Mini Lesson 2

What is a Self-Directed Learner?


  • What do we mean by ...
    • Self-Directed
    • Confident
    • Competent
    • Caring



What does it mean to be a graduate? We talk about going on Journey with the intention of getting into college. Yes, that is one of the things we would like to help you accomplish. Our language around Learning Opportunities and Evidence of Learning and Telling Your Story is in service of this goal, getting into college. But there is a deeper objective, too. One that goes beyond college.

Our mission statement at is, "Growing Self-Directed Learners who are Confident, Competent, and Caring." That is what really underlies our philosophy, our tools, and our methods. We believe that graduates who are Self-Directed, Confident, Competent, and Caring will not only make successful college students but they will be better human beings and contribute to making the world a better place.

So... it might help to define these terms a little bit better.

How Do You Recognize Self-Directed, Confident, Competent, and Caring?


  • Do you take projects and ideas and run with them, or do you do the minimum, and in a perfunctory way?
  • How well do you perform when asked to take initiative on a project?
  • To what extent do you want to take charge of their own learning?
  • Would you rather follow along a pre-designed path or blaze your own trail?
  • Are you an advocate for your own needs?

Patience, Persistence, Perseverance

  • Are you stopped by obstacles, or do you find or invent ways to continue?
  • Can you explore a topic on your own, handle open-ended problems or do you always need a series of steps to follow?
  • How much detailed direction do you require? Do you insist on having everything spelled out– told exactly what to do?
  • Do you tackle goals in which it might take a long time to develop the needed skills, knowlege, or ability or do you only take on things that you can succeed in quickly?

Manage a Project or a Group

  • How well do you work with others on group projects, tasks, or activities?
  • Can you take a project, define it, break it into tasks, schedule the tasks so that the group completes them, and finish the project on deadline, up to standard, and with an internal understanding of why it was important?
  • Are you a good leader or a good follower where necessary?

Practice Deliberately - Chopping Wood

  • Can you practice on your own to assimilate the skills necessary to meet a goal? Or does the practice have to be mandatory and directed?
  • Can you develop and stick to habits and routines rather than only relying on inspiration?
  • Do you understand the distractions and temptations that you are susceptible to and can you develop ways of working around, working with, or beating those temptations and distractions?
  • Can you overcome the expected and unexpected challenges that might emerge to make Deliberate Practice difficult?

Relevant knowledge, skills, and experience

  • Have you acquired the relevant knowledge, skills, and experience you will need in your next level of learning?
  • Do you have enough self-knowledge and metacognitive knowledge about how you learn and how your mind works?
  • Can you use that self-knowledge to put yourself in the best position to accomplish your goals?

Motivation and self-confidence

  • Do you have the confidence and motivation to continue to pursue your goals or make adjustments if your goals change?
  • Do you pursue meaning and purpose in your life?
  • Do you have the confidence to try new things and take chances without guarantees of success?
  • Do you have the confidence to seek out help when you need it?
  • Do you have the confidence to self-assess without unfairly comparing yourself to others?
  • Do you have the confidence to realize that you still need to develop additional skills, knowledge, or abilities?
  • Do you have the confidence to see your failures or mistakes as part of the journey to reaching your goal?

Curiosity, Playfulness, and Openness to Experience

  • Are you willing to be curious and inquisitive?
  • Do you allow youself to have fun and be playful?
  • Are you open to new experiences and willing to explore the unknown?

Helping others and contributing to communities

  • Do you contribute to the success of others?
  • Do you seek to help those in need?
  • Do you demonstrate empathy and compassion?
  • Do you participate as part of the community?
  • Do you see yourself as a contributing member of other communities?
  • Do you pursue goals that lift up other people or communities?

Well Being

  • Do you take the time and effort for your own happiness, well being, and life satisfaction?
  • Do you have or are your working towards healthy habits of eating, sleeping, exercising?
  • Do you work towards practicing attitudes of: gratitude, savoring, forgiveness, kindness?
  • Do you build time affluence into your life?
  • Do you experience moments of awe in your life?
  • Do you have social connections in your life?
  • Do you practice mindfulness in some manner?
  • Do you consider others - compassion, altruism, empathy?

Situational Learning

  • Can you put yourself in a position to learn given a range of external factors?
  • Can you find the best set and setting for your immediate work?
  • Can you identify an appropriate Learning Opportunity for different learning situations?
  • Do you understand there is more than one way to learn well? And more than one way to demonstrate learning?
  • Do you understand your own Signature Strengths and do you put yourself in a position to utilize your Signature Strengths?

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