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24 Core Questions for Self-Directed Learners

24 Core Questions for Self-directed learners

How can you be a self-directed learner?

Ask yourself these questions:


What do I want to learn?

What are my goals?

What are my next steps?

What problem can I solve?

What can I contribute?


Why does this matter to me and the world?


Who else is interested  in this?

Who might have suggestions for learning?

Who can give me feedback?

Who can I connect with?

Who can I help?


Where do I want to learn this?

Where can I find resources?

Where can I contribute?


How can I learn best in this situation?

How do I know I have learned enough?

How am I doing?

How can I improve?

How can I learn more?


When will I learn this?

When do I learn best?

When will I finish?

When will I self-evaluate and re-evaluate?

When can I help others?

You can use these questions for self-directed learners as a starting point to set your own goals for learning.

Core Questions for Self-directed Learners at www.LisaNalbone.comIt doesn’t matter what situation you are in. You can choose to reclaim and direct your learning.

What questions do you ask yourself when you are learning something new?  What questions would you add?

12 thoughts on “24 Core Questions for Self-Directed Learners”

  1. Pingback: 15 Ways to Kickstart Your Curiosity | Lisa Nalbone

  2. Pingback: What is Self-Directed Learning? | Lisa Nalbone

  3. Pingback: 24 Core Questions for Self-Directed Learners- ANSWERED | Raising Miro on the Road of Life - Travel Podcast

  4. learning.all.the.time

    Hi Shawnda, I am so glad you are finding value in the conversation here. I am planning some blog posts to explain more about what my approach to unschooling is. It is so wonderful that we are able to choose what works best for our families. I invite you to take a look at some of my other posts, such as my ABC’s of Learning Beyond School Series or my Mother’s Tips on Raising a Theil Fellow, which give a deeper look at my philosphy and practice than can be gleaned from this single post.

  5. I find a lot of value in what Christina has said. I’ve often wondered what the thoughts on unschooling are and how they are different from what we’re doing with homeschooling, which is why I clicked on this article. It is helpful to see both the questions written out and to hear Christina’s thoughts on the matter.

  6. learning.all.the.time

    Christina, I’m torn between feeling judged by your presumptions about me and celebrating that my questions inspired you to think further about your own values and approach to learning. Have you seen this post, What’s the Key to Trust?
    I encourage people to start with the letter T, because T is for Trust.

  7. My kids are 13, 6 & 3.

    I learned about Unschooling 6 years ago in 2007 as I was researching Homeschooling because it was very clear that my oldest child’s learning style was NOT a match to what they were doing in school.

    I can’t remember the exact website where I first saw the concept. At that time I was desperately searching for answers – staying up until 3am every night reading all over the internet about other people’s experiences with home education. I knew I had to take my kid out of school, but I also knew that doing school-at-home was NOT a good choice for us because we were basically already doing that each night with homework and THAT was a nightmare.

    My thoughts on the 24 core questions: I guess they could be a good starting point for someone who WANTS some guidance or who is SO used to being directed that they feel lost when trying to jump to entirely self-directed learning. However, I believe that remembering how to be a self-directed learner is best accomplished when the person is encouraged to find their own way. If we continue to “direct” them even with “suggested questions” aren’t we perpetuating their need to be directed? When we tell someone how to do something we can miss a chance to help them gain confidence in their abilities to do it themselves.

    Now, I’m not saying to never offer help, but in my mind the first way to help someone who doesn’t trust themselves and their abilities is to say, “I TRUST YOU to come up with the questions that will take you in the right direction.” If they are stuck or otherwise asking for guidance I might ask them a couple of questions from this list, but those questions would arise naturally because of the situation, not because I looked at a list.

    I’m realizing that one thing that feels “off” to me about the list is that it presumes that “learning” looks like what you might find in school. And it seems to presume a lot of “shoulds” about learning. Maybe this is because the list is intended for people who are used school type instruction and for people who are worried about their teenagers and what kids SHOULD learn at that age in preparation for “real life.”

    Fair enough, but learning at my house doesn’t look like this at all. And I believe that real learning actually looks nothing like what we usually see in school. At our house we don’t sit down and say, “Today I want to begin learning about XYZ.” We just see things that interest us and then a question arises naturally and we set off to answer it.

    These 2 questions from the list seemed especially unnecessary to me:
    “How do I know I have learned enough?”
    “When will I finish?”

    And I’m going to go so far as to say they perpetuate a myth in our culture that learning has an ending.

    I know I have learned enough because I have no more questions about the thing – for now. But tomorrow or in 6 months a question might arise on the topic. When that happens I will try find the answer. That could lead to more questions or it could lead to an interest in another topic entirely. For me and my kids it is just an organic process of living life and answering the questions that arise as we explore the world.

    From my perspective we are NEVER finished learning, and in our house we do not divide our learning up into subjects or “chunks of learning” that begin and end. My hope is that one day we can change the cultural myth that learning begins when we reach a certain age and start going to a certain building each day at 8 am. That learning ends at 3 o’clock or that it ends when you graduate from high school or college or graduate school or even when you finish a “self-directed learning project.” I hope more of us can move beyond the idea we are ever “done” with learning or growing or becoming more. So many in our society are so busy chasing an end goal that we lose the joy that comes from the process of achieving our goals. We forget the value of each step along the way because we only value the end result.

    At first I thought maybe I was missing something about how this list of questions could apply to my family. They are a lovely offering for someone who is looking for something like this, but aside from possibly perpetuating myths about learning, I also wonder if suggesting these questions could perpetuate the very dependence we are hoping to eradicate as we work to empower people in learning under their own direction.

    My advice for those people would be – trust yourself – the right questions are inside you and those questions will guide you to the right materials and resources and people that can help you learn the things you want to know.

    And for parents I would say: trust your kids and the questions they naturally come up with. And trust yourself to guide your kids when they are stuck and asking for guidance.

    As a society we have a habit of looking to “experts” for answers – even answers about what questions to ask and about how to learn. What I want people to know is this: We all are born knowing how to learn, and letting our natural curiosity guide us and help us formulate questions is going to lead us in the right direction every time.

    We ALL already have what it takes to be self-directed learners!

  8. Pingback: Self-Directed Learning: Do you have what it takes? | Radiant Living & Learning

  9. learning.all.the.time

    Hi Christina, thanks for your comment. Good points. I agree,if your learning is truly self-directed you are probably already asking yourself similar types of questions related to your interests. I guess I should have written an introduction. I didn’t intend them as a text, or dogma or the only “right” questions but more as a starting point, if needed. I often get asked by people who are in school, or who’s children are schooled how to start self-directed learning. Some people are so unfamiliar with doing their own projects without being directed by a teacher or curriculum they want a starting place. Another situation might be when an unschooler decides to take a community college class or join a club that is run in a more traditional teacher led style with a set curriculum. I think using these questions can help keep the mindset on what the learner wants to accomplish rather than just meeting external goals, and reinforce the idea that even if you choose classes at some point, you are still the driver in your own learning. When I was a classroom teacher I attempted to get the students to ask themselves these types of questions no matter what subjects we were covering, hoping to put the direction somewhat back in their hands.

    I also have people who have home schooled or unschooled in the early years tell me they feel more nervous about their children approaching high school level. I thought perhaps seeing the basic list of questions might remind people of what they already know and reassure them that it is not that hard to direct your own learning. At any age.

    What ages are your children? How did you get introduced to unschooling? Do you think looking at any list like this is too confining? Do you see any way it could be useful? I’d love to hear your thoughts and more about your situation. Lisa

  10. These are nice but I’m curious about the application. In what kinds of situations would you use this list?

    We are Unschoolers so I believe that the “right” questions come up naturally in the course of exploring one’s interests.
    If your learning is truly self directed, why would you need to use somebody else’s list of questions?

  11. learning.all.the.time

    Great suggestions. Those are critical questions since if we don’t make the time to work on new learning projects, then nothing happens. Thanks, Carrie.

  12. What would I be willing to give up to have time for this? If I’m not willing to make space for it now will I be ready to do so later? Sometimes I’m just collecting ideas for learning. I may need a Pinterest board for that.

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