Self-directed learning is unlimited in its extent and significance. Self-directed learning efforts can meet several challenges associated with today’s demands of keeping abreast on new information and continually changing knowledge. Self-directed learners can become empowered to carry on the desired learning and are able to transfer learning where the skill or knowledge is needed. Self-directed learning is a trait in every adult but in varying degrees and different learning circumstances and does not necessarily mean all learning is due to the learner, but it could also involve others as well.
Self-Directed Learning is Controlled by the Learner
According to Cross (1992), self-directed learning is controlled by the learner. The learner chooses what he or she wants to learn, when and where it should be learned, and how it should be learned. Cross (1992) further stated that self-directed learning occurs in an orderly fashion as initiated by the learner: (1) identification of the problem; (2) acceptance of the need to learn; (3) formulation of objectives, and (4) finding reliable resources for proper learning.
Theorists’ Views of Self-Directed Learning
Humanists support the self-directed learner’s control and freedom for selective learning. Self-directed learning allows the learners to select the stimuli to which they wish to respond, in their own preferred ways. Humanistic psychologists maintain that the learners’ behavior and actions are products of their concept of self, and not a response to a set of stimuli selected by another person.
Behaviorist B.F. Skinner emphasized that some principles of self-directed learning have their roots in behaviorism such as: (1) a motivated learner learns more readily than one who is not motivated; (2) active participation is preferable to passive reception; and (3) the skills necessary for self-directed learning are closely related to the process of behavior-modification.
The cognitive theorists, particularly the work of Piaget, suggest that people differ in their self-direction in learning because of the developmental stage the learner is in and their interaction with the environment. These theories further emphasize that the sequencing of learning content (knowledge, skills, processes) based on the learner guides self-directed learning. It has also facilitated the realistic setting of self-learning goals and intended learning outcomes.
The concept of self-directed learning from the constructivists’ point of view is in conformity with the integrative point of view which is based on Gestalt theorists. Both recognize the importance of self-directed learners in the learning process, their interests, attitudes, and abilities to use past experiences in meeting new situations. Both believe that there is no substitute for experience in the self-direction learning process.
Self-directed learning is a lifelong process. Self-directed learners are aware of their own learning desires and interests, confident of their learning abilities based on previous learning experiences, capable of setting their own goals in learning, are able to choose strategies for learning, are capable of being self-motivated and self-disciplined, understand the process of learning, and are aware of their own learning skills, including strengths and weaknesses in learning.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development
Cross, K. P. (1992). Adults as learners: Increasing participation and facilitating learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.