Self-Directed Learners

metric and document_Self-Directed LEarners by Robert Lee

Forum Discussion Summary by Tanya Tan


  • Total posting 73
  • 6 discussion threads
    • Using Self-directed learning
      • 8 posting, 27%
  • The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher
    • 6 posting, 23%
  • Used Generated Education
    • 7 posting, 23%
  • Self-regulated learning
    • 4 posting, 9%
  • She didn’t teach. We had to learn it ourselves.
    • 9 posting, 27%
  • Are adults naturally self-directed learners?
    • 40 posting, 55%

Discussion topic: Are adults naturally self-directed learners?


  •  Self-directed learning is “a process in which individuals take the initiative with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes”
  •  What has made you/your students self-directed learner?
    • A safe and encouraging environment
    • Potential optimal changes
    • Relevance to personal goals and career path
    • Time management and planning strategies
    • Support from mentors and peers
    • Thinking outside of the box and finding resources
    • Perseverance and persistence
    • Ability to self assess
    • Learning community
    • Clear instruction
    • Take initiatives to determine their own path
    • Clear Motivations and goals
    • Learning skills / learn how to learn
    • Meta-cognition: being able to reflect on your own learning
    • “Pre-school children are self-directed by nature. The challenge of schools, is to never allow children to lose these positive attitudes and learning skills they come with”
    • Our job as educators is to reconnect adult learners with something that is innately human
  • Staged Self-Directed Learning Model (SSDL): learners advance through stages of increasing self-direction and teachers can help or hinder that development.
    • Stage 1 Dependent student/teacher as coach
    • Stage 2 Interested student /teacher as motivator and guide
    • Stage 3 Involved student/teacher as facilitator
    • Stage 4 Self-directed student/teacher as consultant and delegator
    • Good teaching does two things: it matches the student’s stage of self-direction and it empowers the student to progress toward greater self-direction. Good teaching is situational, yet it promotes the long-term development of the student
    • “We are not teachers, but awakeners”
  • How to deal with learners at different stages in self-directed learning
    • Allow learners to choose their own partner
    • Group activities to encourage collaboration
    • Challenge students with control


  • Current issues in self-directed learning
    • Credibility on non-traditional knowledge acquisition
    • Emotional hindrance, such as frustration, loneness

Articles (these are all linked to the articles)

Teaching Learners to be Self-directed

Rethinking the value of learning theories to develop self-directedness in Open-Distance Students 

Motivating learners at the four stages 

Ten ways to increase self-directed learning in your organization 

Self-directed Skills 

Learn about Learning


Knowles, M.S. (1975) Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. New York: Cambridge Book

Grow, G. O. (1991/1996). Teaching Learners to be Self-Directed. Adult Education Quarterly, 41(3), 125-149.


The Importance of Self-Directed Learning


Summary for “Self-Regulated Learning”


  • What is self-regulated learning?
    •  Self-regulated learning is the conscious planning, monitoring, evaluation, and ultimately control of one’s learning in order to maximize it. It’s an ordered process that experts and seasoned learners like us practice automatically. It means being mindful, intentional, reflective, introspective, self-aware, self-controlled, and self-disciplined about learning, and it leads to becoming self-directed.
  • Proven self-regulated learning activities and assignments; many more are in Creating Self-Regulated Learning: Strategies for Strengthening Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills (Stylus, 2013):
    • Students answer two or three reflective questions on the reading or podcast.
    • They write about what they learned by doing an assignment.
    • They re-do the same or similar problems to the ones they miss on their homework and exams and explain the proper procedure.
    • They describe their reasoning process in solving a “fuzzy” problem – how they defined the problem, decided which principles and concepts to apply, developed alternative approaches and solutions, and assessed their feasibility, trade-offs, and relative worth.
    • They reflect on a graded exam by answering questions like these:
      • How to you feel about your grade? Were you surprised?
      • How did you study for the exam? Did you study enough?
      •  Why did you lose points? Any patterns?
      • What will you do differently to prepare for the next exam?
  • Real work even in a fake world, can be more conductive to learning than fake work in a real world


 The Secret of Self-Regulated Learning

Meyer’s blog about Real Work vs. Real World


Dan Meyer: Math Curriculum Makeover (TEDTalks) 



Discussion topic: The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher


  • Roles of a teacher in self-directed learning environment
    • Content resource
    • Resource locator
    • Interest stimulator
    • Positive attitude generator
    • Creativity and critical thinking stimulator
    • Evaluation stimulator
  •  Instructors still need to be involved and have some control, setting ground rules
  • Instructors should inform the students their intentions
  •  Setting up expectations from the beginning


 “She Didn’t Teach. We Had to Learn it Ourselves.”

Self-directed Learning: Individualizing Instruction – Most Still Do it Wrong  

Difference between assessment and evaluation 


  • Pros of helicopter teacher: To Improve students’ analytical skills, problem solving skills, and independence of learning
  • Cons of helicopter teacher
    •  Incomplete grading criteria making assessment difficult
    •  Not appropriate for low self-directed learner

Classroom practices

◦          Recognize the degree of self-direction and choose the appropriate approach

◦          Take time to nurture self-directed learning skills


The Rise of the Helicopter Teacher 

Helicopter Parents 

Locus of control 




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