E-Learning Insider Blog

Self Directed Learning


Defining Self Directed Learning

Below are several popular definitions of self directed learning that will help you develop a well rounded understanding.

"Self-direction in learning refers to both the external characteristics of an instructional process and the internal characteristics of the learner, where the individual assumes primary responsibility for a learning experience." - Brockett and Hiemstra (1991)

“Self directed learning is any increase in 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)

"Self directed learning can be viewed as a set of generic, finite behaviors; as a belief system reflecting and evolving from a process of self-initiated learning activity; or as an ideal state of the mature self-actualized learner" - Kasworm (1983)

Lastly, the following definition comes from Malcolm Knowles, an American Adult Educator, famous for the adoption of the theory of andragogy (the art or science of teaching adults).

 “A process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, to diagnose their learning needs, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes.” - Knowles (1975)

Relating it to Business

Companies may not be able to rely on all of their employees being self directed learners and in many cases the subject matter is just not feasible for self teaching, but in instances where it is possible, the benefits can include:

  • Reducing the costs over traditional training
  • Reducing the teaching/training load of the Safety Manager
  • Efficiency in learning by enabling learners to self learn only what they need to learn, potentially eliminating hours of unnecessary material.
  • Relevant for all, from senior management down to new hires.

The individual learner has the benefit of:

  • Taking control of their learning style (e.g., online, video, workbook, etc.)
  • Determining their time involved (e.g., focusing on only the elements needed)
  • Choosing when they want to learn
  • Selecting which topics they want to self teach
  • Choosing the order in which they want to learn the subject matter

Additionally, the learner builds a sense of pride and self-worth as he/she takes the initiative to pursue a learning experience, and is responsible for completing the learning.

Additional Observations

Self directed learning does not mean that the learner does not receive input from others, or works alone or in isolation. In its truest meaning, it means that the learner recognizes the need to learn, and hence takes complete control of their own learning experience. E-learning, where learners have the ability to log-in to a system and choose what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, can definitely be considered SDL, however, any other method of learning applies as well as long as the learner is assuming control of the entire process.

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Topics: Self Directed Learning