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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


BLIGNAUT, Henry  e  DU TOIT-BRITS, Charlene. Challenges and implications for the implementation of self-directed learning during Covid-19. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.1, pp.150-168. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article focuses on the influence of school closures due to Covid-19 and their impact on South Africa's future labour force (current school learners) and school stakeholders (such as teachers and parents, among others) - specifically the challenges and implications for selfdirected learning (SDL). Ensuring that we all stayed safe during the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020 came at a price. Not all parents are trained teachers; however, those who could teach their children at home had to take the place of a temporary teacher to facilitate teaching through various means of online applications and tools used by dedicated teachers as communication channels. Only some learners were fortunate to have available parents, dedicated teachers, and infrastructure (good connectivity and data) for electronic devices. That said, we provide a brief reflection on the impact of Covid-19 in terms of: i) the foundation that ought to be layed for basic education, ii) that only particular learners benefited from online learning, iii) parent involvement, iv) the importance of a teacher during online learning, v) the emotional development of learners and the trauma they experienced due to Covid-19 and vi) how learners were empowered before Covid-19 to survive a pandemic. SDL was used as the theoretical framework in this research. We adopted this theoretical framework to emphasise its critical role in preparing our future workforce and demonstrate how its absence or under-promotion in schools might result in delays similar to those seen during the Covid-19 lockdown school closures. We provide an in-depth discussion on the advantages of SDL for learners if promoted in the classroom. We further highlight that the key to SDL being an advantage depends on considering the type of learner, the type of teacher, and the learning environment. It is also emphasised that if SDL was not promoted in classrooms before the Covid-19 pandemic, learners could have experienced challenges during the lockdown that possibly affected their education. In other words, a learning environment void of SDL may promote traditional education and surface learning, among others. The impact of Covid-19 is discussed. Basic education serves as a building block for grades to which learners need to progress. Substantial problems that may be experiencedfor at least ten years (Van der Berg & Spaull, 2020) could emerge due to a long pause in children's education during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools had to close for an undetermined period. It is not easy to catch up on the education that did not occur during the six months of school closure when a learner has been promoted to the next grade to progress with their peers. Parents who had to fulfil the role of temporary facilitators and mediators (between the teacher, technology, and the learner) could not completely take the place of the teacher, as most parents were not trained teachers, nor could they provide the school environment with which learners were familiar and needed for holistic development and stability. Moreover, only some parents couldfacilitate learning for their children, as only some homes were equipped with the necessary technology and infrastructure. Thus, not all learners benefited from online learning. In our view, reflecting on how learners were prepared before the Covid-19 pandemic is essential - specifically regarding their ability to think for themselves, formulating learning aims and opinions, working analytically with content, and drawing conclusions (§ 4.3.1; 5). These abilities, which can also be recognised as SDL principles, are deemed necessary during at-home learning.1 Rethinking education is required to guarantee that students are equipped for future pandemics and that significant gaps in their knowledge do not exist. Reflecting on education to achieve such goals may be accomplished with SDL via more learner-centred teaching techniques and augmented and assisted by technology. Furthermore, among other issues, we discuss the challenges that school stakeholders may experience because of school closures due to Covid-19, with specific reference to challenges that apply in this context. Some of these challenges include the desire and eagerness to learn and use technology to enhance teaching and learning. The preceding argument refers to lifelong learning and the promotion thereof in teacher training programmes. Moreover, another challenge is that, in 2021, learners had to be promoted to the next grade to progress with their peers. The implication is that they could not continue with the work they had stopped in 2020 and consequently had to start with new work for the particular grade to which they progressed. Learners who were disadvantaged before the Covid-19 outbreak could find themselves more disadvantaged with their return to school: they may find learning in the new grade problematic due to a weak or shallow foundation laid during the brief period they did attend formal education. The challenge is increased pressure on teachers to catch up on teaching and learning lost over and above the teaching and learning in the new grade. The need for a paradigm shift in education is underscored - in other words, recon-ceptualising education as a phenomenon beyond school walls, considering education as part and parcel of life. Specific reference was made to the importance of lifelong learning as an SDL skill that needs to be learned from an early age and fostered and promoted throughout life, as it can contribute to acquiring the required 21st-century skills needed to survive as part of the labour force in the 4IR. Moreover, it is vital to bridge any gaps between the curriculum and actual classroom practice related to the development of 21st-century skills. We suggest that curriculum pedagogy, teacher training, assessment and the labour market be aligned. To conclude, the implications of Covid-19 and school closures during this time for education practice are highlighted. For example, learners who need additional attention due to gaps in their education are attended to, whilst others who need less attention are neglected. Another implication is that teachers must become self-directed and skilled to use technology at advanced levels; otherwise, they may be replaced by new, better and more-skilled teachers. Additionally, for learners to be skilled to function at a level where they are self-directed, teachers need to adapt their teaching, learning and assessment practices to promote the following: i) critical thinking; ii) critical self-reflection on the learning process; iii) digital skills and the use of technology to enhance teaching and learning; iv) emotional intelligence; v) communication skills; vi) resilience; vii) adaptability; and viii) flexibility, among others. Furthermore, it is vital to highlight the non-empowerment of learners. Here, we refer to teaching methods in classrooms that do not enable learners to learn through technology and do not enable them to experiment, perform dramas, participate in role-play or debates, complete projects, or solve problems. Teaching learners in traditional ways do not promote SDL skills, making it difficult for learners to progress in their schoolwork inside and outside the classroom, especially when they must learn at home and get on with their schoolwork during a pandemic.

Palavras-chave : Self-directed learning (SDL); Covid-19; lockdown; learners; online learning; teachers; 21st century; Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); labour force.

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