Self-Advocacy and Self-Directed Learning:

A Potential Confluence for Enhanced Personal Empowerment


Roger Hiemstra, Professor Emeritus

Adult Education

Syracuse University


A Paper Presented at the

SUNY Empire State College Conference

“Disabled, But Enabled and Empowered”


March 20, 1998

Rochester, New York





          I am delighted to be here this morning. I believe this conference is a very important one and applaud the efforts of Dr. Nancy Gadbow, Dr. David DuBois, and all the many people who have been involved in its planning and implementation. I am confident that many of the exciting ideas, achievements, and sharing that are part of this conference will result in outcomes of tremendous potential value to both disabled learners and those educators working with disabled learners. I also wish to put in a plug for Nancy and David’s 1998 book, Adult Learners with Special Needs: Strategies and Resources for Postsecondary Education and Workplace Training. I believe it to be a very important contribution to those working directly or indirectly with disabled adults, and I hope for disabled adults, themselves.

          I’m going to begin my presentation with a long caveat. Like a lot of adult educators my age, I have not been specially trained to work with disabled adult learners. Nor do I have extensive experience working with or knowledge of how to work with disabled adults. However, like most people who have taught adults for more than 30 years, I have had disabled people in my classrooms, including some with cognitive disabilities, physical disabilities, and sensory disabilities. I’ve worked with a couple of students in the past that had multiple disabilities and several that have had temporary special needs.

          If you are a caring individual, you learn how to make what I would call common sense accommodations for learners who experience difficulties or who have limitations. Gadbow and DuBois (1998) point out a common myth that some teachers and educational administrators believe the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act require accommodations that will be difficult to accomplish. In addition, I can understand how learners with disabilities can feel a sense of educational disadvantage (Preece, 1995). But I have found a simple common sense approach to solving problems or listening to a disabled learner describe what is needed for a successful experience goes a long way toward meeting needs. In addition, in my own teaching I use a learning contract approach that enables each individual learner to tailor learning activities to both personal needs and strengths. I will talk more about my teaching and learning approach later in this presentation.

          Thus, because I do not have extensive experience related to the topic of this conference, I approached the development of this presentation like I do for most such efforts. I carried out some review of the literature and, as I began outlining my presentation, I reflected on how aspects of what I have been doing both practically as a teacher of adults and in my own scholarship during the past 20 plus years supported what I could say. I’m pleased to report that there appears to be a potential confluence or meeting together of some streams of research or action that can support and build on each other. In essence, I believe I have something to offer you today that can at least stimulate some thought if not even ignite future collaborative research and scholarship that will benefit disabled adult learners.

          I know, too, that I have more material here than can be covered during my allotted time. Thus, the full text of this presentation is now on my web page. I also would be happy to send you a copy of my remarks electronically as an email attachment.


The Potential Confluence


          Gadbow and DuBois (1998) open their book with the following statement:


          Of the more than 49 million Americans with disabilities (Bureau of Census, 1994), a large majority of those who are adults under the age of 65 have the intellectual capability to learn at the postsecondary level and the desire to be employed in meaningful work (Beziat, 1990). (p. 1)


They continue by describing the reasons many such people have not participated in educational programs, such as negative self-perceptions or various institutional hurdles they face. Such students may also have had prior bad experiences in certain educational institutions (Ashman & Elkins, 1990), inadequate learning materials (Jacobowitz, 1990), or insufficient linguistic skills (Whitman, 1990).

          Fortunately, a few developments have taken place to begin remedying some of these barriers. For example, the self-advocacy movement that began in the 70’s has continued to grow until today it encompasses more than 11,500 people in the United States and many more in other countries. In essence, self-advocates are people with varying disabilities who speak out on their own behalf concerning issues that directly affect them.

          As I read about the self-advocacy movement and several related developments to provide background for this presentation, increasingly I began to see areas of overlap with topics various colleagues and I have studied over the past two or more decades. So for those of you who like advanced organizers, here are two of those topics with which I have been associated that I will address today:


¨     Self-direction in Learning (in the literature most people refer to this as self-directed learning)

¨     Individualizing the Instructional Process


During my discussion, I will suggest how a confluence of each topic with self-advocacy as a vehicle for driving needed changes pertaining to the education of disabled adults has potential value. I will conclude my presentation with some recommendations for future action and invite any of you stimulated by my remarks to dialogue with me electronically or via any other way.

          However, before I dive into a discussion of the first topic I wish to define a few terms to let you see my level of awareness. This may help you better understand my later remarks. These definitions are derived from my reading material in preparation for this presentation. They are by no means intended to be definitive, as I may well have missed important material.

          The first of these, self-advocacy, appears to stem primarily from a national organization devoted to enhancing self-advocacy in the United States called SABE (Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered). Perhaps some of you here today are involved with this organization. I am not attempting here to talk about advocacy or the advocacy model that has been developed in many ways through the social work field. Gadbow and DuBois (1998) do discuss several related issues. However, in my view self-advocacy has some very clear relationship to the concept of self-directed learning that I will discuss in a few minutes.


¨     Self-advocacy – the development of special skills and understandings that enable people to explain their specific learning disabilities to others as a means of proactively coping with prevailing attitudes (Lokerson, 1992).


This concept of proactive assumption of responsibility is at the heart of much of what we know about self-directed learning.

A separate but related concept is self-determination. It appears primarily related to work of the Arc (formerly the Association for Retarded Citizens of the United States). The stress of this group (again, people involved with the Arc may be here today) is on the development of self-determination for people with cognitive disabilities.


¨     Self-determination – this refers to acting as the primary causal agent in one’s life and making choices and decisions regarding one’s quality of life free from undue external influence or interference (Wehmeyer, 1992).


It is assumed here that people who are self-determined take control over and participate in decisions that impact on their lives. Self-determined actions reflect four essential characteristics: Autonomy, self-regulation, psychological empowerment, and self-realization. All of these are related to points I will make in describing self-directed learning and a process for individualizing the instructional process.

One additional definition I’d like to handle here deals with how each individual can be involved in the whole learning process. In essence, my research during the past 25 years has convinced me that learning how to learn is very important for any person (Smith & Associates, 1990). I suspect this is especially important for any disabled adult who desires more control over personal destiny.


¨     Metacognitive learning – this involves competence in planning, monitoring, self-questioning, and self-directing personal learning; in essence, this emphasizes actual awareness of the cognitive processes that facilitate personal learning such as self-determination or autonomy (Ashmore & Conway, 1993; Biggs & Moore, 1993 Lokerson, 1992).


The Center for People with Disabilities’ mission statement expresses a belief that all people are entitled to the freedom to make choices and the right to live independently (Center, 1997). This humanistic view of personal empowerment and individual dignity, and I assume this would extend to a concept like metacognitive learning, expresses an optimistic perspective that celebrates each individual’s potential (Brockett, 1997).

Gadbow and DuBois (1998) eloquently talk about this notion of individual potential:


Historically, the field of adult education has long promoted the right of individuals to participate in educational programs “for the sake of learning” itself as well as the right to participate in education related to career and job needs. Not to encourage all adults who have the capacity to learn to participate in learning activities that will help them reach personal and professional goals goes against many of the basic philosophical tenets long espoused by the field of adult and continuing education. (p. 6)


As an adult and continuing educator, I truly believe that the underlying philosophy of self-advocacy or self-determination is consistent with what I know to be this prevailing adult education philosophy. In essence, this provides an opportunity to apply adult learning theories and what we know from practice to solving very real educational problems. In the next two sections I shall offer some ideas on how such a confluence of views and knowledge areas can enhance personal empowerment and the human potential of everyone. I conclude with a section that contains several recommendations for future action.


Self-Direction in Learning


          I have been involved with self-direction in learning in various ways for nearly 25 years. Personal research and scholarship, supervising student research, and finding practical ways of applying such research to adult teaching and learning are some of the results. If you would like to read about much of this journey, I suggest Brockett and Hiemstra (1991). Following is a brief description of the topic.

          Most adults spend considerable time acquiring information and learning new skills. The rapidity of change, the continuous creation of new knowledge, and an ever-widening access to information make such acquisitions necessary. Much of this learning takes place at the learner's initiative, even if available through formal settings. A common label given to such activity is self-directed learning. In essence, self-directed learning is seen as any study form in which individuals have primary responsibility for planning, implementing, and even evaluating the effort. Most people, when asked, will proclaim a preference for assuming such responsibility whenever possible.

          Research, scholarship, and interest in self-directed learning have literally exploded around the world in recent years. Few topics, if any, have received more attention by adult educators than self-directed learning. Related books, articles, monographs, conferences, and symposia abound. In addition, numerous new programs, practices, and resources for facilitating self-directed learning have been created. These include such resources as learning contracts, self-help books, support groups, open-university programs, electronic networking, and computer-assisted learning.

          Several things are known about self-direction in learning: (a) individual learners can become empowered to take increasingly more responsibility for various decisions associated with the learning endeavor; (b) self-direction is best viewed as a continuum or characteristic that exists to some degree in every person and learning situation; (c) self-direction does not necessarily mean all learning will take place in isolation from others; (d) self-directed learners appear able to transfer learning, in terms of both knowledge and study skill, from one situation to another; (e) self-directed study can involve various activities and resources, such as self-guided reading, participation in study groups, internships, electronic dialogues, and reflective writing activities; (f) effective roles for teachers in self-directed learning are possible, such as dialogue with learners, securing resources, evaluating outcomes, and promoting critical thinking; (g) an increasing number of educational institutions are finding ways to support self-directed study through open-learning programs, individualized study options, non-traditional course offerings, distance learning, and other innovative programs.

          Self-directed learning has existed even from classical antiquity. For example, self-study played an important part in the lives of such Greek philosophers as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Other historical examples of self-directed learners included Alexander the Great, Caesar, Erasmus, and Descartes. Social conditions in Colonial America and a corresponding lack of formal educational institutions necessitated that many people learn on their own.

          Early scholarly efforts to understand self-directed learning took place some 150 years ago in the United States. Craik (1840) documented and celebrated the self-education efforts of several people. About this same time in Great Britain, Smiles (1859) published a book entitled Self-Help, which applauded the value of personal development.

          However, it is during the last three to four decades that self-directed learning has become a major research area. Groundwork was laid through the observations of Houle (1961). He interviewed 22 adult learners and classified them into three categories based on reasons for participation in learning: (a) goal-oriented people, who participate mainly to achieve some end goal; (b) activity-oriented people, who participate for social or fellowship reasons; and (c) learning-oriented people, who perceive of learning as an end in itself. It is this latter group that resembles the self-directed learner identified in subsequent research.

          The first attempt to better understand learning-oriented individuals was made by Tough, a Canadian researcher and one of Houle's doctoral students. His dissertation effort to analyze self-directed teaching activities and subsequent research in the early 1970’s with additional subjects resulted in a book, The Adult's Learning Projects (1979). This work has stimulated many similar studies with various populations in various locations. One important finding among the subjects studied has been the very large preference to control personal learning and this led many educators of adults to talk about self-planned or self-directed learning.

          A colleague and I (Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991) synthesized many aspects of the knowledge about the topic and conceptualized the PRO (Personal Responsibility Orientation) model. This model recognizes both differences and similarities between self-directed learning as an instructional method and learner self-direction, which is based on personality characteristics. As can be seen in Figure 1, the point of departure for understanding self-direction is personal responsibility and empowerment. Personal responsibility refers to individuals assuming ownership for their own thoughts and actions. This does not necessarily mean control over all personal life circumstances or environmental conditions, but it does mean people can control how they respond to situations.

          Self-directed learning, the left side of the model, refers to the actual teaching and learning transactions, or what we refer to as those factors external to the adult learner. Learner self-direction, the right side, refers to the personal orientation of individuals engaged in a learning process. This involves a learner’s personality characteristics, or those factors internal to the individual such as self-concept.



    the Learner,Characteristics of the















Figure 1 The Personal Responsibility Orientation (PRO) Model



          In terms of learning, it is an ability or willingness of individuals to take control that determines any potential for self-direction. This means that learners have choices about the directions they pursue. Along with this goes responsibility for accepting any consequences of one's thoughts and actions as a learner.

          Brockett and I view the term self-directed learning as an instructional process centering on such activities as assessing needs, securing learning resources, implementing learning activities, and evaluating learning. Another colleague and I (Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990) refer to this as individualizing instruction, a process focusing on characteristics of the teaching-learning transaction, itself. I will address this process in the next section.

          The PRO model's final component is represented by the circle in Figure 1 that encompasses all other elements. While the individual's personality characteristics and the teaching and learning process are starting points for understanding self-direction, the social context provides an arena in which the learning activity or results are created. To fully understand self-directed learning activity, the interface existing between individual learners, any facilitator or learning resource, and appropriate social dimensions must be recognized. Thus, Brockett and I recommend that self-direction in learning be used as an umbrella definition recognizing those external factors facilitating adults taking primary responsibility for learning and those internal factors or personality characteristics that incline one toward personal empowerment or accepting such responsibility.

          Several researchers also have demonstrated that giving responsibility back to learners in many instances is more beneficial than other approaches. For example, in the workplace employees with busy schedules can learn necessary skills at their own convenience through self-study. Some technical staff in organizations who must constantly upgrade their knowledge can access new information through an individualized resource center.

          Perhaps most important of all, self-directed learning works!  Many adults succeed as self-directed learners when they could not if personal responsibility for learning decisions were not possible. Some will even thrive in ways never thought possible when they learn how to take personal responsibility and empower themselves for success as learners. It is here that I believe the confluence of self-direction in learning with self-advocacy, self-determination, or metacognitive learning has the most potential.

          In working with learners from varying levels or types of disabilities, it may not be possible to give carte blanche responsibility to each person. However, I contend that there are many aspects of the entire teaching and learning process where a person can take control and reap the personal benefits of learner self-direction. To that end I have broken the teaching and learning process down into various components in which learners can make their own decisions. Thus, if it is not possible to make decisions about the actual content or any learning activity, for example, it may be possible to assume responsibility for the pace of the learning, the type of instructional technique used, or the manner in which the learning processes are evaluated.

          I also am in the process of developing a resource guide of various instructional techniques, tools, and resources that the self-directed learner or instructor of self-directed learners can use in a learning endeavor. I have only begun the process so it should be considered a work in progress. Both these efforts are contained in an appendix to this presentation paper and I welcome your dialogue if you access this paper and have thoughts, suggestions, or ideas on additional material that I should include or areas I should consider changing.


Individualizing the Instructional Process


          Growing out of this research on self-directed learning was my desire to find practical ways of using such knowledge in the instructional process. Linking the instructional process with learner inputs, involvement, and decision making is crucial. I believe the potential of humans as learners is maximized when there is a deliberate effort by instructors to provide opportunities for participants to make decisions regarding the learning process. The individualized instructional process that I and Burt Sisco developed (1990) builds on the notion of individual decision-making, the need for instructors to help learners become more self-directed, and respect for adults because they do have so much untapped potential for personal empowerment.

This approach involves learners in determining personal needs and building appropriate learning situations to meet those needs. It does so without imposing too many external controls or instructor-directed biases. Sometimes learner needs and subsequent goals are known early or can be determined quickly. Other times, such needs and goals may be preset by an employer, stem from a specific content area requirement such a college credit course, or arise because of some personal situation such as dealing with a disability or coping with some aspect of living. There also are instances when the learner needs some time or some type of process before specific learning needs and goals surface.

          In essence, the individualizing process is based on a belief expressed in the previous section that all people are capable of self-directed involvement in, personal commitment to, and responsibility for learning. This includes making choices regarding instructional approaches, educational resources, and evaluation techniques.

For teachers of adults the experience of adapting all or some portions of the individualizing process can be a wrenching one. It may mean giving up some beliefs about instructor or trainer roles. Personality and institutional constraints may need examination and change. It may require some tough examination of what is remembered about former teacher role models. Frequently, many of our role models were traditional instructors who used an approach quite contrary to an individualizing process. Thus, time may be required before a teacher feels comfortable with some of the changes. It most certainly will mean a reexamination of a personal philosophy about instruction (Hiemstra, 1988; Hiemstra & Brockett, 1994). It may even necessitate some real soul searching on whether or not some of our underlying assumptions about people, whether disabled or not, can be accepted.

          Thus, we developed a six-step process for individualizing instruction in a way that learner inputs, involvement, and decision-making are facilitated: (one) preplanning activities prior to meeting learners, (two) creating a positive learning environment, (three) developing instructional plans, (four) identifying appropriate learning activities, (five) implementing and monitoring the instructional plan, and (six) evaluating individual learner outcomes (see Figure 2).





Step One,Step Two,Step Three,Step Four,Step Six,Step Five 










Figure 2. Individualizing Instruction Model



Each step is sequential and designed to help learners take increasing responsibility for their own learning. A key ingredient of the model is the promotion of effective educational practice through the creation of an instructional system that celebrates individual differences, experiences, and learning needs. As Sisco (1997) notes,


By taking advantage of the resident expertise so common in older, more mature learners, the instructor can create optimum conditions for learning to occur. This is one of the guiding principles in instructional design and certainly is a hallmark of the Individualizing Instruction model. Understanding the instructional process, being flexible and supportive when the need arises, helping learners assume greater control of the learning process, and varying the instructional methods and techniques so that active learning is emphasized all add up to instructional success. (p. 399)


For example, as I mentioned earlier, the process employs the learning contract approach which enables a learner to design unique learning experiences to meet personal needs with the guidance of a facilitator (Knowles, 1986). It also is predicated on the notion that creating a positive learning environment takes understanding and attention to adult needs (Hiemstra, 1991, 1997).

Success with the individualizing instructional approach will depend on the attitude of anyone implementing it. In other words, an instructor in a facilitator role will need to believe in the overall potential of promoting self-direction in learning, accept learner input, criticism, and independence, and seek a wide range of learning resources. Learners, themselves, may need to overcome years of expectations regarding the place or role of learners. This may require several efforts to become more personally empowered. Changing approaches or attitudes toward instruction or learning generally requires dedication, hard work, practice, and time. However, I am convinced the effort is worth it and look forward to dialogue with any of you on ways of applying the individualized instructional process to adult learners with disabilities.




Following are a series of recommendations that come to my mind after reflecting on the remarks I have made thus far. However, I acknowledge that my insights are limited by my lack of experience and knowledge about disabled adults. I invite further dialogue and suggested recommendations from any of you.


1. I have suggested several ways self-direction in learning and the individualized instructional process relate to aspects of self-advocacy and self-determination. I further suggest there is potential in the appendix material I presented for enhancing personal empowerment. However, to determine their usefulness these ideas and materials should be scrutinized by learners with disabilities and those educators who work with such learners.


2. The self-directed learning readiness and metacognitive skills (learning to learn ability) of learners with disabilities should be investigated and benchmarked to provide a baseline for further development of the various ideas I presented (Boote, 1997).


3. Research should be conducted to determine the most appropriate approaches to promoting learner self-direction for adults with disabilities.


4. Research should be conducted to determine how best to implement aspects of the individualized instructional process with adults with disabilities.


5. Efforts should be made to find ways of increasing the metacognitive (learning to learn) skills of adults with disabilities.


6. Programs of any sort designed to train educators and trainers of adults should be better informed by researchers and practitioners who have experience with disabled adults so that future research, scholarship, and training efforts can be improved and made more inclusive in nature.


7. A series of in-service training workshops should be conducted with current teachers and trainers of adults to help them understand the learning needs and potential of adults with disabilities. Information emanating from conferences like this one can serve as a basis for such training.


8. Research should be conducted to better understand the potential and limitations of distance education technologies in reaching adults with disabilities (Coombs, 1989; Rohfeld & Hiemstra, 1995; Willis, 1994).


9. Programs should be designed that will help disabled adults enhance their ability to use self-directed learning techniques and resources, such as learning contracts.


10. Scholars and practitioners working with self-advocacy and self-determination efforts and those working with self-direction in learning efforts should meet to discuss ways of working together to meet the needs of disabled adults. We have much to learn from each other.





          The following ideas and resource materials are premised on ideas about empowering learners that have emanated from some of the research on self‑directed learning. Much of this research in North America during the past 25 years has demonstrated that most adult learners prefer to take considerable responsibility for their own learning. Yet, many traditional teaching and training situations limit opportunities for such personal involvement because control over content or process remains in the hands of experts, designers, or teachers who depend primarily on didactic approaches.

          One of the initial responses I made to this apparent disparity between what such research has demonstrated and much of current teaching or training practice was the development of the individualized instructional process described above (Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990). In this process it is suggested there are various ways learners can take responsibility for their own learning without leading to anarchy in the learning setting.

          Some of our critics suggest that the process we advocate will not work with their particular teaching areas or students because the content is controlled by organizational requirements, must be taught in a particular sequence, or is too advanced for novice learners. We contend that the process of providing opportunities for learners to assume some control is equally as important, if not often more important, than the actual content because of the ever declining half‑life of much of knowledge and the value in helping learners learn how to learn.

          What I have been wrestling with recently is thinking through various ways that learners can assume increasing control over certain aspects of their learning process, in other words become more empowered. As noted earlier, I am in the process of developing two related products. One is a framework for identifying various teaching and learning process components in which learners can make their own decisions (Figure 3). The following material outlines my thinking to date. The second product (Figure 4) is a resource guide of various techniques, tools, and resources that the self-directed learner can use to plan personal learning efforts, enhance personal skills, or obtain new knowledge. The framework represents a work in progress, showing various techniques, tools, or resources displayed within six categories. A few of them have initial descriptions to provide an idea of what I hope to accomplish.

          Thus far I have reviewed related literature, talked to colleagues, reflected on my own teaching, and thought about what such resources should look like if they are to be of value to learners, themselves, or to those wishing to enhance the self-directed learning skills of learners. This material most likely will not be very helpful to you at this early point in its development, although it does give you an idea of the kinds of resources that are possible. As you are one of the first groups of people to see this evolving effort, I would very much appreciate any feedback you care to give me. Does it make sense in the organizational scheme I am suggesting? Are there some obvious things I am missing? Please feel free to contact me with any of your feedback. I will be very grateful and your advice will help me to make it a more useful resource.


Helping Learners Take Responsibility for Self-Directed Activities


Roger Hiemstra


          Research has clearly demonstrated that adults prefer to assume some responsibility for their own learning. However, some instructors and even some learners resist this notion for various reasons. One of my current projects involves developing a framework of teaching and learning process components to provide multiple opportunities for learners to make their own decisions. The following represents my work thus far. At each numbered item, a yes, no, or sometimes question should be asked in terms of whether or not learners can assume control.


1. Assessing Needs

          1.1 Choice of individual techniques

          1.2 Choice of group techniques

          1.3 Controlling how needs information is reported

          1.4 Controlling how needs information is used

2. Setting goals

          2.1 Specifying objectives

          2.2 Determining the nature of the learning

                2.2.1 Deciding on competency or mastery learning -vs.- pleasure or interest learning

                2.2.2 Deciding on the types of questions to be asked and answered during learning efforts

                2.2.3 Determining emphases to be placed on the application of the knowledge or skill acquired

          2.3 Changing ("evolution") objectives over the period of a learning experience

          2.4 Use of learning contracts

                2.4.1 Making various learning choices or selecting from various options

                2.4.2 Decisions on how to achieve objectives

3. Specifying learning content

          3.1 Decisions on adjusting levels of difficulty

          3.2 Controlling sequence of learning material

          3.3 Choices on knowledge types (psychomotor, cognition, affective)

          3.4 Decision on theory -vs.- practice or application

          3.5 Deciding on level of competency

          3.6 Decisions on actual content

                3.6.1 Choices on financial or other costs involved in the learning effort

                3.6.2 Deciding on the help, resources, or experiences required for the content

          3.7 Prioritizing the learning content

          3.8 Deciding on the major planning type, such as self, other learners, experts, etc.

4. Pacing the learning

          4.1 Amount of time devoted to teacher presentations

          4.2 Amount of time spent on teacher to learner interactions

          4.3 Amount of time spent on learner to learner interactions

          4.4 Amount of time spent on individualized learning activities

          4.5 Deciding on pace of movement through learning experiences

          4.6 Decisions on when to complete parts or all of the activities

5. Choosing the instructional methods, techniques, and devices

          5.1 Selection of options for technological support and instructional devices

          5.2 Choice of instructional method or technique

          5.3 Type of learning resources to be used

          5.4 Choice of learning modality (sight, sound, touch, etc.) for determining how best to learn

          5.5 Choices on opportunities for learners, learner and teacher, small group, or large group discussion

6. Controlling the learning environment

          6.1 Decision on manipulating physical/environmental features

          6.2 Deciding to deal with emotional/psychological impediments

          6.3 Choices on ways to confront social/cultural barriers

          6.4 Opportunities to match personal learning style preferences with informational presentations

7. Promoting introspection, reflection, and critical thinking

          7.1 Deciding on means for interpreting theory

          7.2 Choices on means for reporting/recording critical reflections

          7.3 Decision on use of reflective practitioner techniques

          7.4 Opportunities provided for practicing decision-making, problem solving, and policy formulation

          7.5 Making opportunities to seek clarity or to clarify ideas available

          7.6 Choices on practical ways to apply new learnings

8. Instructor's/trainer's role

          8.1 Choice of the role or nature of didactic (lecturing) presentations

          8.2 Choice of the role or nature of Socratic (questioning) techniques to be used

          8.3 Choice of the role or nature of facilitative (guiding the learning process) procedures

9. Evaluating the learning

          9.1 Choice on the use and type of testing

                9.1.1 Deciding on the nature and use of any reviewing

                9.1.2 Opportunities for practice testing available

                9.1.3 Opportunities for retesting available

                9.1.4 Opportunities available for choosing type of testing, if any, to be used

                9.1.5 Decisions on weight given to any test results

          9.2 Choices on type of feedback to be used

                9.2.1 Deciding on type of instructor's feedback to learner

                9.2.2 Deciding on type of learner's feedback to instructor

          9.3 Choices on means for validating achievements (learnings)

          9.4 Deciding on nature of learning outcomes

                9.4.1 Choosing type of final products

             Deciding how evidence of learning is reported or presented

             Opportunities made available to revise and resubmit final products

             Decisions on the nature of any written products

                9.4.2 Decision on weight given to final products

                9.4.3 Deciding on level of practicality of outcomes

             Opportunities to relate learning to employment/future employment

             Opportunities to propose knowledge application ideas

                9.4.4 Deciding on nature of the benefits from any learning

             Opportunities to propose immediate benefits versus long-term benefits

             Opportunities to seek various types of benefits or acquisition of new skills

          9.5 Deciding on the nature of any follow-up evaluation

                9.5.1 Determining how knowledge can be maintained over time

                9.5.2 Determining how concepts are applied

                9.5.3 Opportunities provided to review or redo material

                9.5.4 Follow-up or spin-off learning choices

          9.6 Opportunities made available to exit learning experience and return later if appropriate

          9.7 Decision on the type of grading used or completion rewards to be received

          9.8 Choosing the nature of any evaluation of instructor and learning experience

          9.9 Choices on the use and/or type of learning contracts


Figure 3. Aspects of the Learning Process Where Learners Can Assume Some Control



A. Planning Tools


A1. The Learning Contract Plan/Learning Contract Design.

The learning contract is a device whereby you can plan and personalize any learning experience. It can take on many shapes and forms ranging from audio tapes, to outlines, to descriptive statements, to elaborate explanations of process and product, to electronically submitted forms. More examples can be found in O'Donnell, J. M., & Caffarella, R. S. (1990). Learning contracts. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.), Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction (pp. 133-160). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company. Most contracts contain information on your learning goals, anticipated learning resources and strategies, a projected time line, and ideas for how you will evaluate or validate your learning achievements.

A2. Self Diagnostic Form.

A self diagnostic form is an instrument designed to assist you in assessing personal levels of competence and need related to possible areas of study. Such information typically helps in identifying and developing many of the professional competencies required to understand a particular topic of interest or need and often is used as a precursor to construction of a learning contract. Here is example one and example two from different graduate courses.

A3. Self Analysis as a Learner.

This involves you in carrying out an analysis of yourself or others as a learner. It includes determining such factors as the ways you learn best, developmental patterns or social roles which impact on your learning efforts, subject areas which you like best, strengths and weaknesses as a learner, and what, if any, you would change to improve your learning performance. Several self-administered instruments are available for your use if desired.

1.     Competencies for performing life roles

2.     Self-directed learning skills

3.     Competencies for carrying out self-directed learning projects

A4. Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale.

A self-administered and self-scored instrument entitled the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) is available for comparison of yourself with normed information. An opportunity also is provided for you to detail what the results means in terms of future learning approaches and efforts.

A5.Self-Directed Learning Perception Scale (SDLPS).

A self-report instrument, to monitor the support of a self-directed learning environment.

A6. Self Rating on Self-Directed Learning Competencies.

A self-administered and self-scored competency rating device is available for obtaining information about self-directed learning abilities. An opportunity also is provided for you to detail what the results means in terms of future learning approaches and needed competency acquisitions.

A7. Self-Assessment Exercise.

This exercise helps you gain an understanding of and practice with a self-diagnosis process. A model of desired behaviors or required competencies pertaining to learning about a particular topic is created and any gaps identified in current competency levels becomes the basis for planning future learning.

A8. Analyzing Your Thinking Skills and Intelligence Types.

You are introduced to various thinking skill types and personal intelligence types and the nature of the information typically foundational to each type. A self-assessment of how your thinking approaches and/or personal intelligence fit the various types is determined and you can then determine some of  the implications for your future learning activities studied.

A9. Determining Your Learning Style.

Several self-administered and self-scoring instruments are available to help identify your own learning style. One or more of these can be completed and the resulting scores and associated meanings used to think through implications and approaches for subsequent learning efforts.

A10. Determining Your Teaching Style.

The PALS ( Principles of Adult Learning Scale) instrument is a device that measures the various things that a teacher or trainer does when working with adult learners. You complete, self score the instrument, and compare the results with some normed information to determine any implications for future efforts to improve your teaching or training abilities. Contact the instrument developer, Gary Conti, or you can find the instrument and scoring information in Conti, G. J. (1990). Identifying your teaching style. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.), Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction (pp. 79-96). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company.

A11. Determining Individual Change Styles.

The "Change Styles Questionnaire" is an instrument developed to assess how an individual's self-directed and problem solving approaches or preferences coalesce to create various individual change styles. Knowledge about such styles helps individuals and teachers or trainers find ways of dealing with learning and changes in the workplace and other settings. See also a background paper on the instrument.

A11. Constructing a Gantt Chart.

Critical Path Analysis (CPA) and the creation of a Gantt Chart is a useful tool for planning, scheduling, and managing various self-study activities. You are shown how to delineate and sequence those activities necessary for carrying out a set of learning objectives. The calendar dating of a CPA network and creation of a Gantt time management chart are included in the process.

B. Individual Study Techniques

B1. Mind Mapping/Concept Mapping.

Mind mapping is a visually oriented technique designed to allow you to see or make connections among widely disparate elements of some subject you are studying. You are shown how to use interconnecting arrows, branching ideas, and personal patterns to expand your knowledge about a particular topic. In this technique you also learn how to develop mind or concept mapsto pinpoint the various misconceptions or nuances of meaning that you may hold so that your interpretation skills are increased.

B2. Using Probes in Learning.

Probes are ideas, questions, and insights you develop while you are in the process of learning something about a new topic or field. You learn how to use dialogue, conversation, and questioning that turns learning something new from a passive to an active process. Developing propositions and revised propositions become a part of your learning repertory.

B3. Vee Diagramming/Vee Heuristic Technique.

The Vee diagramming/heuristic technique is a problem solving aid in helping you see the interplay between what you already know and knowledge you are producing or attempting to understand. You learn how to use a Vee to point to events or objects that serve as foundations for any knowledge being developed or learned.

B4. How to Read a Journal/Magazine.

B5. Learning from TV and Radio.

B6. Exercising.

An important means for establishing your physiological state for individualized learning is to carry out some brisk exercising. The World Wide Web has a multitude of sites related to exercising.

B7. Self-education, Self-university.

B8. Analyzing Your Preferred Learning Environment.

B9. Relaxation Training.

B10. Memory Enhancement Techniques.

Here is a related site suggested by Jose, a middle school student: Memory and the Human Brain.

B11. Learning with Computers.

B12. Using Self-Paced Modules.

B13. Using Communication Technology.

B14. Self-Directed Learning Modules.

B15. Learning from Your Experiences.

B16. The Use of Penetrating Questions.

B17. Designing a Personal Learning Project.

B18. Walkabout.

B19. Developing Lists of Resources.

B20. Using Mediated Resources.

B21. Repertory Grid-Based Technique.

B22. Correspondence Study.

B23. Constructing a Planning/Design Model.

B24. Improving Writing Skills.

B25. Individualized Learning within an Organizational Setting.

Increasingly, more and more organizations are recognizing the value in providing resources and opportunities for employees to "train" themselves through various self-directed techniques.Guglielmino and Guglielmino (1994) suggest several resources that are being established in some organizations.

B26. Yoga or  Tai Chi

C. Personal Reflection Tools

C1. Book/Article/Media Review Techniques.

C2. Creating an Interactive Reading Log.

The interactive reading log is a learning activity designed to give you a thoughtful exposure to a broad area of subject matter. It is intended to place relatively greater stress on reading and less stress on intensive writing related to a limited topic. A log is not an outline nor a summary of your reading. Rather, it is essentially a series of reactions to those elements in your readings that are particularly meaningful and/or provocative.

C3. Creating a Media Log.

C4. Journal/Diary Writing Techniques.

The personalized journal or diary is a tool to aid you in terms of personal growth, synthesis, and/or reflection on any new knowledge that is acquired in learning efforts. You are shown how a diary can be created and given examples of how others have created one.

C5. Creating your Personal Philosophy Statement.

The way one teaches is tied to a personal philosophy of life. This activity helps you understand more about various philosophical models or frameworks. You are shown how to eclectically draw from various models in creating your own statement of philosophy. An instrument developed by Lorraine M. Zinn, that demonstrates your preference for various philosophical viewsis available or can be found in Zinn, L. M. (1990). Identifying your philosophical orientation. In M. W. Galbraith (Ed.), Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction (pp. 39-77). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company

C6. Analyzing a Theory.

C7. Creating a Theory Log.

C8. Reading a Book Proactively.

C9. Using Human Resources Proactively.

C10. Learning Through Intuition and Dreams.

C11. Reflecting on Learning at Home or the Workplace.

C12. Analyzing Your Thinking Skills.

C13. Relaxation. Dealing with stress.

C14. Imaginary Dialogues.

C15. Analyzing Personal Ethics.

C16. Thinking About Learning.

C17. Personal Inventories.

C18. Personality Measures.

D. Individual Skill Development

D1. Skill Practice Exercises.

D2. Portfolio Development. Here is one good resource. Here is a second one.

D3. Improving Your Writing Skills.

D4. Enhancing Your Lecturing Skills.

D5. Enhancing Your Discussing Skills.

D6. Enhancing Your Questioning Skills.

D7. Enhancing Your Coaching Skills.

D8. Enhancing Your Understanding of Various Teaching Techniques.

D9. Effective Use of Gaming Devices.

D10. Using a Study Center/Learning Lab.

E. Group Study Techniques

E1. A Study Group Activity.

E2. Debates.

E3. Discussion Groups or Discussion Networks.

E4. Quality Circles.

E5. Study Clubs/Study Circles.

F. Using The Educative Community

F1. Community Study.

There are a variety of resources existing in any community that can be used to meet various of your education or training needs. You are shown how to better understand this educative community notion by using various community study techniques. You learn how to seek out that information important for your personal growth and development.

F2. Using Another Person as a Resource for Learning.

F3. Obtaining Feedback from Others.

F4. Agency Visit. Here is an interview schedule you could use to examine an agency and determine its potential for self-directed learning. Here is a guide for analyzing the potential within an agency for learner control.

F5. Mini-Internship.

F6. Interviewing Adult Learners.

It is assumed that you can learn a great deal about your own learning from studying, observing, and/or talking with other adult learners. You are shown how to interview adults to determine what you can about their learning activities, approaches, and resource preferences. You then are encouraged to derive a statement of personal reflection and assessment in terms of your own learning needs and approaches.

F7. Using Agency Resources.

F8. Obtaining Feedback.

F9. Learning From Mentors. Thoughts on Mentoring.

F10. Learning From a Resource.

F11. Career Counseling.

F12. Organizational Audit.

F13. Power Structure Analysis.

F14. Peer Review.

F15. Peer Coaching.

F16. Using A Library and the Web.

F17. Attending a Conference.

F18. Using Museums/Art Galleries.

F19. Travel as a Learning Event.

F20. Networks and Networking.

F21. Study Tours.

F22. Directed Learning.

Figure 4. Techniques, Tools, and Resources for the Self-Directed Learner





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