Self-directed learning (SDL) is listed as a key component of the 21st century skill for adult learners. Self-directed learning is viewed as a process “in which a learner assumes primary responsibility for planning, implementing and evaluating the learning process” (Brockett and Hiemstra 1991). Self –directed learners learn more things and learn better than teacher –directed learners (TDL). The goal of lifelong learning is to equip people with skills and competencies to continue their own “self-education” beyond the borders of formal education. Online learning is also closely associated with self-directed learning from both the process and the personal attribute perspective. American Association of Colleges and Universities (2002, 2007) suggests that a major goal of higher education is to create lifelong learners – intentional, independent, self-directed learners, who can acquire, retain and retrieve new knowledge on their own. Now a days there is increasing recognition of the importance self-directed learning within higher education. Knowles (1975) views self-directed learning as an inherent characteristic of adults, closely related to a natural process of professional and psychological development.
Basic ideas of self-directed learning
The concept of SDL consists of three distinctive ideas: (1) A self-initiated process of learning that stresses individual’s ability to plan and manage his/her own learning. (2) An attribute or characteristic of learners with personal autonomy as its hallmark. (3) A way of organizing instruction in formal settings that allows for greater learner control (Cafferella 1993). Self-directed learning is also named, “self-teaching, independent learning, autonomous learning, individual learning, self-initiated learning, self-instruction, self-study and self-education.”
Goals of self-directed learning
The goals of SDL can be grouped as follows: (1) to enhance the ability of adult learners to be self directed in their learning ; (2) to foster transformational learning as central to SDL; (3) to promote emancipatory learning and social action as an integral part of SDL.
Characteristics of self-directed learners
- Independent in learning;
- Effective in learning;
- Accepting of responsibility for learning, and
- Able to use problem solving skills.
Competencies for being a self directed learner (Knowles 1995)
- Understanding the differences between teacher- directed and self-directed learning;
- Determining one’s concept as a self-directed being;
- Relating to peers collaboratively and as resources for learning;
- Diagnosing learning needs and formulating objectives;
- Viewing teachers as facilitators;
- Identifying other resources;
- Collecting and validating evidence of accomplishments.
Knowles (1995) defined SDL as a process in which individuals take the initiative’ without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating those learning outcomes.
Self- directed learning is any knowledge, skill, accomplishment or personal development that an individual selects and brings about by his or her own efforts using any method in any circumstances at any time (Gibbons 2002).
Steps in SDL (Knowles 1975)
The learners undergo following steps: (1) climate setting; (2) diagnosing learning needs; (3) formulating learning goals; (4) identifying human and material resources for learning; (5) choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies; and (6) evaluating learning outcomes.
Advantages of SDL
- Self-directed learning promotes self-confidence, initiative, perseverance and life satisfaction.
- Self-directed learning helps learners to be motivated, independent, self-reflective, self-disciplined and goal oriented.
- Self-directed learning provides opportunities to pursue wider range of interests other than the usual school curriculum.
- Self-directed learners can gain new skills, knowledge and attitudes to improve their work performances.
- Self-directed learning in higher education provides opportunities for adult learners to learn how to learn as well as lifelong learning.
- Self-directed learning can not only leads to be more effective learning, but can also result in immediate professional successes.
Disadvantages of SDL
- Self-directed learning is prone to frequent errors.
- Self-directed learning is quite time consuming.
SDL refers to an instructional method. SDL is compatible with any and all learning styles and strategies. SDL is a process of learning appropriate for adults, who weaned away from traditional educational consumption. Self-directed learning is fully an autonomous learning. Personal autonomy is the hallmark of SDL. Self-directed learners take full responsibility for their education. SDL is a process that centres on the activities of planning, implementing and evaluating learning. Self – direction does not mean the learner learns alone or in isolation. SDL occurs outside of formal institutions. SDL is NOT time –dependent. SDL is a tool for lifelong learning. SDL provides a foundation for transformative learning. Educators can facilitate learners become increasingly able to assume personal responsibility for their own learning (Brockett and Hiemstra1991). Educational institutions at all levels can prepare learners for a life of self-direction.
Self-direction in learning is a way of life (Brockett and Hiemstra 1991).