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Measuring the Iceberg: Quantitative Approaches to Studying Self-Direction

In the previous chapter, we suggested that research on self-direction in adult learning has followed three different, though related, streams of inquiry. As was noted in Chapter Three, the first stream consists of descriptive research studies using the learning projects methodology. While this line of inquiry laid a foundation for our present understanding of self-direction by illustrating the widespread emphasis on such learning efforts, it became clear during the late 1970s and early 1980s that the "iceberg" concept, as outlined by Tough (1979) was itself only the tip of an iceberg. Thus, researchers began to search out new ways to gain a broader understanding of the self-direction phenomenon that would stretch beyond merely describing the frequency and nature of such activities.

As a result, two additional streams of research have evolved: the quantitative measurement of self-direction through written instruments and the use of qualitative methods such as observation and interviewing. This chapter will offer an examination of efforts to expand the knowledge base of self-direction by reviewing the first of these research directions. The third stream of research will be considered in Chapter Five.


As was pointed out above, learning projects investigations provided greater understanding of the frequency and nature of participation in self-directed learning by many segments of the adult population. However, many questions remained unanswered. After several years of extensive replication of the Tough methodology by various researchers, it became clear that there was a need for research that would go beneath the surface explored by learning projects studies. For instance, little was known about personological variables, like self-concept and creativity, that might enhance or limit the urge toward self-direction. Similarly, questions remained about the nature and extent to which self-direction can influence the teaching-learning process

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in institutional settings. Thus, it was only possible to make indirect links to self-direction through measures such as the Internal-External Scale (Rotter, 1966), a scale designed to assess one's locus of control--the amount of personal control one perceives having, or the Personal Orientation Inventory (Shostrom, 1964, 1974), a scale that measures the extent to which one believes oneself to possess characteristics associated with self-actualization, as conceptualized by Maslow (1970). An exception was the Autonomous Learner Index (ALI), a 20-item self-administered Likert scale designed to measure attitudes toward dependence and independence in learning (Ferrell, 1978). However, this scale does not seem to have been used in research on self-direction beyond its initial reporting.

During the late 1970s, it became clear that in order to advance the knowledge base of self-direction, it would be necessary to move beyond description toward prediction and comparison of self-direction vis-a-vis other characteristics. To this end, Guglielmino (1977) developed the Self-Directed learning Readiness Scale. A few years later, the Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory was developed (Oddi, 1986). Together, these two instruments have played an instrumental role in making self-direction one of the most extensively-researched areas in adult education during the decade of the 1980s.


One of the first efforts to move beyond Tough's learning projects methodology was the development of the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS). Developed in 1977 by Lucy M. Guglielmino, for a doctoral dissertation at the University of Georgia (Dr. Guglielmino is now a Professor in Adult Education at Florida Atlantic University), the SDLRS was designed to assess the extent to which individuals perceive themselves to possess skills and attitudes frequently associated with self-directedness in learning. The instrument was designed through a three-round Delphi survey process involving 14 individuals considered to be experts on self-directed learning. Upon revision, the instrument was administered to 307 persons in Georgia, Vermont, and Canada. From this administration, additional revisions were made and a reliability coefficient of .87 was estimated.

The SDLRS is a 58-item five-point Likert scale that yields a total score for self-directed readiness. In addition, a factor analysis of the instrument by Guglielmino (1977) identified the following eight factors:

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Although Guglielmino (1977) urged caution in utilizing this factor structure, it is nonetheless possible to recognize from these factors some of the attitudinal and personality factors that may be related to a tendency toward self-directedness. At present, the SDLRS has been used in two major ways. First, it has been utilized to explore relationships between self-directed readiness and other personological variables through experimental, quasi-experimental, and correlational research designs. Second, it has been used as a diagnostic tool for assessing learners' perceptions of readiness for self-directed learning. A steadily growing number of studies have employed the SDLRS to date. In order to present a review of these investigations, the remainder of this section will be broken down into the following subsections: early studies using the SDLRS, studies examining psychosocial correlates of self-directed readiness, diagnostic studies, and investigations of self-directed readiness among a specific professional group (nurses). Finally, the section will conclude with an overall assessment/critique of the instrument.

Early Studies

The first study to use the SDLRS with adults, other than Guglielmino's initial investigation, was reported by Torrance and Mourad (1978) and provided support for the construct validity of the instrument. Forty-one graduate students enrolled in a course on creative thinking completed the SDLRS and eight other instruments that produced 11 measures. Significant positive correlations were found between self-directed learning readiness and the following: three measures of originality, the ability to develop analogies in the description of photographs, creative personality, creative achievements, and right hemisphere style of learning. A significant negative correlation was found between SDLRS scores and the left hemisphere style of learning. The authors thus concluded that a link exists between creativity and the tendency toward self-directedness.

An especially interesting finding of this study was the positive relationship between self-directed readiness and right hemisphere style of learning. Among the functions of the right hemisphere of the brain are "preferences for subjectively processing information, dealing simultaneously with several problems at a time, grasping at new and uncertain truths, intuitive problem solving, playfulness in solving problems, using metaphors and analogies, and

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improvising" (Torrance & Mourad, 1978, p. 1170). Thus, by reporting a relationship between the SDLRS and several learning-related factors, this study has contributed to the way in which self-directed learning might be defined. It should be noted, however, that a more recent study (Blackwood, 1988) reported very different findings relative to the link between self-direction and hemisphericity; this study will be discussed later in the chapter.

In another study, Mourad (1979) examined the validity of the SDLRS, comparing SDLRS scores with selected creativity measures, and considering grade level and gender differences on SDLRS scores. The SDLRS was administered to 684 gifted elementary, junior, and senior high school students and 185 members of the University of Georgia's School of Education faculty. In addition, the gifted students completed several tasks of the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking and 569 students were rated on their self-directedness by their teachers using a Teachers Rating Scale.

With regard to the professors, Mourad found that SDLRS scores were not significantly related to faculty rank, research production during a three-year period, nor to the number of citations over two years. When SDLRS scores were compared with those of gifted students, however, a significant difference was found. Mourad suggested that the SDLRS thus discriminates between these two samples. Among the gifted students, significant relationships were noted between teacher ratings and seven of the eight factor scores on the SDLRS; also, there were statistically significant differences on SDLRS scores among the three levels of students (elementary, junior, and senior high) and between males and females.

One of the factors identified by Guglielmino as a component of self-directed readiness is self-concept as an effective learner. Sabbaghian (1980), therefore, took a closer look at the importance of self-concept relative to self-directedness. She mailed copies of the SDLRS and the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale (Fitts, 1965) to 80 randomly-selected adult undergraduate students at Iowa State University. A total of 77 individuals responded.

At least five major findings emerged from the study and can be summarized as follows:

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Based on these findings, Sabbaghian was able to conclude the following: "There is a strong positive relationship between the self-image of adult students and their self-directedness in learning. As adults gain the ability to direct and organize their own learning, they consider themselves more and more as worthy persons in every aspect of life. Adult students with higher self-concepts appear to be . . . more likely to be able to plan and direct the majority of their learning projects themselves than adult students with lower self-concepts." (1980, pp. 114-115)

When examining self-directed learning readiness, it is crucial to bear in mind that the SDLRS is a measure of the degree to which individuals perceive themselves to possess skills and attitudes associated with self-directed learning. It is not a measure of actual behavior. In an attempt to compare individuals' perceptions of self-directedness with their actual participation in learning projects, Hassan (1982) studied 77 adults selected at random from the population of Ames, Iowa. Each subject was interviewed using the Tough interview format and, at the close of the interview, was asked to complete the SDLRS.

Participants reported completing a mean of 9.8 learning projects in the year prior to the interview, 78% of which were self-planned. Less than 11% of the projects were undertaken for credit. As for the relationship between SDLRS scores and learning projects involvement, Hassan found significant positive correlations between number of learning projects and scores on the total SDLRS and seven of the eight factor scores of the instrument. In other words, adults who were higher in self-directed readiness tended to be involved in a greater number of learning projects.

However, when Hassan compared high, average, and low self-directed readiness with the various types of primary planner that were identified by participants, she did not find a significant relationship. Self-planning was found to be the predominant approach to learning, regardless of the learners' degree of self-directed readiness. Individuals who are higher in readiness for self-direction are likely to be involved in more learning projects than adults whose self-directed readiness is lower. However, highly self-directed learners are not significantly more likely to choose self-planning of their projects than those who are average or low in self-directed readiness. Still, this study

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is an important one in that it builds a link between the descriptive-oriented learning projects approach and the prediction-oriented perspective of the SDLRS.

A more recent study (Hall-Johnsen, 1986) found further evidence for the link between self-directed readiness and actual learning involvement. Based on a sample of 65 professional staff from the Iowa State University Cooperative Extension Service, it was found that there was "a positive, predictive relationship between readiness and the number of self-planned projects conducted, as well as the amount of time spent on them" (p. 2522A).

Skaggs (1981) was also interested in the relationship between self-directedness and self-directed learning activity. The SDLRS and three other measures, including a biographical data form, a measure of locus of control, and a survey designed to assess self-directed learning involvement, were administered to a sample of registered nurses in Texas. She found that there was a relationship between SDLRS scores and number of hours devoted by respondents to self-directed learning. In addition, Skaggs found self-directedness to be related to internal locus of control and negatively related to influence by powerful others such as supervisors. Based on her findings, Skaggs suggested that the SDLRS is an effective tool for identifying nurses with a tendency toward self-directedness in learning and, thus, can be useful in providing educational opportunities for registered nurses.

Psychosocial Correlates

Into the early 1980s, the SDLRS was being used by an increasing number of researchers as a way of linking self-directed readiness to a wide range of psychosocial factors. The studies by Torrance and Mourad (1978), Mourad (1978), and Sabbaghian (1979) paved the way for this research focus. Numerous studies have followed over the years.

For instance, the first author of this book looked at the link between self-directedness and perceived life satisfaction among a sample of older adults from a public housing building and an adult home (Brockett, 1983c, 1985a). Sixty-four persons, age 60 and older, were administered the SDLRS and the Salamon-Conte Life Satisfaction in the Elderly Scale (since renamed the Life Satisfaction in the Elderly Scale) (Salamon & Conte, 1981). A weak but statistically significant positive relationship was found between the two variables, suggesting that a relationship may exist between one's perception of self-directedness as a learner and such concepts as independence and quality of life during the later years. In addition, however, several concerns were raised about the appropriateness of the SDLRS for certain

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populations, particularly those with relatively little formal education. This issue is addressed in greater detail later in the chapter.

While the link between self-directed readiness and life satisfaction was statistically weak in the Brockett (1983c, 1985a) study, further support for this link was provided in a study by East (1987). This study was based on 103 older adults drawn from a retirement village in South Central Florida. Results of this study lend further support to the self-directedness-life satisfaction link. Further, East noted that two SDLRS factors--"acceptance of responsibility for one's own learning" and "love of learning" were "mostly responsible for the effect on life satisfaction" (p. 2848A).

In another study involving older adults, Curry (1983) looked at the self-directed readiness of 300 participants involved in formal adult education programs. Using a descriptive-comparative ex post facto design, she found significant differences in SDLRS scores based on gender, marital status, educational background, and self-reported measures of intellectual functioning, learning and health, self-help groups and health, and current life satisfaction. In addition, when comparing the SDLRS scores of this group with those of the sample on which Guglielmino's norms were based, Curry found that the older group "excelled" on SDLRS scores. Taken together, these studies provide reasonably strong support for a link between life satisfaction and self-directedness among older adults.

Leeb (1985) examined the relationship between self-directed readiness and the tendency to practice a health-conducive lifestyle. In a study involving 35 adults between the ages of 21 and 55, Leeb found that "the people who demonstrate positive health behaviors can be described as highly self-directed" (p. 159). Also, in this study, Leeb looked at the notion of cognitive and ethical development as proposed by Perry (1970). According to the Perry scheme, as individuals mature, they move from thinking about knowledge and values in a dualistic way (i.e., right/wrong, good/bad) toward affirmation that there are multiple views of reality based largely on the context through which situations are perceived. As an exploratory hypothesis, then, Leeb predicted that as individuals move away from dualist thinking, there would be an increase in readiness for self-direction. While this finding was not confirmed, she suggested that this potential linkage should not necessarily be abandoned, given the limited size of her sample and the exploratory nature of the hypothesis in this particular investigation.

Long and Agyekum (1983) employed a multitrait-multimethod approach in order to test 37 hypotheses related to the validation of the SDLRS. Using a sample of 136 college students, slightly less than half of whom were black, they compared SDLRS scores with age, educational achievement level, dogmatism, and agreement response set (i.e., the extent to which subjects' responses on a given scale are determined by personal

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beliefs and knowledge or by a tendency to respond consistently regardless of the content of various items). Also, they asked college instructors to rate students on "self-direction in learning based on the same characteristics Guglielmino identified in her original work" (p. 79). Among the findings of this study were the following:

  1. Increasing age was significantly related to a higher SDLRS score;
  2. Black students scored significantly higher on the SDLRS than white students;
  3. Those individuals who scored higher on the SDLRS were significantly more likely to receive lower scores on dogmatism and agreement response set;
  4. Instructor ratings were not significantly related to scores on the SDLRS; and
  5. Instructors rated white students significantly higher on self-directedness than black students.

The finding pertaining to race and SDLRS score would seem to be a most important one, given the notion that self-directed learning is frequently described as a middle-class, white phenomenon. With regard to this finding, however, Long and Agyekum offer the following caution: "Any effort to explain differences in performance between two cultural or racial groups is fraught with danger. Such explanations are often interpreted as an effort to use "race" as the causal factor. . . . Important differences that seem to favor the black students seem to be associated with the psychological variables that are influenced by performance on the dogmatism and agreement response set instruments." (p. 85)

While the cautions raised here are certainly in order, we believe that the findings nonetheless offer at least tentative empirical support for taking a closer look at the potential for self-directed learning among groups that have traditionally been less involved in more formal forms of adult education.

Overall, Long and Agyekum concluded that there is, indeed, validation support for the SDLRS. However, concerns about apparent inconsistency between instructor ratings and SDLRS score prompted the authors to conduct a second study (Long & Agyekum, 1984). The second study was essentially a replication of the earlier investigation, except that a different teacher rating instrument was utilized. For the most part, the findings supported those of the earlier study. With regard to teacher ratings, though, a different picture emerged. Though the correlation between SDLRS score and teacher rating of self-directedness fell slightly shy of statistical significance, it was considerably stronger than in the first study, leading the authors to suggest

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that the original teacher rating instrument may have been flawed. Of course, there is a clear concern in attempting to draw conclusions from non-significant statistical analysis, so this point can only be taken with a minimal level of credence. Indeed, Long and Agyekum (1988) caution that more cross validation studies of the SDLRS must be conducted before a complete interpretation of such findings is possible.

Intuitively, one may find it easy to believe that there is a relationship between learner self-directedness and the desire to learn for the pure enjoyment of and interest in learning. Reynolds (1986), in a study of 95 part-time community college students, found support for such a link. Administering the SDLRS and the Education Participation Scale (Boshier, 1971) to the sample, Reynolds found a significant positive correlation between SDLRS score and the motivational orientation factor "Cognitive Interest." At the same time, a significant negative correlation was found between readiness for self-direction and the motivational orientations of "Professional Advancement" and "External Expectations." Based on these findings, Reynolds suggested that self-directed readiness may be associated with the desire to learn for the sake of learning, while those who are motivated by external factors, such as the desire for professional advancement and the expectations of others, are likely to be lower in self-directedness.

McCarthy (1986) used the SDLRS to examine relationships between self-directedness and attitude toward mathematics among 183 younger undergraduate students (those individuals age 25 or younger) and older students (those individuals 26 or older). While no significant relationship was found between self-directedness and attitude toward mathematics, the older group was found to be significantly higher on SDLRS scores.

It was noted earlier that self-directed readiness appears to be linked to such factors as creativity, problem-solving ability, and degree of personal change (Torrance & Mourad, 1978; Mourad & Torrance, 1979). Guglielmino, Guglielmino, and Long (1987) were interested in whether or not a link exists between these characteristics and actual job performance. In this study, which was first reported in Guglielmino and Guglielmino (1983), the researchers administered the SDLRS to 753 employees (managers and non-managers) of a large utility company who participated in training courses. It was found that those individuals rated as "outstanding performers" in jobs requiring high levels of creativity, problem-solving ability, and/or degree of change scored significantly higher than the remainder of the subjects in the sample. Further, while women scored "slightly higher" than men, there were no significant differences between blacks and whites, nor between managers and non-managers. Relative to age, it was found that those persons in the 46-55 age group scored significantly lower than those of the other age groups. Finally, a positive relationship was

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found between SDLRS scores and level of education. From their findings, the authors offered the following recommendation: "In light of this study, personnel departments in business and industry might consider examining the use of a measure of self-directed learning readiness as part of the selection process for individuals who fill highly creative jobs, highly changing jobs, and jobs requiring a high level of problem-solving ability". (Guglielmino, Guglielmino, & Long, 1987, p. 316)

A more recent study by Roberts (1986) found similar results with a sample of managers with the Hong Kong Telephone Company. Here, SDLRS scores were found to relate to the following: management level, management performance, self-perceptions of creativity, problem-solving ability, education level, and degree of change required in the job.

Most recently, the SDLRS has been used in several additional studies with various findings related to self-directed learning readiness and a wide range of variables. For instance, Young (1986) did not find a significant correlation between SDLRS score and locus of control. In another study, the "intuitive" approach and "judging" orientation of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator were found to be related to self-directed readiness among adult degree students (Johnson, Sample, & Jones, 1988). Self-directed readiness was negatively related to a preference for structure in a course setting, but was not related to achievement (Russell, 1989). Among a sample of pregnant women, Lacey (1989) found that SDLRS scores peaked during the second trimester and declined through the third and fourth," suggesting that this finding has implications for the timing of prenatal/postnatal classes (p. 2496A). There was no significant correlation between the SDLRS scores of a sample of fifth grade students and their teachers (Eisenman, 1989). Finally, Bitterman (1989) found a relationship between self-directed readiness and achieving style, a concept that "is based on motivation theory and is rooted in the individual's reinforcement for goal accomplishment" within one's environment (p. 851A).

Diagnostic Studies of Self-Directed Readiness

The studies described above have emphasized the use of the SDLRS as a tool for basic research, designed primarily to explore the link between learner self-directedness and a wide range of psychosocial variables. In addition to this use, however, the SDLRS can be used as a diagnostic measure. The first three studies presented in this section offer a look at self-directed readiness in a particular context: graduate courses in adult education where a learning contracts approach is utilized. Caffarella (1982, 1983b) examined the relationship between the value learners ascribe to using a learning plan

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(contracting) format in a graduate course setting and their perceptions of self-directed readiness. Fifty-four graduate students enrolled in courses offered by the researcher over a two-year period, at the completion of their course, were mailed copies of the SDLRS and the Learning Plan Format Follow-Up Survey, a questionnaire developed by Caffarella to determine learners' "opinions related to the worth and value of the learning plan format, their perceptions of their own self-directed learning skills, and what if any effect this had on their own continuing learning and teaching activities" (Caffarella, 1982, p. 48). Based on 42 returned questionnaires, it was found that 69% of the respondents believed the contracting format to be an excellent tool, while the remaining individuals felt it to be very good or good. With regard to SDLRS scores, the mean for this sample was at the 90th percentile based on norms established by Guglielmino (1977). Caffarella concluded that the learning plan approach is a useful strategy for promoting self-directed learning that could be applied effectively in a wide range of adult learning situations.

In a more extensive follow-up study, Caffarella and Caffarella (1986) obtained data from 163 students from six universities. Using the SDLRS, the Learning Contract Follow-Up Survey, and the Self-Directed Learning Competencies Self Appraisal Form, also developed by R. S. Caffarella, support for the use of contract learning in graduate education was again found. However, it was also found that the use of the learning contract did not have a significant effect on the student's self-directed learning readiness. The investigators speculated that the lack of a significant effect might be attributed to very high pre-test scores on the SDLRS. Thus, while the study provides support for the attractiveness of the learning contract approach, it does not establish a link between a preference for contracting and one's level of self-directed readiness.

Kasworm (1982, 1983), in another study involving graduate students in adult education courses, examined the development of self-directed knowledge and behavior resulting from participation in a graduate course using learning contracts and where students were expected to assume a high level of self-direction. The sample was comprised of 33 individuals enrolled in one of two sections of a "Methods and Techniques in Adult Education" course. Each individual was asked to complete the SDLRS at the outset of the course and again at the completion, along with a course evaluation form. In addition, the instructor and two students maintained "observational diaries" for the duration of the course.

A t-test analysis for the pre- and post-test SDLRS scores revealed a significant increase in scores over the duration of the course. In the course evaluation, most students expressed positive reactions to the self-directed learning approach and indicated a desire for further self-directed study

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opportunities; however, about one-quarter of the respondents stated that they found the approach to be difficult and would probably not opt for additional courses using a self-directed learning approach. Kasworm suggested that some areas for further investigation to better understand this dilemma include basic writing and oral communication skills, cognitive ability, and learning style preferences.

Another diagnostic study looked at a different group of students. In this investigation, Cunningham (1988) studied the self-directed readiness among three populations affiliated with the Southern Baptist Seminary: new students, students nearing graduation, and graduates with two years experience in the ministry. He reported a "significant increase" in readiness between the new and graduating students. However, it should be noted that this is not an increase, per se, but rather a difference since the comparison was based on two groups at one point in time rather than on one group at different times. Also, Cunningham noted that two years of experience in the ministry "did not significantly increase readiness for self-directed learning" (p. 3246A). But again, the word "increase" seems to have been misused; instead, there were no significant differences between the practicing ministers and the students.

Finally, a study by Rutland (1988) looked at the effects of a self-directed learning group activity on the self-directed readiness and self-concept of Adult Basic Education (ABE) and General Educational Development (GED) students. Using a pretest-posttest design, with an experimental group that participated in 10 one-hour group sessions, Rutland found no significant differences between experimental and control groups on either variable. Like other studies discussed in this and the following section, these findings contribute to mixed findings relative to the use of experimental treatments to increase self-directedness among adult learners. Thus, while some of these studies indicate the potential of the SDLRS as a diagnostic tool, it must be argued that the jury is still out.

Nurses and Self-Directed Learning Readiness

Self-directed learning readiness has been studied across a broad spectrum of adult groups. However, there is perhaps no other group that has been studied more extensively than nurses. SDLRS studies involving nurses span different methodologies (e.g., correlational, experimental, quasi-experimental) and different purposes (e.g., studies of psychosocial factors related to self-directed readiness, diagnostic investigations of the concept). Thus, we have chosen to present these studies within a separate subsection.

The earliest investigation using the SDLRS with nurses was a diagnostic study conducted by Savoie (1980), who was interested in determining if it

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would be possible to predict success in continuing education courses for nurses where learners were expected to assume a high degree of self-direction. Savoie administered the SDLRS and a biographical information instrument to 152 nurses enrolled in one of seven courses. A percent grade for the course (e.g., 79%, 94%) served to measure degree of success in the experience.

It was found that a significant, positive relationship existed between SDLRS scores and course grades. Also, she noted a relationship between self-directed readiness and individuals' self-concept as self-directed learners; a finding supported by several other studies (e.g., Sabbaghian, 1980; Brockett, 1983c, 1985a). Savoie concluded that the SDLRS can be useful in determining the extent to which learners enrolled in activities requiring a high degree of self-direction may need extra support or assistance to succeed in the learning experience.

Box (1983) investigated differences among first level students, second level students, and graduates of an associate degree nursing program. Based on data from 477 respondents, Box did not find significant differences in SDLRS score among the three groups; however, she did note a positive significant correlation between SDLRS score and grade point average. This finding corroborates somewhat the finding reported by Savoie.

Most SDLRS research to date has employed a correlational design, where comparisons are made between two or more variables without the administration of a specific treatment or the use control groups. However, a study of nursing students by Wiley (1982a, 1982b) was an exception. Using a nonequivalent control group design, Wiley examined the effects of a 12-hour "process-oriented" self-directed learning project and the personal preference for structure on self-directed learning readiness. A total of 104 junior nursing students, about 85% of whom were 20-21 years old, comprised the study sample.

Both the control and experimental groups were pretested on the SDLRS and Ginther's Reaction to Statements (1974), a measure of preference for structure. The experimental group then participated in a 12-hour self-directed learning process experience. Each group was post-tested on the SDLRS upon completion of the treatment. Upon analysis of the data, Wiley drew the following conclusions:

  1. Teaching the SDL process did not increase the overall SDL readiness of these baccalaureate nursing students;
  2. Preference for structure did not affect students' SDL readiness; and
  3. Students who preferred low structure and who experienced an SDL project gained in SDL readiness.

It also appeared, but was not conclusive, that students who preferred high

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structure and who experienced an SDL project lost in SDL readiness (Wiley, 1982a, 1982b). Based on these conclusions, Wiley suggests that a self-directed learning process experience is useful for learners who prefer low structure. However, students who prefer high structure may benefit from "assistance in self-structuring" in addition to the self-directed learning process project.

Crook (1985) was interested in exploring the predictive validity of the SDLRS. Like Savoie (1980) Crook wanted to in determine the extent to which SDLRS score could predict success in the nursing classroom. Sixty-three first year nursing students completed the SDLRS and a demographic questionnaire during their first week of classes. At the end of the academic year, "students were asked to nominate the three 'most effective' self-directed learners" in their seven to eight member study group. Faculty members were also asked to do the same for their groups of students.

A significant correlation was found between SDLRS score and two variables: peer nomination scores and end of year grades. However, as was noted in another study (Brockett, 1985a, 1985b), these correlations explained only a small percentage (7% and 8%, respectively) of the variance. Based on these findings, Crook concluded that although the instrument has face validity and is easy to use, "for the purposes of predicting success or failure in this school, the SDLRS has not been found useful" (p. 278).

Three additional diagnostic studies have recently been reported (Moore, 1988; Murray, 1988; Palumbo, 1989). Moore looked at predictors of success in home study nursing courses. In this study of 121 nurses, SDLRS scores did not correlate significantly with final course grade. However, Moore notes that the nature of the sample, which involved both technical and professional nurses who were both highly self-directed and highly motivated, and who answered most test items correctly, could have limited "possible correlation between the criterion and predictor variables" (Moore, 1988, p. 1670A).

Murray (1988) used a quasi-experimental design to "investigate the effect of a clinical internship on the self-directed learning readiness of baccalaureate nursing students" (p. 1036-A). It was found that: a) the experimental group (who participated in a clinical internship) differed significantly between pretest and posttest SDLRS scores; b)SDLRS scores were related to grade point average and plans for advanced education in nursing; and c) SDLRS scores were significantly higher for those students who "felt they had a quality internship experience" (p. 1036A).

Like Murray, Palumbo (1989) employed a pretest-posttest design to measure change in SDLRS score over time. Over a period of one and one-half years, this group of 45 registered nurses studying for a baccalaureate degree showed a significant change in SDLRS score but these scores were not found to be associated with several demographic variables. Palumbo

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concluded that the change in self-directed readiness may be linked with participation in formal education and with the readiness of these nurses to finish their degree programs.

Graeve (1987) studied "registered nurses' patterns of self-directed learning for professional growth and development" (p. 820A). She found that nurses reported spending significantly more time in (a) self-directed than teacher-directed learning, and (b) in personal than professional learning. A significant relationship was found between SDLRS score and the number of hours engaged in self-directed learning, a finding that lends further support to the Hassan (1982) and Hall-Johnsen (1986) studies.

In an investigation of self-directedness and job satisfaction among nurses, Middlemiss (1988) used the SDLRS along with a measure of job characteristics, motivating potential of a job, and job satisfaction. Based on data from a sample of 115 randomly selected professional nurses, Middlemiss found that respondents perceived themselves to be high in self-directed readiness and several job characteristics and that the interaction of self-directed readiness, job characteristics, and motivating potential of the job "predicted 29% of the variance in job satisfaction for professional nurses" (p. 1036A).

From these studies, it can be seen that self-directed readiness is viewed as an important concept in the study of adult learning among nurses. And while the picture presented by the results is somewhat mixed, this is essentially a reflection of the overall body of knowledge relative to self-directed learning readiness. Some possible explanations for this mixed picture are presented in the next section.

Analysis of the SDLRS: Methodological and Substantive Issues

From the findings of studies such as those presented above, it should be clear that the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale has made a major contribution to the knowledge base of self-direction in learning. Yet, as with any self-reporting paper and pencil instrument, it is unwise to accept the appropriateness of the scale without first looking at such considerations as reliability and validity. In her original investigation of the SDLRS, Guglielmino (1977) found a reliability coefficient of .87, which suggests that scores derived from the instrument should be rather highly generalizable to similar populations as those in Guglielmino's study. Further validation support for the scale has been reported by Long and Agyekum (1983, 1984) in their multitrait-multifactor study, Finestone (1984) in a construct validation study of the instrument, and Reynolds (1986) and Long (1987) through item-to-total correlations for each of the 58 SDLRS items.

However, at the same time, Long and Agyekum have stated

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that a further area for SDLRS research includes "validation studies based on intensive experimenter observation" (p. 87). While no SDLRS studies based on "intensive" observation have been reported in the literature to date, the first author of this book, in the investigation of self-directed learning readiness and life satisfaction that was mentioned earlier, did have the opportunity to gain some insights from observation that led to additional analysis of the SDLRS (Brockett, 1983c, 1985b).

In the life satisfaction study, each of the 64 participants was given the option of either completing instruments on their own or having the researcher read each item and record the response. Throughout the process, it became clear that many of the people in the study were having difficulty and were becoming frustrated as they completed the SDLRS. Since more than 60% of the individuals chose the "oral" format, and since a t-test revealed that there was not a significant difference in the scores of those persons who completed the instrument in oral and written formats, "it was possible to observe various points at which problems relative to the format and layout of the SDLRS appeared to arise" (Brockett, 1985b, p. 19). These concerns led to the decision to take a closer look at the instrument.

Looking first at the reliability of the instrument, a coefficient of .87 (the same figure reported by Guglielmino) was noted. However, as Nunnally (1970) has pointed out, reliability does not necessarily imply validity (i.e., the extent to which a scale measures what it was intended to measure). Therefore, a high level of "reliability is a necessary but not sufficient condition for high validity" (p. 107).

In order to look beyond reliability toward internal consistency of the scale, an item analysis of the scale was conducted. Here, item-to-total correlations were obtained for each item of the instrument. It was found that 12 of the 58 SDLRS items (i.e., 21% of the instrument) did not correlate significantly with the total scale. Further, two related concerns seemed to emerge. First, of these 12 items, nine were among 17 items of the scale written to be scored in reverse. Adding to this confusion is that many of the reverse-scoring items were written using double negatives. Second, many of the respondents were confused by the wording of the response choices of the SDLRS, which range from "Almost never true of me: I hardly ever feel this way" to "Almost always true of me: there are very few times when I don't feel this way."

The following comment addresses what we believed to be at least a partial explanation for these methodological concerns: "It is suggested that the educational level of the sample can be associated, to a large degree, with these difficulties. Previous research using the SDLRS, primarily with subjects having at least a high school education, did not report these kinds of problems. One exception to this trend was a

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study of rural adults of low formal educational attainment living in rural Vermont (Leean & Sisco, 1981). This study examined the learning efforts of 93 adults through the learning projects interview format, the SDLRS, and case studies of a portion of the larger sample. In a personal communication, Sisco . . . stated that similar kinds of difficulties were encountered in using the SDLRS as have been noted above. He concurred that many of the subjects found the reverse-scoring items and response choices frustrating. Based on the somewhat tentative observations of these two investigations, it is speculated that potential concerns are accentuated when the instrument is administered to adults of low formal educational attainment." (Brockett, 1985b, p. 20)

While we believe that educational attainment might be a key link in terms of internal consistency of the SDLRS with this particular sample, it is important to note that Finestone (1984), in his content validation of the SDLRS based on labor education participants, did not find significant differences on SDLRS scores according to one's level of formal educational attainment. At the same time, Leeb (1985), in her study of health promoting behavior among a sample comprised largely of college graduates, found that 11 items of the SDLRS did not correlate significantly with scores on the total scale and, further, that eight of the 11 items were among those questioned in the life satisfaction study.

Landers (1989) undertook a comparison between the SDLRS and the Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI). He administered both instruments and a demographic form to 98 graduate students at Syracuse University. Findings relative to the comparison will be discussed later in this chapter. In terms of the SDLRS, though, Landers found that each of the eight factors correlated significantly with total SDLRS score. Further, he noted that only six of the SDLRS items were found to be weak statistically. It was concluded that in spite of identified concerns with the scale, internal reliability was very high; thus, the SDLRS is the most appropriate of the two instruments to use to measure self-direction in adult learning. The OCLI is discussed further in the next section.

Although methodological concerns with the SDLRS raise some important questions about the appropriateness of the scale with certain adult populations, there seems to be an even greater issue at hand. It is suggested that the SDLRS defines self-directed learning readiness in a way that is highly oriented toward formal education and the learning of knowledge as opposed to skills, largely through books. The issues might be summarized in the following way: "Self-directed readiness, as defined by the SDLRS, is very much oriented toward learning through books and schooling. Perhaps this is where the

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present findings depart from the majority of previous SDLRS research, since earlier studies have generally reported samples of college students and adults with at least a high school education. For these groups, the SDLRS has been demonstrated to be an appropriate instrument. But how relevant can the scale be to those adults who have spent little time in school? One can argue that the SDLRS is appropriate for adults in general, citing the extensive body of literature of participation in continuing education and learning projects demonstrating that those adults with more formal education will be more inclined toward formal continuing education participation, overall learning projects activity, and positive attitudes toward learning. Indeed, there is something to be said for the notion of 'education begets education.' But such a strong emphasis on books and schooling tends to minimize the impact of skills and attitudes where books are, at best, supplemental tools and may, in fact, even be unnecessary. Auto mechanics, musicians, athletes, and artists are but a few of the kinds of individuals for whom the most meaningful learning comes not from a book, but from the actual experience of 'doing.' By using a definition of self-directed learning that is as school-or book-oriented as the SDLRS, and expecting it to be relevant to all adults, there is a risk of excluding individuals from many walks of life, such as those mentioned [in Chapters One and Two], who may excel at taking charge of their learning, but have generally done so in non-school settings, with primary emphasis on resources other than books. "(Brockett, 1985b, pp. 21-22)

Two additional studies have attempted to provide an even closer look at the appropriateness of the SDLRS, and offer very different conclusions. In a further look at the internal consistency issue, Long (1987) conducted an item-to-total analysis of the SDLRS based on a sample of 117 college students "similar to Guglielmino's original sample, except that the subjects may have been slightly older and had a higher education level" than those in the earlier investigation (p. 333). Long's major findings were that: (a) three of the 58 items did not correlate with the total instrument and (b) 12 of the 58 items correlated significantly with age. Based on these findings, Long argues that the findings from the Brockett (1985a, 1985b) study "are more sample-related than scale-related," meaning that the problems encountered in the earlier study may be due more to the nature of the sample than to limitations of the instrument.

Long's study makes an important contribution for, as we recommend in Chapter Thirteen, there is a need for replication studies that can lead to refinement of the methodologies used to study self-direction in learning. And although we

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are not in complete agreement with Long's conclusion, since the emphasis of his study was on age -rather than educational attainment (rather than age) was at the heart of the concerns raised in the Brockett (1985a, 1985b) study. Still, we believe that Long has made a useful contribution and we encourage further validation work of this type.

Finally, perhaps the most direct criticism leveled against the SDLRS has been presented by Field (1989). In his study, Field examined structure, validity, and reliability of the SDLRS by administering the instrument to 244 individuals enrolled as students at the Institute of Technical and Adult Teacher Education in Sydney, Australia. A reliability coefficient of .89 was found, which is very close to figures reported previously (Guglielmino, 1977; Brockett, 1985b). However, item-to-total correlations revealed that 12 items did not achieve a 0.3 correlation coefficient with the total SDLRS. Interestingly, three of the items that did not correlate have been identified similarly in at least three other studies (Brockett, 1985b; Leeb, 1985; Long, 1987) and two additional items were found not to correlate with total SDLRS score in the Brockett and Leeb investigations. Thus, at this time the evidence is rather convincing that early concerns raised about certain items of the scale are warranted.

Field raises a number of other concerns relative to the SDLRS. Specifically, these concerns center on four areas: (a) the use of the Delphi technique to generate items, given conceptual confusion relative to the term "self-directed learning;" (b) lack of definitions for "self-directed learner" and "readiness;" (c) the use of negatively phrased items; and (d) the instrument development process used by Guglielmino, where nine of 41 original items had been eliminated and 26 new items were added, without separate validation efforts, to give the scale its current 58 items. Based on these concerns, Field offered the following conclusion: "These findings suggest that the use of the SDLRS as an indicator of readiness for self-directed learning is not justified. As has been revealed, most of the claims regarding the scale rest on Guglielmino's developmental work which is seriously flawed, both methodologically and conceptually. . . . This tentative interpretation does not imply any support whatsoever for continued use of the SDLRS. The problems inherent in the scale are so substantial that it should not continue to be used." (Field, 1989, p. 138)

Field's study prompted a series of responses. Guglielmino (1989) responded to the four criticisms mentioned by Field. First, she stated the Delphi process was not used for the selection of items, but rather, in order to obtain a consensus about characteristics of the self-directed learner. Second, Guglielmino points out that "self-directed learner" was defined through the

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responses of the Delphi panel and clarifies that "readiness" implies that self-direction can be viewed as a continuum and with learners existing at various points along the continuum. Third, Guglielmino justifies the use of "reverse items" as a way of minimizing the potential for "response set," where a person who responds similarly to several items of a measure "is likely to assume that the remaining responses will be similar and cease to read the items carefully" (p. 237). Here, she reports that in another study, based on a sample of 3,151 individuals, only one of the reverse items had item-test correlations of .30 or higher. Fourth, Guglielmino points out that the "17 additional items were added after the initial field test, not 'after validation of the scale,' as stated by Field" (p. 238). Finally, Guglielmino presents evidence intended to refute concerns raised by Field relative to the validity of the scale and concludes that Field's report "is so filled with errors of omission and commission that it does not merit serious consideration" (Guglielmino, 1989, p. 240).

Long (1989) and McCune (1989b) offer further reactions to the Field study. Long (1989) states that Field's review of literature omitted several important references and provided references to other studies that were "lifted out of context" or were "particularly misleading" (p. 241). He also adds further support to the comments by Guglielmino (1989) relative to the validity of the SDLRS. McCune (1989b) takes issues with Field's statistical analysis. Among the concerns raised are Field's use of a "modified" version of the SDLRS rather than the standard version of the scale and his discussions of reliability, factor analysis, and reverse-scored items.

Clearly, the SDLRS has proven to be a source of both frequent use and controversy within the realm of research on self-direction in adult learning. Concerns with the instrument have led various writers to make recommendations ranging from proceeding with caution and ensuring that the scale is validated for different samples (Brockett, 1985b) to total dismissal of the instrument (Field, 1989). This controversy was perhaps further escalated in that as recently as 1988, Guglielmino had not acknowledged or addressed concerns raised with the scale (e.g., Guglielmino & Guglielmino, 1988). Recently, however, Guglielmino pointed out that in response to earlier concerns (e.g., Brockett, 1985b; Brookfield, 1984), she has developed a new version of the SDLRS for adults with lower reading and/or English proficiency levels. This is an encouraging development that may address some of the concerns raised with the original scale.

In summary, we believe that despite several apparent substantive and methodological concerns, the SDLRS has made a most important contribution to present understanding of the self-directed learning phenomenon by generating considerable research, controversy, and dialogue. We think that this contribution ultimately outweighs the limitations that seem to be inherent

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within the instrument. Indeed, the SDLRS has made it possible to advance the knowledge base of self-direction in ways that otherwise probably would not have been possible. Guglielmino is to be commended for her willingness to help us become better able to explain what lies beneath the surface of the adult learning iceberg. At the same time, we believe that the criticisms raised about the scale cannot be overlooked. There remain too many questions, particularly relative to the validity of the scale, that are not easily dismissed. We are unwilling to dismiss the scale, as Field has suggested, for to do so would mean to ignore such findings as those presented by Long (1987). However, we do recommend that the SDLRS be used with the same discretion as any other standardized instrument. And, as we point out in Chapter Thirteen, we would hope that future adult education researchers would join in the search for new and improved ways of measuring the iceberg.


The Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale has played a major role in making it possible to quantitatively measure self-reports of learners' tendencies toward self-direction. While there are certain limitations in attempting to quantify a construct that is linked to personality dimensions, the approach can nonetheless help us to gain understanding that is not likely to be otherwise obtained. Yet, these instruments are limited by the way in which they define the meaning of a construct, such as is the case with the SDLRS relative to those learners who are not oriented toward books or formal learning.

As a way of providing an alternative measure of self-direction in learning, Oddi (1984, 1985) developed the Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (OCLI). Using a theoretical framework based on "personality characteristics of individuals whose learning behavior is characterized by initiative and persistence in learning over time through a variety of modes" (1985, p. 98), Oddi identified three clusters that she hypothesized to be essential personality dimensions of self-directed continuing learners. These dimensions include:

  1. Proactive Drive versus Reactive Drive--"ability to initiate and persist in learning without immediate or obvious external reinforcement" (p. 98);
  2. Cognitive Openness versus Defensiveness--"openness to new ideas and activities, ability to adapt to change, and tolerance of ambiguity" as opposed to "rigidity, fear of failure, and avoidance of new ideas and activities" (p. 99); and
  3. Commitment to Learning versus Apathy or Aversion to Learning--while many individuals enjoy learning for its own sake, there are also individuals who have little interest in learning involvement. Those who fit the personality dimension of self-directed continuing learners generally fall into the former category.

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Based on these theoretical dimensions, Oddi constructed 100 items that were subjected to a content validation by panels of graduate students and experts in psychological constructs or self-directed learning. The 65 remaining items were organized into a seven-point Likert scale and, in this pre-pilot form, were administered to 30 volunteers. Emerging from this preliminary scale was a 31-item instrument, which was administered to 287 graduate students in law, nursing, and education. Five items from this instrument proved unreliable; however, the 26 remaining items yielded a raw score coefficient alpha of .75.

In order to obtain validation support for the OCLI, Oddi then identified a new sample of 271 graduate students in adult education, law, and nursing. Each person in this sample was asked to complete the OCLI and one of four instruments selected in order to estimate external validity for the scale. Included in this validation were the following instruments: the Leisure Activity Scale (Litchfield, 1965), a measure of adult participation in educational activities; the Internal-External Scale (Rotter, 1966), which measures perceived locus of control; four scales of the Adjective Check List (Gough & Heilburn, 1983), designed as a self-report of selected personality characteristics; and the Shipley Institute of Living Scale (Shipley, 1982), a measure of adult intelligence.

It was found that the mean score on the OCLI for the sample was 123.6, with a standard deviation slightly above 19 and a median of 126. A significant degree of skewness suggests that a fairly high number of the respondents in the sample could be described as "self-directed continuing learners." Gender and age correlated significantly with the scale, while educational level, family income level, and parent's educational level did not correlate significantly. Furthermore, while two of the items did not correlate significantly with the total scale, the remaining 24 items demonstrated an internal consistency of .875 and a test-retest reliability of .893.

A factor analysis of the instrument revealed the presence of three factors. The first of these is essentially the notion of a proactive approach toward learning, which was identified in the theoretical formulation used in the study, along with "the ability to work independently and to learn through involvement with others" (p. 103). A second factor was labeled "Ability to be Self-Regulating." And a third factor was called "Avidity for Reading." Since these factors only accounted for 30.9%, 8%, and 6.8% of the variance, respectively, Oddi suggests that the factors are not as likely to be useful as the total score on the instrument. However, we

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would note that accounting for nearly 50% of the variance with any instrument is somewhat remarkable, given the many intervening variables that are typically at work in human behavior.

With regard to validity, Oddi reported positive correlations between OCLI scores and scores on the Leisure Activity Survey as well as three of the four subscales on the Adjective Check List. On the other hand, the scale did not correlate with scores on the locus of control measure and a subscale of the Adjective Check List dealing with open-mindedness and flexibility. From the validity-related findings, Oddi suggests that the scale demonstrates convergent validity, and supports the elements of proactive drive and commitment to learning as elements of self-directedness in learning.

A particularly encouraging finding is that the OCLI did not correlate significantly with scores on the Shipley adult intelligence measure. When combined with the lack of significance between OCLI scores and educational level, it would appear that the scale does not demonstrate bias toward those persons who possess a high level of intelligence or a strong orientation toward formal learning. Given the concerns that have been raised relative to the SDLRS, this finding could potentially prove important in using the OCLI with adults of low formal education, as well as with populations involving individuals with average or lower levels of intelligence.

Based on her findings, Oddi concluded that when used in its entirety, the scale demonstrates a satisfactory level of reliability and validity. However, she warns that the scale should be "used with caution until further studies are undertaken" (1984, p. 174). We agree with this assessment, for to do otherwise would run the risk of promoting the same kind of controversy that has surrounded the use of the SDLRS.

While the OCLI has been used in relatively few studies to date, compared with the SDLRS, it is noteworthy that two of these investigations have offered findings that differ from those of earlier investigations. Shaw (1987), for example, examined the relationship between self-directedness and intellectual development. She administered the OCLI and the Measure of Epistemological Reflection (MER) (Taylor & Porterfield, 1983)--a measure of intellectual development, based on the Perry (1970) scheme, which utilizes a short answer essay format--to a randomly selected sample of 100 students at Montana State University. Shaw reported a statistically significant correlation between OCLI and MER scores, which suggests that as self-directed readiness increases, intellectual development also increases. In addition, Shaw noted significant positive correlations between age and scores on both the OCLI and the MER; however, she found that there were no significant differences on scores for either instrument between those individuals under age 25 and those 25 or older. Finally, she noted a positive

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relationship between class rank (freshman through post-baccalaureate) and both the OCLI and MER.

Shaw's findings are interesting in that they contrast with those of Leeb (1985), who did not find a significant relationship between self-direction and intellectual development. One possible reason for these differences in findings, according to Shaw, is that Leeb's study was based on a different methodology, as well as a smaller sample (N=34), the vast majority of whom had completed at least four years of college at the time of the study. Shaw concluded that her findings offer tentative support to earlier theoretical speculation by Kasworm (1983) and Cameron (1984).

Blackwood (1988) looked at the relationship between self-directedness and hemisphericity. In this study, hemisphericity was measured by the Refined Wagner Preference Inventory (WAPI II) (Wagner & Wells, 1985), a 12-item forced choice inventory that views hemisphericity on a continuum rather than as an absolute dichotomy. The WAPI II, the OCLI, and a demographic questionnaire were administered to 390 individuals who were "currently involved in a learning situation, and whose ages ranged across the life span" (p. 69).

A significant positive relationship was found between self-directedness and left brain hemisphericity. In addition, increasing age was again found to be related to greater self-directedness, as well as left hemisphere orientation. With regard to the differences between the findings of this study and the earlier investigation of Torrance and Mourad (1978), where self-directed readiness was found to be related to right hemisphere dominance, Blackwood suggests that there may be two explanations: (a) the earlier study used a measure that divided hemisphericity into three categories (right hemisphere dominant, left hemisphere dominant, and integrated) while the more recent study used a measure that views hemisphericity as a point along a continuum rather than as a dichotomy; and (b) since the small sample of the Torrance and Mourad study (N=41) were all enrolled in a university course on creative thinking, they may have been influenced in the direction of this right hemisphere-oriented characteristic (i.e., creativity). Also, it should be noted that Blackwood used a different instrument from the Torrance and Mourad study, and this could have contributed to some of the differences in findings.

Our own view is that hemisphericity is one of those nebulous concepts that does not offer a clear and simple picture. It would seem that there are certain characteristics associated with both hemisphere orientations that have been variously linked to self-directedness. And it is here where the value of doing replication studies becomes clear. Were it not for the later study, earlier findings would likely remain unquestioned. Thus, while we are enthusiastic about studies that find ways to make technical refinements on earlier

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work, we suggest that hemisphericity may be one of those areas where there could be a risk of "mixing apples and oranges."

Another study employing the OCLI offered a look at self-directedness among clinical laboratory science professionals (McCoy, 1988). In this investigation, McCoy sought to determine "if a professional's environment had an influence on self-directedness in learning and participation in continuing education activities" (p. 187A). It was found that the OCLI scores of respondents were generally high and, further, that organizational environments with varying degrees of perceived mandatory continuing education did not appear to influence scores on the OCLI.

Since the OCLI is a relatively new instrument, it has not yet been subjected to the same degree of scrutiny as the SDLRS. However, three studies have investigated methodological and substantive issues relative to the instrument. Six (1989a) administered the OCLI to 328 students at a private, two-year business college with a mean age of 19.6 years. Several weeks after completing the OCLI, 36 of the participants were selected at random to be assessed by their instructor on their level of self-directedness. Instructors were asked to complete a form designed by the researcher, the Classroom Learning Scale (CLS). A test of the relationship between scores on the OCLI and the CLS indicated a criterion-referenced validity coefficient of .14 (p = .41). Six concluded that the OCLI was not an effective predictor of self-directed learning behavior in the classroom setting and that the OCLI was not sensitive to demographic characteristics of the respondents.

In a follow-up investigation, Six (1989b) took a closer look at the three factors of the OCLI, as identified by Oddi (1984). Using data from his earlier study (Six, 1989a), along with data from the Oddi (1984) and Landers (1989) investigations, he sought to determine the extent to which the three factors "replicate across study samples" (1989b, p. 44). Six found that the factors derived from his earlier data matched the factors identified earlier by Oddi, thus suggesting that "the factors derived by Oddi do not break up to form new factors under different study conditions" (p. 50). Therefore, these findings support the earlier factor analysis of Oddi (1984).

In conclusion, Six (1989b) offers the following comment relative to the OCLI: " . . . the underlying dimensions of the OCLI demonstrate robustness and applicability to wider range of populations. One weakness, however, is that the total explained variance is bothersomely modest, justifying to some extent a lack of confidence to what is being measured. It is recommended that efforts be initiated on a number of fronts to improve the measuring properties of the OCLI and of self-directedness in learning." (p. 51)

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The third OCLI validation study was the comparison of the SDLRS and the OCLI by Landers (1989), which was mentioned earlier. Relative to the OCLI, Landers found a significant positive correlation between two of the three factors and total OCLI score. He also found evidence that the internal reliability of the scale was weak: three items correlated negatively with total OCLI score and two other items were statistically weak. As was mentioned earlier, Landers concluded that in measuring the concept of self-directedness, the SDLRS is preferred over the OCLI.

The findings of the Six (1989a) and Landers (1989) studies raise formidable questions about the appropriateness of the OCLI as a measure of self-direction. Yet, as with the SDLRS, we are unwilling to dismiss the instrument. Oddi has made an important contribution to the knowledge base by attempting to further clarify the meaning of self-direction and to develop an instrument reflecting that perspective. The concerns with the scale seem real and legitimate; however, only through further research will it be possible to confirm, refute, or modify the legitimacy of these concerns.


From the studies presented above and in the previous chapter, it should be clear that the knowledge base relative to self-direction has mushroomed since the publication of Tough's original study. With this growth of knowledge, however, has come the problem of interpreting and synthesizing this vast body of research. This problem of interpretation is further compounded in that the approaches to studying self-direction discussed in these two chapters, while clearly the major approaches, are not the only instruments by which self-direction has been studied. Using meta-analysis, a statistical procedure designed to allow for the integration of findings from a large number of individual studies, McCune (1989a) sought to synthesize the findings of quantitative studies on self-direction reported between 1977 and 1987.

Through an extensive computer search of literature covering the study period, McCune identified 103 studies addressing self-direction in adult learning. Of these, 67 met criteria necessary for inclusion in the data analysis (e.g., based on empirical data and reported in a way that provided enough information for the meta-analysis). Nearly half of the investigators for these studies (47.8%) came from the field of adult education, while another 25.4% were from nursing. The 67 studies used 18 different approaches to measure self-direction, the most frequent of these being the SDLRS, the Tough interview schedule or a modified version of the schedule, the

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reported number of hours devoted to self-directed learning activity, and course participation/persistence/completion.

McCune found that "adult self-direction in learning has been investigated with a diversity of demographic and psychosocial/behavioral variables" that can be grouped into 18 different categories (1989a, p. 121). In assessing the relationship across studies between self-directedness and these variables, McCune offered these observations: "The findings of this study indicate that the following variables are associated with self-direction in learning: (a) degree of self-directed learning activity (r = .242); (b) positive self-concept (r = .230); (c) educational attainment level (r = .200); (d) self-development (r = .194); (e) autonomy (r = .165); (f) ability to master the environment in work, school, play, or social relations (r = .147); and (g) factors related to longevity on the job (r = .138)." (McCune, 1988, p. 126)

The relationships between self-direction and other variables, such as age, gender, positive attitude about life or learning, dependence, and environmental factors that discourage learning efforts were "uncertain" because these relationships seem to have been influenced by "selected independent variables within the studies" (p. 125).

All in all, this study is an important contribution to the literature for it provides further confirmation across studies of relationships that have been hinted at previously. While, as McCune cautions, causation should not be implied from this correlational study, it seems clear that her findings give us a much clearer picture about the relative importance of certain variables vis-a-vis self-direction than was previously possible. While meta-analysis, as is true with any research methodology, has its limitations, its effective use rests on the assumption that a phenomenon has been studied sufficiently to warrant a large scale synthesis. McCune's investigation can be used as evidence to further confirm what we have been stressing throughout the book--that while many questions remain unanswered, self-direction has been demonstrated to be one of the brightest lights in research efforts throughout the adult education field.


Studies designed to measure an individual's level of self-directedness have clearly moved the body of knowledge in this area well beyond descriptions of the frequency and nature of self-directed learning activities. At the same time, concerns have been raised about both of the key instruments designed to measure self-directedness. To a large extent, these concerns can be linked

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to questions about how self-direction is defined and the theoretical underpinnings of the concept. The third stream of research, qualitative investigations, takes the knowledge base one step further by attempting to develop theory relative to self-direction in adult learning. These studies are considered in the next chapter.


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