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SDL Key People

Page history last edited by Jeff Beard 11 years, 8 months ago
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Key people that have contributed to the development of SDL and their perspectives


Ralph Brockett and Roger Hiemstra


  • "[E]mbrace the view that the concept of self-direction in adult learning should not be limited to the term self-directed learning and be seen as a part of a broader concept" (Owen, 2002, p. 7).
  • Umbrella Concept: Self-direction in learning involves personal responsibility and can be thought of as an instructional strategy and a personal characteristic (see PRO Model on Trends page) and has "two distinct, but related dimensions" (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p.24)
    1. Process where the "learner assumes primary responsibility for planning, implementing, and evaluating the learning process" (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 24).
    2. Learner self-direction and "centers on a learner's desire or preference for assuming responsibility for learning" (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 24).
  • "Thus, 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 & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 24).



Stephen D. Brookfield 


  • Considers the cognitive and behavioral perspectives of self-directed learning (Brookfield, 1986)
    • A cognitive process "whereby we learn how to change perspectives, shift our paradigms, and replace one way of interpreting the word by another (Brookfield, 1986, p. 19).
  • Owen (2002) examined Brookfield's evolving definition of SDL pointing out that Brockett and Hiemstra (1991) had noted that it is necessary to not only know "who had offerend a particular definition, but when it was offered" (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p. 21).
    • Brookfield (1981a)- independent adult learning describing process where learners generate goals, identify resources, rate their progress, and evaluate themselves
    • Brookfield (1984)- self-directed learning to highlight the differences between learning (internal change in consciousness) and education (the act of learning)
    • Brookfield (1986)- self-directed learning in describing a cognitive process grounded in reflection and action
    • Brookfield (1988)- distinguished learning from "the educational setting or mode in which such learning occurs" (Brookfield, 1988, p. 16).
    • Brookfield (1993)- reverted back to the use of self-directed learning as a critical theory of adult education. (Owen, 2002, p. 7).
    • Suggested that "the field of adult education will continue to see SDL in a negative vein" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 173).



Rosemary Caffarella


  • Suggested that SDL not be considered as the "epitome...of adult learning" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 177).
  • Some cultures need more direction and so SDL would not be effective as the culture functions different than in America. She has observed foreign graduate students struggling with SDL as it opposes their cultural traditions (Donaghy 2005).
  • Future vision for SDL should move to different ways of thinking about studying SDL and using SDL for "societal good and public good" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 179).



Philip Candy


  • Definition of self-direction is made up of four tenets
    • interaction between person and environment
    • knowledge as tentative, evanescent, and socially constructed
    • learning as qualitative shift in how phenomena are viewed
    • individuals as engaging in complex, mutually interdependent relationships with their environments (Candy, 1991)
  • Self-Direction as an outcome of education from self-direction as a method of education (Owen, 2002)
  • In a critical analysis of the term "self-direction" through a review of literature and synthesis of research findings, Candy (1988) concluded that self-direction has been used
    • "(i) as a personal quality or attribute (personal autonomy)
    • (ii) as the independent pursuit of learning outside formal instructional settings (autodidaxy)
    • (iii) as a way of organizing instruction (learner-control)" (p. 1033-A).
    • Candy is essentially taking the distinction even further by differentiating between the learning process taking place both within and outside of the institutional setting. (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991, p.23)



Lucy M. Guglielmino


  • "[S]elf-direction in learning can occur in a wide variety of situations, ranging from a teacher-directed classroom to self-planned and self-conducted learning projects" (Guglielmino, 1977, p. 34).
  • Believes that, "certain learning situations tend to promote self-directed learning better than others" (Owen, 2002, p. 3).
  • Personal characteristics of the learner "ultimately determine whether self-directed learning will take place in a given learning situation, The self-directed learner more often chooses or influences the learning objectives, activities, resources, priorities and levels of energy expenditure than does the other-directed learner" (Guglielmino, 1977, p. 34).
  • Suggested, "if you are going to have a successful democratic society, you have to have...thinking, reflecting...self-directed learners" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 182).

Carol Kasworm


  • 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, p. 1).

  • Feels that the current focus in adult learning is on transformative learning and SDL held more interest 10 to 20 years ago (Donaghy, 2005, p. 188)

  • The positive and negative aspects of SDL should be considered as SDL can make a "powerful difference in learners lives...that scares her" so there is an "ethical responsibility when engaging adults by crafting self-directed learning experiences" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 188).


Malcolm S. Knowles


  • A champion of andragogy, self-direction in learning, and informal adult education, Malcolm S. Knowles was a very influential figure in the adult education field. (Smith, 2002).

  • Andragogy proposed by Knowles (1968) as "new label and a new technology" (p. 351).
    • Art and science of helping adult learners learn (Owen, 2002, p. 2).
    • "Adults become ready to learn those things they need to know or to be able to do in order to cope effectively with their real-life situations" (Knowles, 1989, p. 84).
  • Definition of SDL process- "Individuals take the initiative, with or 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 learning outcomes." (Knowles, 1975, p. 18).
  • Believed that "adults are self-directing when they undertake to learn something on their own" (Knowles, 1989, p. 91).
  • “[F]ive-step model of self-directed learning consists of:

    1. Diagnosing learning needs

    2. Formulating learning goals

    3. Identifying human and material resources for learning

    4. Choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategy

    5. Evaluation learning out come” (Merriam and Caffarella, 1991, p. 46)


Huey B. Long


  • Self-directed learners develop by a continuing process. It is unreasonable to expect people who have matured in an environment that challenged their personal integrity, that spoon fed them with information, and one that required conforming thought, to become instantaneous self-directed learners. Environments that nurture, sustain, and develop the personality and cognitive attributes identified above are important in the development of self-directed learners (Long, n.d.).
  • Self-directed learning is discussed according to one or more of three major conceptualizations:
    • Independent learning, which connotes learning in isolation, or is represented by the "lone' learner who makes all of the decisions about goals, content, effort, time, and evaluation, etc. Assistance from others is routinely accepted and rejected according to the learner's own whims and standards.
    • Distance learning, which connotes physical distance between the learner and a teacher or an agent where the learner is constrained in some degree bv a curriculum devised by others; but in some ways learner behavior may include some of the activities noted in the other two conceptualizations.
    • Psychological control, which connotes the necessary element in the definition is found in the learner's psychological independence (control) rather than in social or curricula elements. Thus, neither the setting, nor the format of the learning activity, necessarily determines if learning is self-directed. (Long, n.d.)
  • Has concerns about technological advances and "changes in technology" will require more research in SDL (Donaghy, 2005. p. 189).


Allen Tough


  • World Wide Web "seems to embody the kind of things that...we have always talked about with self-directed learning" (Donaghy, 2005, P. 192).

  • The Web is a "natural...foundation for adult learning" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 192).

  • "Biggest disappointment" was that the field of adult education never picked up on suggestions to help people make their own learning choices such as "choosing your [own] path for learning [and] choosing your learning goals" (Donaghy, 2005, p. 193).
  • Most adults "have more learning goals than they can ever accomplish" and "may not want to learn what others want them to learn, but are still motivated to learn" (Donaghy, 2005).
  • Wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the behavior of adults during self-directed learning projects.




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