[Note: The following is printed here by permission. It is a chapter in H. B. Long & Associates. (1994). New ideas about self-directed learning. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Research Center for Continuing Professional and Higher Education.


Roger Hiemstra & Ralph G. Brockett

elevant group needs, ascertaining the relevance of past experience, and prioritizing knowledge areas to be covered); (d) identifying the learning activities (determining learning activities and techniques); (e) putting learning into action and monitoring progress (formative evaluation); and (f) evaluating individual learning outcomes (matching learning objectives to mastery). In the II process, the instructor's role is to manage and facilitate the learning process; "optimum learning is the result of careful interactive planning between the instructor and the individual learners" (pp. 47-48).

In examining the II process model, it is not difficult to see some links between this humanist-derived approach and behaviorist-oriented models of systematic instructional design, stemming initially from Tyler (1950) and appearing in some aspects of several instructional theories portrayed by Reigeluth (1987) and his colleagues. For example, both the II model and most systematic or prescriptive instructional development models use an organized and deliberate design. Most stress the importance of the learning environment and all emphasize the need to evaluate learning.

At the same time, there are some very important differences between humanist and more behavioral approaches. For instance, an instructor in the II process serves more as a facilitator, while an instructor operating within a behavioral framework is more a manager or director of the process and delivery system. In addition, the II model places great importance on affective aspects of the teaching-learning transaction. Concern for interpersonal relationships and active involvement of learners in determining both process and content of the learning experience are two examples. Furthermore, while behaviorist models tend to focus on the outcomes of learning, the II approach also places great importance on "the process that enables mastery to occur" (Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990, p. 48).

One final element of the PRO model needs to be discussed. In the model, we stress the need to recognize the social and political context in which learning takes place. For example, while we believe that self-direction is vital to the teaching-learning process, we also recognize that the individualized emphasis of this approach may run contrary to values held in some cultural settings. In addition, there are times when the pragmatic requirements of a given training need may prevent learners from taking much or even any personal responsibility.

We do not wish to "impose" our approach on individuals or groups whose perceptions of reality (particularly with regard to individuality, autonomy, and personal responsibility) run contrary to ours; at the same time, we do feel obligated to share our views with such people to promote awareness of alternative ways of thinking and acting. It also is not our wish to seem like evangelists trying to convert others to a particular way of thinking. Rather, based on our experiences and knowledge bases, we believe in promoting learner self-direction as the most appropriate instructional approach when working with adults as learners.


How do we move from ideas to action? It is our hope that this Chapter presents some ideas that will lead to discussion on how to help those from behaviorist or "teacher as expert" views see the humanist point of view and vice versa. As educators who have worked with colleagues from both the behaviorist and humanist perspectives, we believe that our backgrounds have been greatly enriched by exposure to both emphases. Yet, we are troubled by a perception that educators and trainers from both camps have limited exposure to each other's ideas. Our purpose in writing this chapter has been to share what we believe the humanist orientation has to offer educators and trainers who adhere to a more behaviorist orientation. At the same time, we believe it is equally important for educators who adhere primarily to behavioral or prescriptive learning views to share their own ideas on how to help humanist-oriented educators broaden their understanding.

Within the example of the two disciplines presented in this chapter, for example, we hope this will mean that adult education and instructional design faculty can dialogue with each other more frequently. In essence, we hope our message will help each side better understand and contribute to the other side so that our overall understanding about self-direction in learning and its role in the education of adults will be enhanced. For example, the micro-instruction skills of most instructional designers related to such activities as task analysis, media selection, and determining strategies for teaching certain knowledge components, can be very instrumental in helping the self-directed learner make effective use of study time. A recent merger of adult education and instructional design at Syracuse University is one illustration of how such understanding may lead to a blending of the best of both disciplines into some type of new whole.

We also are trying to find ways for better making the humanist case so those who believe primarily in behaviorism don't discount humanism. We feel very strongly that self-direction in learning, or the creation of self- directed learners as perhaps a better way of putting it, will be crucial for meeting many of the future training and continuing education needs. In fact, much of the literature pertaining to self-directed learning has demonstrated that adults prefer to take responsibility for their own learning if given appropriate opportunities (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991). The increasing use of computer technology for individualized instruction and for distance learning is further reason for humanists, constructionists, and beh