Originally published here.
Independent learning is learning that is sought out by the learner. It is defined by the motivation for learning. My learning experience changed dramatically once I started paying for my own education. I stopped seeing learning as a means to an end but as an end in itself. I recognized its inherent value (perhaps because I was aware of its monetary value). I began to recognize that newfound knowledge has value in itself. I still believe that everything I learn, enriches my life. When I am involved in a rich learning experience like participation in a conference or participation in a class, my enrichment is more focused and intense.
Motivation seems to me the key to independent learning. I am motivated by an intellectual curiosity. I regularly seek out independent learning opportunities.
I do not know if it is possible to teach someone to be self motivated. I am not know if motivation is a skill or not. I do think that curiosity can stimulated and if someone is curious or inquisitive, then they become intrinsically motivated. My life changed when I visited Europe in high school. When I realized how much broader the world was than I had assumed, I became curious about topics like art, geography, sociology, and history. I had not really even noticed these topics before. I began to participate in classes to feed my curiosity rather than just try to get a good grade.
Perhaps the motivation that drives independant learning can be stimulated through experience.