A Framework for 'Self-Directed Schooling' (SDS)

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

What I am proposing in this article is a framework that takes a philosophy for Self-Directed Learning and places it within the structure of "school" to create what I call Self-Directed Schooling (SDS). The introduction here will cover general background, followed by a brief overview of the elements in my SDS Framework.


A person who is purely "self-directed" in their education, without the aid of a teacher, is called an autodidact (in Greek, autos means 'self' and didaskein means 'teach'). There have been many autodidacts in human history, some who have become famous, but even more who have experienced a range of success - from an ordinary happy life to having made significant (albeit non-famous) discoveries and contributions to human civilization. More on autodidacts and self-directed learning can be found in this post.

Traditionally, for the last hundred years or so, a large percentage of people in the United States have been educated in a "school" - a building where educated adults instruct groups of students in various skills and concepts. Of course, with the 2020 pandemic, school has moved from the building to the digital space of online learning. Nevertheless, the authority by which skills and concepts are selected is often placed in the hands of the school's principal, or the teachers, using curricula based on academic expectations set forth by the state. This means that what students learn is often not at the sole discretion of the student - essentially, this is the opposite of autodidactic, or "self-directed", learning. More on authority and responsibility of learning can be found here.

Both Self-Directed Learning as well as traditional schooling have benefits and challenges.

Self-Directed Learning is heralded for its benefits in helping individuals learn how to learn. This philosophy places nearly one-hundred percent authority and responsibility for learning in the hands of the learner, with a focus on independence, ownership, and resourcefulness through a student-centered interest-focused learning environment. Unfortunately, this approach often finds its place in the homeschooling communities or privately-owned "co-op" facilities where a non-working parent or a paid mentor can oversee the health and safety of the self-directed learner.

Traditional schooling is often celebrated for its resources and its structural health and safety oversight for a large population of students as well as its consistent all-day schedule which aligns with typical working hours for families. Unfortunately, this approach tends to place more authority and responsibility for learning in the hands of the teachers, the principal, and the state, with an ideology for developing independence, ownership, and resourcefulness through a teacher-controlled instructional environment.

"I argue that not only can Self-Directed Learning philosophy exist within a schooling environment but that education is already evolving toward a co-existence of the two..."