The Power of Self-Study in Adult Education

PIDP 3210 – Curriculum Development
Vancouver Community College
Kathryn Truant
November 27, 2016

Reflection: Respond to one key concept from a TED Talk:

TED Talk
Shimon Schocken: The self-organizing computer course (TEDGlobal 2012)


Instructors must provide an environment and the resources for students to learn on their own for real learning to occur, and to foster self-directed lifelong learners.

What caught my attention about this idea?

Computer Science professor Shimon Schocken (and his partner Noam Nisan) provided the first free open online course on how to build a computer, step by step, from “the ground up using first principles.” He was amazed by the power of self-study and the participants “tremendous passion to learn.” He refers to this phenomenon as a “hacker mentality,” meaning that learners have a strong desire to figure out how things work, and they want to do it in groups. As I watched the video I was struck by the similarities in Professor Schocken’s theories, and adult educator Malcolm Knowles’ principles of andragogy. Knowles suggests that students need to know why information is important, they need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction, they need to learn through experience and error, they prefer their information to be relevant, and they prefer to problem-solve rather than receive a fact-based curriculum (1984).

This places the power to learn into the hands of the learners. Professor Schocken also suggests that learners surround themselves with brilliant people to share personal experiences and strengths with each other to create a truly authentic and interactive learning experience.


Why did I choose this TED Talk? How do I identify with the key idea?

I relate to empowering my coworkers and students and sharing my knowledge, and in turn wanting to learn from their experiences. I need to positively reinforce successes and failures, which are all learning moments. Students need to feel comfortable and secure for them to adapt to new experiences, and to create an affecting momentum. As a facilitator with a student-centred approach, I need to be open to suggestion and collaboration from students and peers alike. Self-directed and lifelong learning are the goals of this approach.

An example of this from my own experience in staff training at an Oral Surgery group practice:

  1. Needs assessment of a new policy, skill, or procedure.
  2. Announce “in service” e.g. new software, charting, surgical protocol, safety standard, etc.
  3. Schedule staff meeting and post agenda: allow staff to help direct agenda.
  4. Meeting: discussion with input from staff.
  5. In service: explain and demonstrate.
  6. Provide time for practice before going “live.”
  7. Make myself available for support during learning process.

By the time that I am instructing, the staff know the what? why’s? and how’s? I believe that this approach also follows Bloom’s Taxonomy because my students are learning in all three domains in a systematic way because they are aware of the reason to learn (affective), and they are acquiring new knowledge (cognitive) and skills (psychomotor).


What does the key idea mean to me? What insights have I received from it? How has my thinking changed by reflecting on it?

In my opinion, a good instructor does not enable a learner by doing things for them; the best way to learn is to give a student direction and to have them do it themselves. It is okay however, to offer guided trial and error, hands-on opportunities. In his book, Human Memory, psychologist Gabriel Radvansky explains that “in addition to generating words and ideas, memory is better when people actually perform a task compared to watching someone else do it or reading about it” (2011, p.42). Performing a task is a form of enactment or rehearsal and Dr. Radvansky, like Shimon Schocken believe in the power of self-study in creating an authentic learning opportunity. Giving students the power and the resources to build a computer on their own will certainly create ownership of the acquired knowledge and inspire confidence.


How can this new or enhanced interpretation be applied to my professional practice?

Educator Jay Caulfield designs and teaches student-centred learning through a combination of in-class, online, and experiential activities called Hybrid Courses. “Hybrid courses place the primary responsibility of learning on the learner, thus making it the teacher’s primary responsibility to create opportunities and foster environments that encourage student learning, rather than simply telling students what they need to know” (2011, p. 4). This method of instruction provides the tools for students to problem-solve at their own pace; they can master a level before advancing on to the next, and knowledge and skills are built one step at a time.

All people have different strengths and Professor Schocken believed that surrounding oneself with “brilliant” people is key. Learn from each other, and have instructor and students alike contribute to the learning environment. As Caulfield argues, “the teacher’s primary role is encouraging students to become active knowledge seekers versus spoon-fed learners” (2011, p.7)

@Please refer to my Resources page for works cited