well with others made me to like her and aspire to be like her and I choose education as a field of study.


The name of my worse teacher was Uncle Victor. He took us on Mathematics and Physics.

Excusatory: I believe Uncle Victor is striving to make excuses and I dislike him for that. He would always come late to class and leave early. After teaching and questions are thrown to him he won’t handle them well and when we complained he told us to read up. When he took our notes for marking it takes him ages to return those notes. After so many complains I wondered why he wasn’t sacked. When he was asked why our class didn’t do well in an exam he said he had a hard time then and was going through a lot and so he couldn’t come to class often.

Strictness: Uncle Victor was too strict, tight strained, tense and not relating. He doesn’t laugh with anyone, he was always frowning and once when I walked up to him to ask him he told me to go and read my books and that made me dislike him the more.


Is not sociable: Uncle Victor wasn’t sociable or companionable. He was incapable of being associated, joined or connected with, even Aunty Emmanuella tried talking to him about his relationship with his students but he made no change.


4 A good teacher is creative and should be more than just opening books.

2.  A good teacher encourages, is patient and doesn’t give up on his/her students.

3. A good teacher takes time to answer questions in class after the end of each class.                   \


Qualities of a bad teacher.

1. Bad teachers have favourite students they attend to.

2. They deviate from teaching their course to telling stories of their life that has nothing to do with the course.

3. They find teaching methods that suites them and expect student to follow up or adapt.

5 1. My great teacher respects students. In a great teacher’s classroom, each person’s ideas and opinions are valued. Students feel safe to express their feelings and learn to respect and listen to others. This teacher creates a welcoming learning environment for all students.

2. My great teacher creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom. The mutual respect in this teacher’s classroom provides a supportive, collaborative environment. In this small community, there are rules to follow and jobs to be done and each student is aware that he or she is an important, integral part of the group. A great teacher lets students know that they can depend not only on her, but also on the entire class.

3. My great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring. This person is approachable, not only to students, but to everyone on campus. This is the teacher to whom students know they can go with any problems or concerns or even to share a funny story. Great teachers possess good listening skills and take time out of their way-too-busy schedules for anyone who needs them. If this teacher is having a bad day, no one ever knows—the teacher leaves personal baggage outside the school doors.

He doesn’t look for potentials.  He only focuses on the obvious! It’s too much work for them to look below the surface for the potential that is often overlooked.  To see potential, they would have to study their students, and that takes too much investment of their time and emotion.  Instead, they just look for what is right at the surface and ignore any potential that is less than obvious.

2.  He finds a teaching method that fits him and expects his students to adapt to that method. To this teacher, students can and should learn in one way, and one way only. They view their approach to be more valuable than the student truly grasping the subject matter.  Their goal is to cover the syllabus/material and not to have their students truly grasp the concepts.

3.  He plays favoritism. They obviously prefer some students above others. This causes confusion and frustration on behalf of the favorites and the non-favorites. Ultimately, it demoralizes the non-favorites into viewing learning and relationships to be without hope.


6 1. A teacher who is very engaging and holds the attention of students in all discussions.

2. A teacher who creates a sense of community and belonging in the classroom.

3. A teacher who establishes clear objectives for each lesson and works to meet those specific objectives during each class.



1. A teacher who does not communicate well and make others feel dumb in the classroom.
2. A teacher who plays favourite, puts students down and never wants to hear their opinions.3. Arrogant teachers who are rude to students, shouts, intimidates and embarrasses them.
7 Humility


Fluent grammatically



Lacks organizational skills

What do we learn from these experiences?

  1. We no longer have self directed learners in our schools. A self directed learner is one who is able to have a clear vision of his academic goals/objectives and who plans on how to achieve them and strives/makes extra or concerted effort in pursuit of his vision. He/she is one that has the skills to pose problems, to seek out the means to gather information and to package the information/data to construct his/her own solution to the problem. A self–directed learner does not wait for a teacher to spoon feed him/her. Rather, he sees the teacher as a facilitator of learning who challenges and inspires his learners and directs them to appropriate resources which they can use to construct meaningful solutions. A self directed learner draws a study time table, adopts meta cognitive strategies to enhance understanding, anticipates questions during regular lectures and during private studies, uses social media networks to enhance academic pursuit, asks relevant questions/participates actively in class activities, is very attentive in class and avoids disruptive behaviours.
  2. Parents are part of the problem. Instead of encouraging their wards to study hard and instead of monitoring them to ensure that they take their studies seriously, parent condone “sorting” and other forms of exam malpractice. I once chairmaned an end of year party for a newly established private school and was pitying the proprietor for spending so much money to build the structures and provide facilities. My calculation was that since he started with year 1, it would take him another five years to get to SSS3. I was very naïve. That same year the proprietor registered his school as a WAEC center. At the end of that exam, almost every candidate had the requisite five papers at credit level. The news spread like wild fire and the next year, transfer students over populated the school up to SSS level.
  3. The result of my simple question on the qualities of a good and bad teacher is very instructive and provides the material for teacher capacity enhancement workshops that can lead to teacher professionalism.


  1. Prof this is wonderful. It is what I may call leaning backward to see how best to help the present generation redeem themselves.


    • Thanks. A self directed learner can be helped to regain his or her self confidence. Most often students drift like a ship without rudder. Some come to their “crossing moments” on their own and decide to turn a new leaf for the better. From that moment of self awareness/self realization, they formulate a clear vision statement with clear action plan. Many students are unable to get to this point on their own and need to be guided. This is where professional guidance counselors and parents come in.


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