You Don’t Need Feedback; You Need Self-Directed Learning

You Don't Need Feedback - You Need Self-Directed Learning - The Classical Unschooler

You know that old saying about when the student is ready, the teacher will appear? I never put much stock in that one.

There’s a wonderful lie out there against self directed learning; it’s the lie of needing feedback. You may have heard it. It goes something like this:

“Oh, I’d love to learn something, but I can’t because I don’t have someone teaching me. I don’t have feedback.”

To get the basic objection to my argument out of the way, let me just admit that to some degree this is valid. Yes, you need some feedback. You need to know if you’re on the right track, you need basic help and some interaction. Mainly, you need someone to stop you when you are trying to do something and doing it wrong.

But read that last line again: you need someone to stop you when you are trying to do something and doing it wrong.

You are the one doing it. You are the one deciding to do it. You are the one in the driver’s seat, so to speak. You should be the one driving the car.

Unfortunately, when someone says they can’t learn anything because they don’t have feedback, it’s because they can’t envision themselves actually in the driver’s seat. They don’t want to be there. They want someone else driving the car for them – after the car has been brought to them. They want to copy, to follow.

They want to be taught. They say, in essence, You do it. Then, I’ll learn.

See the difference?

Education should not be something someone bestows upon us. It should rather be something we actively pursue.

When I hear the argument of needing feedback, I think, no. You’re just arguing for your own limitations and making them yours. When you’re starting out, you don’t need that much feedback from other people.

Especially as an adult, you are free to participate in self directed learning without needing to be pushed, goaded and cajoled. We are in the information age, after all.

You don’t need feedback. What you need, maybe – and that’s a big maybe – is accountability and interaction around the new activity you’re undertaking. You want to remain interested, have a chance to share what you’re learning and sharpen your skills. (And yes, as mentioned before, someone to stop you when you make mistakes.)

The problem arises when you think you have to pay someone to get this. You don’t.

That’s institutionalized, coercive, public school thinking.

It gets you efficiency, I’ll admit – 12 lessons on piano in 3 months for x amount of dollars, for instance – but you cannot mistake mere efficiency for education.

“All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.” – Sir Walter Scott

Seriously, what’s your hurry? Embracing a lifetime of education, a lifestyle of learning can mean learning at leisure, at your own pace; it can mean individualized, self-centered (in the best meaning of the word) education. Why would you trade all that and pay someone for the benefit of just efficiency? Why would you miss out on all the fun? For some sort of certificate?


Not too long ago, when public schools were non-existent, (incidentally, contrary to popular opinion, it is public school that is an experiment, not homeschooling) people did learn on their own. In fact, in that list are mingled autodidacts of today – people who were basically self-taught.

The feedback argument is tired and worn.

When you use needing feedback from people as an argument against self directed learning, what you’re saying in a very safe, sort of covert way, is that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of learning something new.

And that’s not a bad thing, really. Because you know what’s worse?

What’s worse is not learning.

What’s worse is waiting and waiting until the perfect teacher stops by and decides to teach you, to put you in that car, hold your hand, show you how it’s done and expect you to follow.

That’s worse.

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Author: Purva Brown

Writer / blogger at - unapologetically blending two seeming opposites.

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