My thoughts on Self-Directed Learning

When I started reading about the first topic in 3250, “Self-Directed Learning”, I was unclear as to what it meant in an instructional setting. Even the experts couldn’t seem to agree as to what was meant by the term. According to Jeff Beard, it has been defined by varying authors as “self-teaching, self-planned learning, inquiry method, independent learning, self-education, self-instruction, self-study, self-initiated learning, and autonomous learning “ (Beard, 2011). This I am clear on – the term implies that something is controlled by the learner, thus the term self-directed. The question is, what is controlled by the learner? I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities. Self-directed learning either means that the learner controls the curriculum, controls the pace at which the curriculum is studied or controls the order in which it is studied. An example of the learner controlling the curriculum would be learning to do laundry. There is no formal course you can take. The learner polls their friends and relatives, reads books, consults the internet or the detergent box in an effort to get clean clothes, learning along the way what works and what doesn’t work. But what the learner learns about laundry is determined by them. An example of controlling the pace is a self-paced fundamental math program. The learner studies the material in the curriculum, in the order it is presented, but does so at their own pace. An example of controlling the order in which the material is covered would by this course, where the learner has to cover certain material, but has some flexibility as to the order in which it is done.

But how does any of this apply to an instructional setting? Yes, in some courses, learners are granted control over the pace of study or the order of study. But, in most cases, the education system is not set up to grant credentials to someone who has learned material while controlling the curriculum. For instance, I don’t want doctors to have control over what material they have to study because I don’t want the doctor in the ER admitting “Yeah, I don’t know anything about complex fractures with bones sticking out. I skipped that part because it grossed me out. Guess I’ll just send you home.”

Beard, J. (2011). SDL Introduction. Retrieved 05 11, 2014, from Self-Directed Learning (SDL) in Adult Education:

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