Have you heard of the word “autodidacticism”? It’s a compound word made from the roots auto- (Greek for self, same) and didacticism (education, learning). Autodidacticism therefore means “self-education” – the process of willingly immersing yourself in a body of knowledge in order to obtain new insights, skills, or information.
In other words, whenever you are teaching yourself something you’re considered a self-teacher, an autodidact.
An autodidact is someone who critically and willingly seeks out knowledge. Autodidacticism is by definition the informal, private, self-teaching process during which the self-educator gathers, processes, absorbs, and uses new knowledge.
Who’s an autodidact then?
Anyone can be an autodidact! An 8-year old girl who, led by curiosity, flicks through “Vanity Fair” (either the book or the magazine) is exhibiting an autodidactic tendency, for instance.
At any time when a person is making a focused attempt to acquire new knowledge in a private setting, this is considered autodidacticism. So, by and large, when a person expresses a motivation or willingness to learn something, he or she is an autodidact.
Autodidacticism fact sheet
- An autodidact is a self-educator, someone who is a teacher and a learner at the same time
- Autodidacticism is often carried out informally and privately, although an autodidact might consult and discuss with others to elaborate or challenge what he/she learns
- Autodidacticism can start at any point in a person’s life and end (or not) when desired
- Autodidacticism is not limited to using books; from craftsmanship skills to history and astronomy, virtually any material is considered an appropriate body of knowledge
- Autodidacticism stems from a person’s need to acquire more knowledge than other settings (school, family, friends) are capable of providing
- Autodidacticism is the result of human inquisitiveness, the urge to engage with lifelong learning on a discipline or matter you are passionate about
Key features of autodidacticism
- The self-learner has full control over their learning (from topic to knowledge depth, to study hours and learning approach)
- Autodidacticism is often spurred by the individual’s passion and thirst for knowledge
- Unlike conventional educational settings, autodidacticism is a conscious, self-imposed activity the learner takes great pleasure in
How do you become an autodidact?
Everyone at one point or another has engaged with autodidacticism. Reading a poem at school and then going to the public library to read more of that talented artist’s work, being inspired by a friend’s soap-making talent and then watching YouTube videos to learn how to make soap yourself, even trying out a new recipe – these are all examples of autodidacticism.
Find a hobby, craft, discipline, art, or sport you’re passionate about. The first step to mastering it is immersing yourself in the existing literature and documentation around it. This could be anything from books and online articles, to videos and discussions with experts about it.
Autodidacticism is greatly advanced when you have a fit, strong memory. A good memory helps you process and understand new knowledge at your own pace by recalling it often for deeper, critical processing.
Autodidacticism is a completely beneficial habit to acquire. It ensures you learn things of true interest that help you become a better qualified person in what you love and are passionate about. Being a self-taught individual gives you a discerning edge over those who don’t engage with lifelong self-directed learning. If there’s a good time to become an autodidact, it’s now!