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Self-directed Learning Award 2018

****Congratulations to Matthew Downer, recipient of the 2018 Award for Outstanding Self-directed Learning. Read Matthew’s submission essay here.****

The Memorial University Award for Outstanding Self-directed Learning celebrates undergraduate students with the qualities and skills that enable them to manage their own learning and successfully undertake self-directed learning projects. Recipients receive a $1000 cash award.

To apply, undergraduate students must submit an application package that includes an essay describing their self-directed learning efforts, a resume, and letters of support (details below).

The application deadline is January 29, 2018.

Award History


Today’s students have greater access to and more choice in activities and resources to pursue their learning goals than did generations of students before them. Aided by an emphasis on experiential learning, the opportunities afforded by the Internet and digital technologies, and Memorial University’s commitment to engagement with the wider community, many of our students are gaining knowledge and skills outside of traditional classroom environments.

Memorial has established the Award for Outstanding Self-directed Learning to celebrate undergraduate students with the qualities and skills that enable them to manage their own learning and successfully undertake self-directed learning projects.

Based on the foundational definition provided by Knowles (1975), self-directed learning is a process in which the design, conduct, and evaluation of a learning project are initiated and controlled by the learner, with or without the assistance of others.

Students recognized by this award are curious, creative, independent, confident, and persistent—well equipped to become life-long self-directed learners.

One award is bestowed annually. The recipient is recognized with a $1000 cash award and a framed certificate. The recipient will also be invited to make a presentation to undergraduate students about their self-directed learning experience.

The Award was established in 2016 and is an initiative of the Teaching and Learning Framework as per Teaching and Learning Framework: Strategic Plan 2014-2017 (November 2014).



All current undergraduate students enroled in a degree, certificate or diploma programs at any campus of Memorial, full-time or part-time, who are in good standing are invited to apply.



Applicants must provide clear and substantiated evidence of outstanding achievement and creativity in self-directed learning. Reviewers will also look for evidence that the applicant has reflected on the significance of the experience in terms of personal growth, knowledge and skills gained. For example, evidence of reflection from Nicholas’ Brown 2016 submission essay is: “The project enabled me not only to hone my diving skills, but also to learn and practice an essential exercise before entering the water: planning.… The planning improved my leadership and team working abilities when coordinating with Dr. Gagnon and his team. I became more independent, learned to take initiative, and be more efficient.”

Achievement: Applicants will have achieved significant learning outcomes as a result of their self-directed learning experience(s). They will demonstrate initiative, independence, and critical reflection in planning, carrying out, and evaluating their learning. They will explain the context in which the desire for new knowledge or skills was recognized and identify their learning goals; describe and provide a rationale for the learning resources and strategies used; explain how the learning was evaluated; and reflect on the degree to which the goals were achieved and to which the experience was transformative.

Creativity: Applicants will demonstrate originality or innovation in their self-directed learning experience(s). They will highlight opportunities and challenges that required creativity in finding, developing, or using learning resources or strategies; in overcoming challenges to their learning plan (in terms of time, skills, location, money, etc.); or in practicing, applying, or evaluating the knowledge and skills they gained.

Outstanding self-directed learning will be determined by any of the following:

  • the scope, complexity, and/or depth of the learning goals
  • the amount of personal time, energy, and resources committed to the learning task
  • the range of resources and strategies considered and their appropriateness to the outcomes
  • the level of creativity or innovation demonstrated in seeking and using learning resources and strategies; in overcoming challenges or limitations; or in identifying opportunities to practice, apply, and test new knowledge and skills
  • the rise and pursuit of new or related areas of inquiry
  • the degree to which the experience was transformational for the learner


The applicant may provide information related to self-directed learning projects prior to becoming a student at Memorial but the Selection Committee’s decision will be influenced primarily by the activities and experiences that have taken place while enrolled as an undergraduate student at Memorial.

Here are some self-directed learning examples to give you an idea of what self-directed learning looks like.

How do I apply?


A student who wishes to be considered for this award must submit an application package consisting of the following:

  • A completed Cover Sheet 2018.
  • A three-page (single-spaced) essay describing the self-directed learning experiences. The essay should:
    – provide the background or context of the learning experience and explain how the need or desire for new knowledge or skills was recognized;
    – identify the specific learning outcomes;
    – explain how learning resources and strategies were identified and used;
    – demonstrate critical reflection in all stages of the process;
    – provide evidence of success in achieving the learning outcomes; and
    – describe how the experience has benefitted or will benefit the applicant and, if applicable, others.
  • A résumé (maximum of 5 pages) which contextualizes the applicant’s learning experience
  • Two or three letters of support (maximum of 2 pages each) from individuals who can comment on aspects of the applicant’s self-directed learning project and its outcomes, and on the personal qualities of the applicant that have enabled them to be successful as a self-directed learner. At least one letter must be written by a Memorial University faculty member, lecturer, or staff member who is able to verify the applicant’s self-directed learning activities and assess achievement of the learning outcomes. Applicants are encouraged to provide their supporters with a copy of the award criteria.


Optional: A copy of the applicant’s Co-Curricular Record may be submitted if it contains information applicable to the award criteria.

Note: Applications will stand for two consecutive years. Applicants who are unsuccessful in their initial application will be considered for the award in the following year if still an undergraduate student at Memorial.

Format of application documents

The description of the self-directed learning project(s) must be:

– no longer than three typed pages
– single spaced
– 12-point type
– 1-inch margins

Application documents and a completed cover sheet must be either placed in a sealed envelope and delivered or mailed (postmarked on or before deadline date) to:

Memorial University Award for Outstanding Self-directed Learning
c/o Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning
ED3006, G. A. Hickman (Education) Building
Memorial University of Newfoundland
St. John’s, NL A1B 3X8

or emailed to .

The deadline for applications is 4:30 p.m., Monday, January 29, 2018.

For information about this award, please contact:

Allyson MacNeill-Hajek
ED2000N, G. A. Hickman (Education) Bldg.
(709) 864-4064

Previous Recipients

2017 – Daniel Rees, Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Read Daniel’s application essay.

2016 – Nicholas Brown, Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science. Read Nicholas’ submission essay.