Policy Recommendations Related to Self-Directed Adult Learning


Roger Hiemstra

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY


Adult Education Program, Occasional Paper No.1




This report is derived from a two-week workshop conducted during July of 1980 at Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. Workshop participants who contributed greatly to this report included Peggy Allen, JoAnn Barnes, Dennis Bejot, Virginia Bishop, Fred Bungert, Barbara Burton, Rachel Christensen, Lynn Engen, Don Goering, Sherry Harris, Bob Hoksch, Connie Ruggless, Joyce Samuels, Colina Stanton, Dave Swanson, and Aaron Wheeler. Workshop staff included Awatif Hassan, Roger Hiemstra, Bob Judd, Norm Kurland, Connie Leean, Allen Tough, Asuquo Umoren, and Mick Zangari.




Much has been written about adult's learning projects, self-directed learning, and “self” as learning planner since Allen Tough's publication of The Adult's Learning Projects in 1971. His work stimulated many dissertations and other research efforts. The fact that a 1979 edition of the book was published in the United States is further evidence of the increasing interest in the whole notion of self-directed adult learning.

I have been interested in and involved with this area of inquiry for several years. However, I have become increasingly more concerned that we go some steps beyond documenting the amount of individual learning effort and the percentage of learning that is self planned and initiated. We need to know more about the development and utilization of learning resources by self-directed learners. We need a better handle on learner differences, how learning decisions are made, and issues like learning effectiveness or efficiency. We must understand how adult educators and institutional representatives can best help self-directed learners. We urgently need policy to guide those formal organizations who selfishly or unselfishly are attempting to recruit the self-directed learner and sometimes those dollars spent on supporting such effort. Cross (1980) makes this point so well:


Although I am not an advocate of deschooling society, I am not sure I want to perpetuate into the adult years the idea of lifelong schooling either. There is a legitimate concern, I think, that the more effective colleges are in recruiting adults into traditional college programs, the more adults will be attracted away from self-directed learning projects into programs designed, directed, and made legitimate by others. The point of the learning society, after all, is to develop independent, self-directed learners. It is not to create a society in which learners become increasingly dependent on an educational establishment to decide what, when, where, and how people should learn. (p. 629)


Thus, I conceived of the idea to pull together a group of people in a workshop setting for purposes of developing some policies and recommendations for implementing those policies. This report is a compilation of the proceedings of that workshop and as you will read, the processes utilized during the two weeks and the group dynamics that evolved resulted in what I believe to be a very fortuitous grouping of derived policies into the following categories:

Adults as Learners -- the student perspective

Adult Educators -- the teacher/facilitator perspective

Adult Education Institutions and Organizations -- the institutional perspective

Subsequently, I believe that the end result is a report with considerable information, ideas, and guidelines for a wide variety of individuals.

Like any project of this type, not all of the answers were derived. In reality, only a small step in the direction of deriving needed policy was made. However, the workshop results and this document should serve to facilitate and perhaps initiate future policy development and even to promote new areas of research. Ideas, concerns, and questions from readers are welcome and invited at any time.

I would like to acknowledge the tremendous effort put forth by workshop participants. Their flexibility, their willingness to often work into the wee hours of the morn, and their creative and insightful thoughts are the foundation of this report. Actually, the impact of those two weeks on their understanding of adults as learners and their own professional activities may be the greatest product of this whole project. In addition, the staff, especially Bob Judd and Connie Leean, contributed a great deal to the effort. I also would like to thank my colleagues Heibat Baghi and Dick Deems for their input prior to the workshop and a special thanks to Sandra Deems for her many support services.


Roger Hiemstra, Project Coordinator, September 1, 1980






General Statement

The Workshop

State of the Art

Definition of Terms

Mission Statement



Policy Statements

1. Adults as Learners



Learning Environment

2. Adult Educators




3. Adult Education Agencies


Program Administration

Adult Needs and Interests

Consequence Analysis



Appendix A: Workshop Participants and Staff

Appendix B: Workshop Information

Appendix C: Summary of Presentations

Appendix D: Reflections From A Process Observer (Connie Leean)

Appendix E: The Derivation of Policy

Appendix F: Impediments to Implementing Policy

Appendix G: Consequence Analysis Guidelines

Appendix H: Terms/Concepts Needing Definition




General Statement


Are we a self-directed learning society? The "discovery" in the past few years of the vast amount of learning by adults that takes place each year outside of the formal classroom would lead one to believe that we are living in a self-directed learning society. Tough's (1979) seminal research on learning projects increased our awareness of the enormity of self-directed learning. Subsequent research and writing by Coolican (1974), Hiemstra (1975, 1976), Luikart (1977), Penland (1978, 1979), and several others have provided indications that the high level of involvement by adults in self-directed learning activities is fairly consistent across populations and even societies irrespective of such variables as location, amount of education, age, economic status, and occupational history.

It may well be that adults have always been heavily engaged in numerous learning projects, many of which have been self-directed in nature. Indeed, before there were many institutionalized adult education classes as we know of them, there were libraries, study groups, discussion clubs, Abraham Lincoln's study by the light from the fireplace; American pioneers learning about traveling, survival, and agriculture in new lands through observation, experimentation, and experience; vast numbers of newly arrived United States residents learning English in self-study groups; and many other forms of self-directed adult learning. However, the research described above, the increasing pressure by adults for more learning opportunities and the awareness of diminishing national resources with related future implications for less travel to classroom settings are some of the pressures forcing more attention on self-directed learning. Subsequently, there is a real need for educators involved with lifelong learning to respond in some way.

In addition, an assumption underlying this report and the workshop is that we must give much more attention to the implications of a self-directed learning society. Indeed, many educators seem to be embracing this "new" learner as a clientele base of dollars waiting to be spent on good self-directed learning resources:


. . . I am becoming increasingly concerned about the over eagerness of some colleges to attract adult learners into college classrooms; their goal would appear to be institutional survival rather than social good. . . . I believe that all education, especially postsecondary education, should be directed toward making people more self-directed learners, and colleges can contribute very constructively to that goal if they are encouraged to think beyond institutional survival to providing for the real needs of adult learners. (Cross, 1980, p. 629)


Still other educators working with lifelong learning programs are either discounting the self-directed adult learning research or viewing the attempts to serve self-directed learners as threatening to their own head count needs. Unfortunately, there have not been many reports in the literature of efforts to think through the implications, policy needs, and programming changes related to the self-directed learner nor the appropriate roles for educational institutions and educators, themselves.

For example, and perhaps most important, what are the rights of the learner and the related responsibilities of the educator? Should the educator intervene in self-directed learning activities? If so, when, how often, how much, and what should be the nature of the intervention? What are the responsibilities of the educator and the rights of the learner regarding the costs of learning assistance? These and many other related questions need to have answers in the form of policies and guidelines. Perhaps, and this is not intended to be flippant, the self-directed learner needs to be protected by a code of ethics: "A Bill of Rights for adult learners would recognize that a creative and socially relevant individualism is alive and well in self-initiated learning." (Penland, 1979, p. 178)

A brief anecdote may help explain why I have put so much emphasis on the rights and responsibilities issue. One of my Aunts and I share a passion for genealogy. Both of us have studied the same branch of the family name fairly extensively. In comparing notes for the first time several months ago I realized that our study efforts were classic examples of learning projects. However, our approaches were vastly different. I had taken a non-credit adult education class in genealogy, had read five books and numerous pamphlets on the subject, had worked with fellow genealogists, had worked with a librarian in the genealogy section of a large historical library, and had made a several day pilgrimage to the Genealogical Society Library in Salt Lake City. Then, using what I believe to be considerable self-directed learning, I compiled enough information to write a little history of the family name. My Aunt, on the other hand, spends much of her free time (amounting to hundreds of hours each year) visiting libraries or cemeteries on the East Coast. When I questioned her about her own approach she described a process that sounded to me fairly inefficient. She spends several days each year looking through books like The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, usually in libraries in the east rather than looking for the same sources closer to her home in Michigan. She has never taken a class on the subject, has not read any books on how to do it, and prefers to work alone rather than with someone like a librarian. Inefficient? Perhaps! And yet, she has a love for the research activity second to none. Further, she has picked up an enormous amount of information on the subject over the years and because of her perseverance makes several "finds" each year. She described with absolute glee the many times she has been able to track down an important gravestone that helped to fit some family tree puzzle pieces together.

The point of sharing this anecdote is to raise questions like the following: Would I have increased her satisfaction by showing her how to be a more "efficient" genealogist? Did I have a right to even intervene in this case? Could she have been turned off by some classroom expert possibly challenging her approach and attempting to instill a better one? I have chosen not to intervene other than to share my findings with her and to answer any questions she has raised on how I obtained my information. However, this example has caused me to reflect often on the need to have some guidelines regarding adult educators' responsibilities to the learner.

Another implication has to do with the creation of more and better resources for learning. High quality learning guides, programmed learning materials on a variety of subjects, inexpensive help in the form of available resource people throughout a community, improved correspondence educational opportunities, increased non-traditional options, and a greater mobilization of the entire community and its available resources for learning are some of the possibilities.

A final implication to be discussed here deals with the differences in learning styles or learner preferences of self-directed learners. Thus, the need to truly act as a facilitator of learning is as great outside the classroom setting as it is inside the classroom. Subsequently, the future training of educators who will work with or are working with lifelong learning programs must deal with both the facilitator and the self-directed learner concepts.

Therefore, the purpose of this report and my primary motivation for holding the workshop is to initiate the development of policy guidelines for both facilitators of learning and learners, themselves. I hope, too, that readers of this report will be challenged to think about their roles, their beliefs, and their own learning needs. I invite each reader to improve on what we have started, to implement policy where appropriate, and to begin addressing some tough questions regarding the roles of educators and institutions. Certainly we have raised more questions than answers. However, they are questions that need some answers.


The Workshop


A three credit (quarter not semester) workshop on self-directed adult learning was held during July 14 - 25, 1980, on the campus of Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. A total of 16 persons representing a variety of professional backgrounds and walks of life were the workshop participants. In addition, eight people served as staff members in some capacity. Appendix A describes the participants and staff members.

Workshop participants met daily, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m., and additional hours outside that time period as necessary for small group work, individual study, and final project development. For those readers interested in duplicating portions of the workshop process or contents, Appendix B contains a description of the workshop rationale, requirements, and schedule. Appendix C summarizes the presentations by workshop staff.

A process of maximizing participant involvement, input, and feedback was utilized during the workshop. This included diagnosing needs, small and large group discussions, agenda building activities, clarifying procedures, formats, and commitments through processing (interactive feedback), individual discussions with the workshop leader, and various evaluation activities. Appendix D, for example, contains some process observation comments by Connie Leean.

Perhaps the most difficult task during the workshop was developing a format for describing policy statements and implementation recommendations. The literature provides a variety of suggestions for developing policy; often a suggestion in one source will conflict with or have no relationship to those found in other sources. Gilder (1979, 1980), for example, talks about a policy framework primarily in terms of providing guidelines for decision-making. Boyer in a recent conference urged that policy specify exactly which learners are to be served and which content areas are to be stressed (Gross, 1980). Ziegler and Healy (1979) advocate the formation of policy teams and the use of futures-invention activities to develop policy recommendations.

A difficult task, however, was synthesizing a procedure for developing and writing policy statements. Several sources provided ideas on what should be included in a policy. For example, a periodical (Croft Board Service) has provided information on developing school board policies. Weichenthal (1980) represents only one of a growing number of dissertations on policy formation. Rivera (1980) and Stryker-Gordon (1980) teach graduate courses related to policy formation in adult and health education areas, respectively. Ziegler (1970) suggested several criteria to be used in policy formation. These and other sources resulted in a document developed for and presented to the workshop participants on the derivation of policy (see Appendix E).

This document became the basis for discussion during an interactive process involving workshop participants and staff. The result was an agreed upon basic format for stating our resulting policy and implementation recommendations. The following headings were used for our policy worksheets:


Statement of Need

Policy Statement

Statement of Purpose

Implementation Recommendations


In addition, one of the participants (Wheeler) provided some materials from Gross (1977) related to impediments to implementing policy (Appendix F) and staff member Leean recommended that we add a modified force field analysis of our policy statements as a means for refining our efforts (see Appendix G).

Thus, the materials described above and the process of interaction, exchange, and small group discussions resulted in the policy statements shown in the next section. We also identified several terms that needed defining, derived a variety of assumptions or underlying tenant for our policy work, and suggested some needs for future workshops. A concluding note to this section demonstrates both the difficulty of deriving policy and the tremendous need for the future. During the two weeks we appeared to develop into a group that worked well together, with individual member strengths complementing the total needs. Yet, even on the very last day we still realized that considerable disagreement remained on definitions of terms, on basic assumptions, and on implementation needs. Therefore, this sense of incompleteness hopefully can be taken as both a sign of how much still remains to be accomplished and as a challenge for readers of this report to undertake some of those remaining tasks.


State of the Art


Tough's (1979) recent edition of his book, The Adult's Learning Projects, his 1978 journal article, Penland's efforts (1978, 1979), and Hiemstra's (1976) work related to older adults provide a variety of information on learning projects and self-directed adult learning for the beginning students of this area of study. Appendix C summarizes the remarks of workshop staff who made formal presentations on their research, reflections, and recommendations regarding self-directed adult learning.

Table 1 also provides an overview of much of the completed and a few of the ongoing research efforts related to self-directed adult learning. The interested reader can refer to the bibliography to review any particular study effort. Other researchers are beginning to study the self-directed learning phenomenon outside of the learning projects framework. Guglielmino (1977), for example, has developed a self-directed learning readiness scale that shows considerable promise as a diagnostic tool. Luikart (1975, 1977) examined who helped with self-planned projects. Judd (1980) is looking at decision-making activities involved with self-directed learning of both a formal and informal nature. Sabbaghian (1979) utilized the readiness scale described above and looked at possible relationships between self-concept and self-directedness. Hassan (1980) is comparing scores achieved by people on the readiness scale and their actual learning project activity.


Table 1. Research on Adult Learning Projects.





No. of


Annual No. of


% of Self-

Planned Learning

Allerton (1974)

Parish ministers

Louisville, KE




Armstrong (1971)

Adults of low educational attainment

Toronto (Ontario)




Baghi (1979)

ABE and GED students

Des Moines, IA




Benson (1974)

College and university administrators





Coolican (1973)

Mothers of preschool-aged children

Syracuse, NY




Denys (1973)

Secondary school teachers and

store managers






Fair (1973)

First year elementary teachers





Field (1977)

Cross section of both literate and semi-literate adults






Hassan (1980)

Cross section of adults

Ames, IA




Hiemstra (1975)

Cross section of older adults





Johns (1973)


Atlanta, GA




Johnson (1973)

Adults who had just completed their senior high school examinations

Ft. Lauderdale, FL




Kelly (1976)

Inexperienced secondary teachers and experienced secondary teachers

Cortland County, NY





McCatty (1973)

Professionals in engineering, law, education, medicine, architecture, and science





Miller (1977)

Teachers and non-teaching professionals in a school system

Upstate New York




Miller and Botsman (1975)

Cooperative Extension agents

New York




Penland (1979)

Cross section of adults

United States




Peters and Gordon (1974)

Adults, both urban and rural





Ralston (1978)

Two groups of older adults (Black and White)

Champaign, IL




Rymell (1980)

Bankers between ages 25 and 35

Fort Worth, TX




Tough (1979)

Cross section of adults





Umoren (1977)

Two socio-economic groups of adults

Lincoln, NE




Zangari (1978)

Adult educators in various post-secondary institutions





aNot available.

bShown as range of annual projects.

cOne half year total.

dIn progress.

eUtilized a modified case study interview technique.

fLarge national probability sample.


In summary, it is quite clear that the self-directed learning phenomenon has generated considerable interest, research, and scholarly activity. Most adults appear to engage in some study each year, with certain adults committing almost unbelievable numbers of hours to learning activity. In addition, much of this activity apparently is self-planned, self-initiated, and self-directed. However, it is also clear that our understanding of this whole area is still incomplete. Like most aspects of the human condition, more study over a number of years is required. It is hoped that this policy development effort will contribute to a better understanding and to future study of self-directed adult learning.


Definition of Terms


Several critical concepts are defined here. Additional terms that require some future consensus-based definitions are listed in Appendix H.


Adult learning. There may be as many unique definitions of adult learning as there are writers of the term. Each word in the two word concept elicits numerous definitional variations. Adult usually refers to a person who has reached some maturity level or responsibility for self and/or others. A related concept, adult education, usually refers to some relationship between this adult and some learning specialist or resource in an endeavor to learn something new. Learning, is generally accepted as the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, and skills, usually resulting in some individual behavioral change. Thus, in this study adult learning refers to the process of information acquisition during adulthood made by individuals depending on needs, interests, learning skills, and resource availability.

Learning projects. The primary definitional basis for this term comes from the seminal work of Tough (1979). It refers to a series of clearly related learning efforts adding up to at least seven hours of effort within a six month period. Much of the current attention to self-directed learning stems from Tough's initial work.

Self-directed learning. "In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes" (Knowles, 1975, p. 18). Such learning frequently is self-initiated and carried out alone.

Self-fulfillment learning activity. There are several subject matter groupings that have been utilized to classify the contents of learning projects. One such area, self-fulfillment, includes efforts at learning for leisure, arts and crafts, hobbies, and recreation. Thus, most learning efforts of a very personal nature can be considered, including study related to such areas as music, art, dance, theatre, religion, ethics, or moral behavior (Hiemstra, 1975).

Type of learning planner. Key to understanding the concepts of self-directed learning and learning projects is the acceptance of the fact that the planning and facilitation of learning by adults can be quite varied. Several researchers who have examined the "learning projects" area have analyzed the type of planner used by adults for assistance in learning in the following categories: The learner herself or himself; a group or its leader/instructor; one person in a one-to-one situation; a non-human or material resource; and a "mixed" category where no dominant type of planner can be identified.


Mission Statement


One of the groups' final activities prior to initiating the work on formulating policies was to develop a mission statement with which we all could agree and from which we could build some common elements in helping self-directed adult learners. The statement follows:


Since research indicates that adults carry out a number of learning projects during their lifetime, and that most projects appear to be self-initiated, self-planned, and/or self-directed, adult educators and institutions which have adults as clients should work to understand, enhance, and provide an environment conducive to facilitating this type of learning by adults.


Whether the reader can agree or not with this statement may affect the usefulness of this report in terms of its implementation or basis for stimulating further thought. Obviously there is no easy route to affecting change in established educational systems and most institutions and many educators must have the earnings/losses concerns be real factors in any decision making processes; however, adult learning also should be fun, should be something that will really help, and should be satisfying. It is my contention, and I believe it also would be the contention of the workshop participants, that self-directed learning is so popular because it still is at the "fun" level. I think that adult educators and adult education institutions can find ways of facilitating this type of learning and hope, therefore, that this report and the suggested policies will aid any efforts to do so.






During the workshop a feeling evolved among many participants that we needed some expression of the assumptions about working with adults underlying our derivation of policies. There exists in adult education literature such a wide range of beliefs about how to work with adults that the group deemed it important to develop some common understanding of assumptions both to develop policy and to aid later interpretations of the presented policy statements. Subsequently, small and large group activities were added to stimulate some discussion of basic assumptions and tenets. Unfortunately, we soon discovered it near impossible to achieve total support for or even consensus on many of the terms. For example, differing definitions of terms and assumptions emerged simply because of dissimilar views regarding when learning actually begins. Thus, what follows are those assumptions and basic foundational statements that we agreed should be included in the report. They represent only a portion of those requiring further thought and serve to indicate we may need new language related to this whole area of study. Researchers, program administrators, and even adult learners should recognize that there remain many unresolved issues requiring clarification and further thought.




1. In this report when a reference is made to "adult learners" primarily what is referred to is someone engaged in self-initiated, self-planned learning as well as other directed but who has been out of the traditional series of educational activities for at least a year.        


2. The amount of adult learning activity will continuously increase in future years because of increased leisure, accelerating social change, an aging population, etc.


3. All forms of education have potential for learners and may serve different purposes; however, evaluation of that potential comes from learners, not educators or institutions.


4. Measures of human worth do not depend on academic performance abilities.


5. Continuing learning is a goal of human life for the purpose of self-fulfillment and self-actualization.


6. Adults are self-directing organisms with initiative, intentions, choices, freedom, energy, and responsibility.


Learning Projects


7. Adults average some 5 separate projects and approximately 500 hours each year in learning activity.


8. Most adult learning is not credit oriented.


9. Self-directed learning, which makes up the largest percentage of learning project activity, is a natural process that is independent of educators.


Adult Students -- Adults as Learners


10. All adults have potential for self-directed learning.


11. Adults are interested in a wide variety of subjects.


12. Adults learn for numerous reasons.


13. Adults utilize numerous resources in their learning.


14. Adults appear to assume responsibility for most of their learning.


15. Individuals have different learning styles; this needs to be recognized.


16. Adults have a variety of obstacles to learning, such as family and job responsibilities, that younger students often do not have.


17. In classroom settings, adult learners may put more pressures on themselves to succeed than do younger or less experienced students so they need fewer teacher related pressures.


18. Beginning adult learners need to be encouraged more often and may experience "down" movements more frequently than experienced learners; they frequently need reinforcement.


Adult Educators


19. Some adults need assistance in determining learning goals, planning their learning, locating resources, etc.; others will seek out such assistance only infrequently.


20. Educators need to be available as consultants or resources.


21. Those working with adult learners are themselves, adult learners.


22. Self-directed learning needs to be more widely recognized and accepted as a valid learning process.


Adult Education Agencies


23. Institutions of learning have not adequately addressed issues related to self-directed learning--they are not aware of the phenomenon of self-directed learning.


24. Most adult learning takes place outside traditional educational settings, including work settings, during leisure, in family settings, etc.


25. Traditional educational institutions need to undergo changes to accommodate, adjust, and/or determine their roles for supporting self-directed learning.


26. Directed learning activities, most credit courses, and academic disciplines are too narrow for most self-directed learning needs.


27. Agencies need to provide time, facilities, resources, and recognition of self-directed learning.


Policy Statements


As was noted in the preface, the processes utilized during the workshop resulted in three small groups developing around mutual interests and backgrounds. Subsequent preferences and suggestions evolved into three categories for discussion and policy formulation:


Adults as Learners -- the student perspective

Adult Educators -- the teacher/facilitator/researcher perspective

Adult Education Agencies -- the institutional/organizational perspective


A different category, therefore, became the focal point for each of the three groups. Thus, the statements of policy need, purpose, etc. are all addressed to their respective audiences, i.e., learners, educators, and agency administrators. Their adoption as policies by a group or agency or use as stimulators for further discussion or development will require recognition of these specific audience focuses.

As was also noted in a description of the workshop activities, it was decided that we would utilize headings related to the need for the policy, the policy statement, itself, a statement of purpose, and implementation recommendations to organize the work products. Two of the groups used the headings in the order shown, while the group focusing on adults as learners spent a tremendous amount of time and generated many ideas relative primarily to only three of the organizational headings. Their statements of purpose were interwoven into the policy statement. Two of the groups also developed preambles to aid the reader's understanding of their thinking regarding more specific assumptions. Hopefully, the existing commonalities in all three group reports will aid the reader in moving from one area to the next. Finally, the many recommendations offered should serve as stimulators for subsequent discussions and as means whereby many educators, organizations, and learners can begin implementing appropriate change.


1. Adults as Learners




As a policy-making group addressing adult learners, we have continually reminded ourselves of the following:


This is us doing something for us as adult learners.


We are speaking for ourselves as learners, directing our thoughts to other adult learners.


We as learners must claim our learning, rather than receive our learning.


We as learners must anticipate the changing environments in which we will attempt to claim our learning--be it a rest home, a prison, a mental institution, a regular classroom. . . .


Furthermore, we recognize that learning occurs at various levels to varying degrees throughout our lifetime. We believe that self-directed learning exists as an often unrecognized, yet highly effective means of gaining knowledge, skill, and self-esteem. Deliberate and consciously self-planned learning must be fostered both by learner advocate groups and by adult learning institutions. We believe self-planned learning will become increasingly prominent and pervasive as more learners take responsibility for initiating, shaping, and promoting this movement. Therefore, this portion of the report is written from a learner advocacy point of view. A definition of learner advocacy should be obvious from reading the policy statements and implementation recommendations.

Yet we recognize that educators can greatly enhance and legitimatize this phenomenon by urging and undergirding the formation of such advocacy groups. We also realize that educators can maximize human potential for both individuals and society by implementing policy that acknowledges learners as responsible choice making humans. We hope that we have an impact in causing both actions to take place.

Finally, it is paramount that our readers recognize that this document will have the greatest impact if they remember that they, too, are self-planning learners.


Topic: Self- Assessment


Statement of Need. Awareness of one's strengths and weaknesses is the critical antecedent to human need fulfillment and therefore to adjustment. In the process of identification and implementation of learning activities, it becomes obviously imperative to identify the goal or purpose of a learning effort (based on a need or weakness) and the resources immediately available (strengths) to reach that end. While there are many obstacles to completing this task, such as psychological defense mechanisms, an established self-concept, the level of motivation necessary to pursue such an exercise, etc., a sincere effort cannot be undertaken without first addressing the issue of assessment. Therefore, the need for self-assessment stands out as the first action to be taken, and perhaps the most crucial, insofar as it establishes not only the desired outcome, but also the nature of the means by which it will be realized.


Policy Number One. To acknowledge that each of us are worthwhile learners as a first step in recognizing our unlimited learning potential.


Implementation Recommendations:

  1. Utilize small sharing groups that help us discover through trial and error our own gifts and talents.

  2. Offer human potential classes that teach us to focus on our individual strengths.

  3. Broaden the availability of material resources that teach us to affirm ourselves.

  4. Insist that learning experiences in all settings be structured such that each of us can recognize our own capabilities.

  5. Utilize family enrichment centers as a source of affirmation and for fostering self awareness.


Policy Number Two. To examine ourselves objectively in respect to our strengths and weaknesses as a means of gaining self acceptance, capitalizing on our assets, and setting personal goals.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Utilize learning facilitators to help us carry out self inventories.

2. Insist that learning guides, planning helpers, learning consultants, and supportive persons be made available for our use.

3. Locate materials on self inventory in a variety of resource centers (libraries, community centers, etc.).

4. Create peer inventory groups.

5. Use popular media such as magazines and newspapers to disseminate and encourage the use of self assessment inventories.

6. Use resources such as material by Eric Erickson to understand how maturation will affect our learning needs.

7. Foster the attitude that risk taking is a necessary part of understanding one's strengths and weaknesses.

8. Use value clarification techniques in the examining process.


Policy Number Three. To develop and strengthen our own internal mechanisms for reinforcement to insure continuous growth in our learning efforts.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Seek out tools that continue to draw ourselves out as our own best guides, such as (a) guided imagery, (b) centering body movement, (c) breathing techniques, (d) yoga, (e) art, and (f) journal writing.

2. Train learning facilitators or guides to help us rediscover our own inner guiding abilities.

3. Seek resources that help us remove blocks to internal reinforcement through such techniques as counseling, self help groups, and material resources.


Policy Number Four. To understand our own cognitive styles in order to shape our learning experiences for that style.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Analyze and record your own perceptions as a method of uncovering your own style.

2. Seek a knowledgeable person to share their perception of your style.

3. Encourage traditional education centers to research and develop methods for analyzing and understanding cognitive styles.

4. Insist that traditional education centers utilize the knowledge of variant cognitive styles in their programming.


Topic: Feedback


Statement of Need. If one were to possess all the skills and resources necessary to complete a learning project, the need for outside assistance would be very minimal. However, as such skills and resources seldom are totally present, there typically are a variety of ways in which others can help a learner. Among them, providing feedback to the learner stands out as one of the most necessary and productive actions to be taken on behalf of a person as he or she pursues personal learning goals. It is important to note that input received by the learner must be objective, relative to the purpose of the learning activity, and constructive. This type of assistance will provide the learner with valuable input directed towards the process and product of learning and recognition and reinforcement for what has been accomplished.


Policy Number One. To seek objective, individualized assistance in planning and processing learning projects in order to enhance our efficiency and effectiveness.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Develop your own skills for objective evaluation and check the reality of this through (a) learning guides, (b) sharing groups, and (c) media.

2. Foster the learning of facilitating skills so that our peers can be our learning guides.


Policy Number Two. To maintain membership and participation in learner advocate groups as a means of obtaining direction, resources and support.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Develop learner hotlines using such agencies as libraries and universities as support agencies.

2. Promote the concept of learner advocacy at various adult learning centers and within the various adult education professional associations.

3. Form learning unions to provide a base of power in meeting our needs.

4. Initiate research with adult student groups to determine how these groups foster a self-planning learner.

5. Form advocacy networks that have formal or informal connections to (a) colleges and universities, (b) libraries, (c) churches, (d) public schools, (e) learning centers, and (f) private or proprietary adult education organizations.

6. Encourage a holistic approach to determining how feedback can be promoted by calling together a wide variety of disciplines and types of adult member groups to share trends, methods, and resources. Some examples would include (a) feminist advocacy groups, (b) consumer movement groups, (c) the learning community notion (O' Connor, 1976), (d) the wellness movement groups developing in the medical or insurance fields, and (e) the Gray Panthers.

7. Foster research in family enrichment centers to analyze their potential in assisting families to develop self-directed learning skills.


Policy Number Three. To form autonomous learning groups as a means of capitalizing on synergistic learning efforts.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Establish learning exchange networks in local communities as suggested by Illich (1971) and Peterson & Associates (1979).

2. Establish study circles patterned after the Scandinavian system (Kurland, 1979-80) of both topical and open-topic types.

3. Utilize and expand already existing material resources such as (a) the learner's yellow pages, (b) lessons in newspapers, and (c) newsletters.

4. Foster study-buddy (peer support) systems around a variety of content areas.

5. Promote special interest learning through workshops and retreats.

6. Analyze a variety of autonomous learning group forms as potential models for our own learning groups. Some examples can be found in Bettelheim (1974), Illich (1970), O'Connor (1976), and Toffler (1974).

7. Study concepts such as trust building in groups (Gibb, 1978) or the extended family efforts of the Unitarian Church as a source of understanding how as an individual we can extend our learning beyond the group.


Policy Number Four. To require reinforcement and encouragement from others in the pursuit of our learning as a means of enhancing self esteem and validating our progress.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Insist that traditional institutions such as schools, families, churches, etc. become aware of the self-directed phenomenon and that all efforts be made to foster self-directed learning.

2. Support family enrichment experiences that help our families under stand and promote self-planned learning.

3. Discourage the connotation of prestige being associated with formal versus informal education.

4. Encourage recognition through such programs as "Learner of the Month" within organizations, industrial firms, etc.


Topic: Learning Environment


Statement of Need. If learning is truly to occur, the environment in which it takes place must provide individuals with the freedom to learn. This aspect extends well beyond the physical domain into the social and emotional components incorporating a learner's total being. This brings forth the need for a variety of agents acting in coordination to provide learners with the type and degree of support necessary to reach educational goals. While an individual learner must assume some responsibility for ensuring that a proper environment is developed, the contributions made by those participating in, sponsoring, or affected by the learning process must be taken into account when considering the likelihood of success.


Policy Number One. To give ourselves the same status and respect we accord our teachers in order to assure control of our own learning.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Help individuals in traditional adult teaching roles to understand their own identity as self-planning learners.

2. Insist that self awareness processing be a part of all educational experiences.

3. Reflect the philosophy of equality through personal modeling and by helping traditional teaching organizations examine programs, curriculum, etc. for equality measures.

4. Define with the instructor mutually agreed upon expectations.


Policy Number Two. To actively seek and take responsibility for our education in order to assure relevant and meaningful learning experiences.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Demand more appropriate scheduling of learning experiences to meet our needs.

2. Promote acceptance of life experience for credit.

3. Insist that educational opportunities be available not for those who will be successful but to make successful those who come to participate in the opportunities.

4. Initiate retirement programs to help individuals anticipate and maintain control of their learning environment.


Policy Number Three. To govern our time, space, and energy for learning projects in order to actualize our own learning potential.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Promote child care services as a means of providing time, space, and energy.

2. Promote family division of domestic responsibilities such that each member has opportunities for learning experiences.

3. Utilize relationship counseling and enrichment programs as means for reaching consensus about time, space, and energy.

4. Develop time management skills.

5. Ensure physical health through adequate rest, proper nutrition, and appropriate exercise.

6. Investigate support services that would allow more time, space, and energy such as lawn care, domestic help, etc.


2. Adult Educators




Adult education practitioners have assumed three specific roles in the development of self-directed learning. These roles include research, training, and serving adults in their pursuit of learning projects. Future policies should be directed toward conducting further research, training more competent adult educators, and serving a wider spectrum of adult learners for the advancement of self-directed learning. Although these policy areas are distinct, adult educators should be familiar with the common principles which underlie research, training adult practitioners, and serving adult learners.


Topic: Research


Statement of Need. Research in adult education has not adequately identified, examined, or evaluated the principles and processes underlying self-directed learning.


Policy. Research in adult education should explore previously unstudied components of self-directed learning.


Statement of Purpose. To expand the body of knowledge in the area of self-directed learning in order to improve services for current and future adults.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Examine learning techniques and skills related to self-directed learning.

2. Identify the learning importance of problem solving skills.

3. Identify communication skills related to self-directed learning.

4. Identify motivation and incentives that underlie most self-directed learning efforts.

5. Develop goal setting techniques for self-directed learning.

6. Evaluate the effectiveness of diverse methods of self-directed learning.

7. Examine the marketability of self-directed learning packages.

8. Study the potential of self-directed learning for improving on an individual's economic status.

9. Examine the obstacles to self-directed learning in a non-academic setting and propose solutions to those obstacles.

10. Evaluate the applicability of self-directed learning principles to various subject matter areas.

11. Study the reasons for the failure to pursue self-directed learning including unfulfilled dreams.

12. Identify impasses met in pursuing self-directed learning and propose techniques for the elimination of those impasses.

13. Define the relationship between an individual's self-concept and the propensity for self-directed learning.

14. Identify and assist a particular adult clientele who may be reluctant to explore opportunities for self-directed learning.

15. Study the relationship between developmental stages of life and the approach to self-directed learning most appropriate to an adult's stage in life.


Topic: Training


Statement of Need. Many adult educators do not exhibit a commitment toward promoting self-directed learning in theory and practice.


Policy. In conjunction with their respective institutions, adult educators will encourage and utilize the theories and practices of self-directed learning in classroom content and application efforts.


Statement of Purpose. To prepare well trained facilitators of self-directed learning for adult serving agencies.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Provide students of adult education with an appreciation of self directed learning concepts and their potential use with adult learners in their respective areas of interest or study.

2. Recognize the needs of their students by applying self-directed learning techniques to their own classroom settings when applicable.

3. Keep current in the developing research base (theory, knowledge, and trends) related to self-directed learning.

4. Develop the skills necessary to act as a process consultant to self-directed learners.

5. Train others to serve as self-directed learning process consultants.


Topic: Service


Statement of Need. Adult serving agencies fail to recognize and utilize self-directed learning practices as a means of assisting their clients.


Policy. Adult educators will help agencies serving adults to incorporate the concepts of self-directed learning in their standard operating procedures.


Statement of Purpose. To increase self-reliance and fulfillment and serve the needs of learners by utilizing self-directed concepts.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Encourage utilization of self-directed learning by adult serving agencies through promotional campaigns.

2. Coordinate resources and services of adult serving agencies in order to increase and improve the opportunities for self-directed learning.

3. Create a national organization which would lobby for funds to implement self-directed learning programs for low income adults.

4. Conduct needs assessment of clients of adult serving agencies to determine possibilities for self-directed learning. Special attention should be given to low income and low resource possessing clientele.


3. Adult Education Agencies


Topic: Awareness


Statement of Need. Institutions are not aware of the state of the art of adult learning.


Policy. Agencies, organizations, and institutions will provide opportunities for administration, faculty, and staff to become knowledgeable of published research involving self-directed adult learning.


Statement of Purpose. To become informed of research findings and their implications for educational opportunities.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Provide workshops, in-service training, books, and media to staff on self-directed adult learning.

2. Provide support and time for staff to study the scholarship on self-directed adult learning.


Topic: Program Administration


Statement of Need. Measures and criteria of accountability and evaluation need to be developed and maintained relative to self-directed learning.


Policy Number One. Agencies, organizations and institutions will develop and maintain measures of criteria for accountability and evaluation.


Statement of Purpose. To insure continued support and to determine effectiveness.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Provide in-service training needed to help people understand issues of effectiveness, evaluation, and accountability

2. Develop reporting systems to include data collection, evaluation, dissemination, and recommendations.


Statement of Need. Funding is required to promote and facilitate self-directed adult learning.


Policy Number Two. Agencies, organizations, and institutions will seek legislation and funding to promote and facilitate self-directed learning.


Statement of Purpose. To obtain a commitment of resources and direction.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Influence legislation by hiring a lobbyist, contacting legislators, and seeking public support.

2. Develop proposals for outside funding to aid in promoting self-directed learning.


Topic: Adult Needs and Interests


Statement of Need. Adult learners require support services to help them adjust to educational pursuits, to make satisfactory use of new knowledge or skills acquired, and to adjust to the accompanying rise in expectations.


Policy Number One. Agencies, organizations, and institutions will provide support services that help the self-directed adult learner adjust to educational activities and any related changes.


Statement of Purpose. To ensure that the appropriate support services are made available to self-directed learners.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Establish a center for adult students.

2. Develop mutual support groups.

3. Provide career counseling and placement offices staffed by people with appropriate expertise to help adults use their newly acquired skills and knowledge.


Statement of Need. Knowledge of changes in adult educational participation patterns and learning interests is needed.


Policy Number Two. Agencies, organizations, and institutions will conduct research of participation trends and interests.


Statement of Purpose. To prepare resources, design curriculum, and obtain funding appropriate for self-directed learners.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Establish a director of research.

2. Assign staff, facilities, and funds for research.


Statement of Need. Adults need environments that afford opportunities to pursue self-initiated, self-planned, and self-directed learning situations.


Policy Number Three. Agencies, organizations, and institutions will provide environments that accommodate and facilitate self-directed learning.


Statement of Purpose. To provide desirable learning environments.


Implementation Recommendations:

1. Offer non-credit, voluntary courses.

2. Provide an on-site coordinator who will act as a learning consultant/facilitator.

3. Offer learner-directed credit classes.

4. Develop in existing agencies learning resource centers.

5. Use learning sites outside of the agency settings.


Consequence Analysis


As was pointed out earlier, a decision was made to submit several of the policies to what was tabbed as a consequence analysis. This was carried out to provide participants and readers of this report with some understanding of the potential difficulties facing those who try to adopt and implement any of the policies. Appendices F and G provide some of the information and materials that were helpful in the analysis efforts.

Subsequently, after the policies reported in the previous section were derived each group examined some of their policies in terms  of obstacles, enhancers, and strategies needed to either overcome obstacles or reinforce important enhancers. One such analysis effort by each of the groups is presented below. Although each analysis may need additional refinement, the information should serve to provide readers with examples of possible results and to emphasize the potential advantages of completing such screening and sorting exercises with any policy as it is being derived.


The Group Focusing on Adult Students


Policy Statement. To govern our time, space, and energy for learning projects in order to actualize our own learning potential.


A. Problems Underlying Policy. The responsibilities of daily life are such that the opportunity and enthusiasm necessary to complete a learning project are all too often limited or unavailable.


B. Obstacles.

*1. Career obligations and responsibilities.

*2. Home and family commitments.

3. Self-deprecating perceptions.

4. Likelihood for obtaining success often is low - given the constraints.

5. Difficulties inherent to values clarification and prioritizing.

6. Spontaneous interruptions.

*7. Lack of support services.

*8. Financial burden incurred as a result of support services.

9. Burden of travel and distance.

10. Recognition of the need for recreation.


C. Enhancers.

*1. Societal recognition of the value and importance of self actualizing activities (credential sometimes provided, for example).

2. The availability of resources (in larger communities).

3. The abundance of knowledge relating to the attainment and maintenance of good health (wholeness/wellness).

4. Self-perpetuating once it is realized.

*5. Satisfaction resulting from knowing that you have adapted, not compromised, your routine.

6. The self-reliant nature of many activities limits the need to extend beyond familiar boundaries.

7. Availability of resource guides relating to time management.

*8. Women's liberation movement and other consciousness raising efforts.

9. Support from business and industry (staff development efforts, for example).

*10. Time and labor saving technology.


D. Obstacle Sorting. Asterisked items within "B" above represent critical or pivotal obstacles


E. Enhancer Sorting. Asterisked items within "C" above represent critical or pivotal enhancers.


F. Strategy Planning.

Short term:

1. Reorganization of division of labor within the home.

2. Utilization of "study buddy" concept.

3. Reinforcement from family and friends.


1. Promote the use of literary resources.

2. Establish adult learning groups to not only facilitate learning, but also the sharing of ideas relating to this issue.

Long term:

1. Development of autonomous learning kits.

2. Utilization of the media as a means of direction and information.


The Group Focusing on Adult Educators


Policy Statement. Adult educators will help agencies serving adults to incorporate the concepts of self-directed learning in their standard operating procedures.


A. Problem Underlying Policy. A lack of understanding of and belief in self-directed learning concepts hinders the incorporation of self-directed techniques in agency operating procedures.


B. Obstacles.

*1. Change is perceived as threatening.

*2. Inherent traditional teaching beliefs exist in staff and administrators.

3. There is a lack of appropriate self-directed learning support systems.

4. There exists a fear of obsolescence.

5. Turf guarding and a protection of agency boundaries and mission is a real phenomenon.

6. Lack of necessary funds.

7. Inherent feeling that self-directed learning concepts are being used.

8. Failure to build appropriate support base for policy.

*9. Unwillingness to accept self-directed learning concepts.

10. Learners lack awareness of self-directed learning potential.


C. Enhancers.

*1. Benefit to learners is potentially high.

2. Benefit to society (economic and social) potentially high.

3. Increasing technology provides potential for adjusting the approaches to assisting learners in self-directed modes.

4. Future research could strengthen the self-directed learning concepts.

5. Developing technology could increase resources for self-directed learning concepts.

6. As awareness of self-directed learning concepts increase more learners will expect the utilization of self-directed approaches.

*7. Adult education agencies could provide broader resources to a wider clientele base if self-directed learning approaches were used.


D. Obstacle Sorting. Asterisked items within "B" above represent critical or pivotal obstacles.


E. Enhancer Sorting. Asterisked items within "C" above represent critical or pivotal enhancers.


F. Strategy Planning.

Short term:

1. Conduct workshops on the concepts of self-directed learning.

2. Encourage agencies to send decision makers to participate in workshops.

3. Develop and conduct mass media campaigns on self-directed learning concepts and potential (professional associations or sub-groups of adult educators could carry out such responsibilities).

4. Encourage research related to the potential benefits of self-directed learning involvement.

5. Develop and implement pilot projects in agencies related to utilizing self-directed learning concepts.


1. Facilitate agencies studying the implications of self-directed learning for programming and planning.

2. Seek and secure funds to explore the implementation of self-directed learning concepts in agencies.

3. Assess developing technology related to delivering programs to adults for their application to self-directed learning needs.

4. Determine overall benefits to clientele and agencies if self-directed learning concepts are implemented.

Long term:

1. Help a broad base of agencies to adopt and utilize the concepts of self-directed learning.

2. Help to implement self-directed learning programs throughout the community.


The Group Focusing on Adult Education Agencies


Policy Statement. Agencies, organizations, and institutions will provide support services that help the self-directed adult learner adjust to educational activities and any related changes.      .


A. Problem Underlying Policy. An inadequacy exists in meeting adult learning needs.


B. Obstacles.

*1. Inadequate amount of money.

2. Administrative staff and faculty resistant to expanded services.

3. There exists a lack of available/appropriate personnel and faculty.

4. Resistance to being on equal terms with clientele.

5. Resistance to working with adults compared to traditionally aged students.

*6. Lack of knowledge in dealing with self-directed learners.

7. Unwillingness to change.


C. Enhancers.

1. Potential of increased numbers of clientele.

2. Potential of better retention of clientele/students.

3. Improved relationships with public and alumni.

*4. Increased funds possible through increased enrollments.

5. More job opportunities for adult educators possible.

6. A high research potential exists.

*7. Satisfied adult learners.


D. Obstacle Sorting. Asterisked items within "B" above represent critical or pivotal obstacles.


E. Enhancer Sorting. Asterisked items within "C" above represent critical or pivotal enhancers.


F. Strategy Planning. Convince administrators of the significance of self-directed learning so they will provide in-service education for their faculty and staff. A longer term activity would be the actual increased targeting of resources and facilities for the self-directed learner.




The existence of a huge potential for change, for helping agencies or educators to adopt new policies, and for meeting many more learning needs of adults is an important theme described in this report. It is becoming increasingly clear that self-directed adult learning activity is much larger than what most people believed only a short decade ago. It also is the belief of many that educators of adults and adult education-related agencies are relatively unprepared for addressing self-directed learning needs. Whether educators and agencies should be meeting such needs is one of the questions raised in the report. That question certainly is an important one but as yet unanswered. Hopefully, this report will help stimulate some related thinking and action.

In addition, the workshop setting and learning processes that resulted in this report provided a means for involving several people in some creative thinking often impossible in other modes. The synergistic results possible through people from various walks of life working together in an intensive study effort make worthwhile the duplication and extension of such activities by others. Thus, it is the hope of the staff and participants that additional work on this topic of examining policy needs for self-directed learning will be carried out.

Finally, although several of the policies and implementation recommendations may appear impossible to achieve, impractical to manage, or even visionary in nature at first reading, a feeling existed during the workshop that some important new ideas were being formulated. What may seem impractical or impossible in one locale may be quite feasible in another. What may appear visionary often will be quite commonplace procedure in only a few short years. In fact, many experimental programs and creative means for reaching self-directed adult learners similar to several suggestions in this report already are in place. Additional refinement of the policies suggested, new policies, and a variety of efforts to incorporate policies appropriate for self-directed adult learners obviously are still required. The increasing interest in serving adult learning needs should facilitate the meeting of such requirements.




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Workshop Participants


Peggy Allen

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

Iowa State University


Jo Ann Barnes

Graduate Student in Higher Education

Graduate Assistant in Financial Aids

Iowa State University


Dennis Bejot

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

Iowa State University


Virginia Bishop

Extension Specialist in Family Environment (Housing and House­hold Equipment)

Iowa State University


Frederick Bungert

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

Iowa State University


Barbara Burton

Assistant to the Director

Iowa Cooperative Extension Service


Rachel Christensen

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

Women's Programs Coordinator

Iowa State University


Lynn Engen


People Place

Family Life Enrichment Program, Inc.


Dr. Donald Goering

Assistant to the Director


Iowa Cooperative Extension Service

Assistant Professor

Adult and Extension Education

Iowa State University


Sherril Harris

Court Reporting Instructor

American Institute of Business

Des Moines, Iowa


Robert Hoksch

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

School Social Worker

AEA 11


Connie Ruggless


American Institute of Business


Joyce Samuels

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

Iowa State University


Colina Megorden Stanton

Graduate Student in Adult and Extension Education

Iowa State University


David Swanson


Center for Industrial Research Service

Iowa State University


Aaron Wheeler


Marshalltown Community College

Marshalltown, Iowa


Workshop Staff


1. Dr. Roger Hiemstra, workshop leader, is Professor and Program Leader of Adult Education at Syracuse University. He has carried out or directed several research studies related to self-directed adult learning.


2. Dr. Allen Tough, tele-lecture presenter, is Associate Professor of Adult Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada. He is considered the leading authority on adult's learning projects. His book on that subject, first published in 1971, has created tremendous interest in adults as learners.


3. Dr. Norman Kurland, tele-lecture presenter, is Executive Director, Adult Learning Services, New York State Education Department. He was a consultant to the federal lifelong learning project and has written extensively on adult education programming, financing, and policy needs.


4. Ms. Awatif Hassan, research presenter, is a doctoral student in adult education at Iowa State University. She is completing a doctoral dissertation that compares the self-directed learning readiness of individuals with their self-­directed learning activity.


5. Mr. Robert Judd, research presenter, is a graduate student and research assistant in adult education at Iowa State University. He is completing a master’s thesis on the self-directed learning decision making processes of undergraduates.


6. Dr. Connie Leean, discussion facilitator during the second week, directs a National Institute of Education--sponsored project on self-directed learning in rural America. She is also Assistant Professor in the College of Education and Social Services, University of Vermont.


7. Dr. Asuquo Umoren, Research presenter, is Executive Director, Malone Community Center, Lincoln, Nebraska. He completed a doctoral dissertation on the learning projects of minority group members.


8. Dr. Mick Zangari, research presenter, is Senior Analyst, Selection Research, Inc., Lincoln, Nebraska. He completed a doctoral dissertation on the learning projects of adult education professionals.




Workshop Information


Learning Rationale


Adult education is an exciting field to study and is equally exciting to be associated with as a workshop participant or as a professional. It is a field that is dynamic, growing, and full of opportunity.

Perhaps the most dynamic area of activity and study is that related to self-directed adult learning. Tough's initial work on adults' learning projects (1979) and the subsequent research of many has resulted in the awesome awareness of how much people are involved with self-directed study and how little prepared professional adult educators are to provide assistance with such study. Needed are new instructional skills, a better understanding of needed roles for adult educators, and policy guidelines for future funding, training, and resource development.

Therefore, the general purpose of this workshop is to obtain a comprehensive view of present research and practice related to self-directed learning and to study implications for the future. The derivation of policy needs and recommenda­tions for professional adult educators will be an important activity. A partici­pant-derived product will be a monograph developed for distribution to institutions of higher education and other organizations in the United States and Canada.

It is the philosophy of the instructor that the adult student should be actively involved throughout the learning process. Several kinds of techniques will be employed in that regard. Furthermore, each student has considerable potential for self-directed, independent study as shown by the research serving as the base for the workshop, thus some means to facilitate such involvement by participants will be provided. Thus, to accomplish all of the above it is the instructor's intent to be a manager of the learning experience, not primarily a dispenser of information.


Areas for Learning


The following topic areas are to be covered during the workshop. There may be additional topics that emerge during the two weeks.


-- Research on Learning Projects

-- Self-Directed Adult Learning

-- Related planning, development, and research needs

-- Policy needs and derivation techniques


Competency Expectations


At the completion of the workshop, given active participation, each partici­pant should be able to perform with excellence in the following ways:



In addition, those participants who enroll for three credits as opposed to two credits will complete the following:



Feedback and Interactive Participation


  1. Participate in the workshop's study, discussion, and evaluation activities. Objective: To facilitate the learner's growth in being a contributive group member and active learning participant.
  2. Complete those readings and recording of information necessary to intro­duce you to the literature about and state of knowledge regarding adults' learning projects and self-directed adult learning. Biblio­graphic and media reserve material for your self-directed study will be provided. The reading materials for the workshop are as follows: (a) Tough, A. (1979). The adult’s learning projects. Austin, TX: Learning Concepts. (b) Distributed materials on the state of the art in self-directed adult learning. Objective: To facilitate the learner's acquisition of a broad-based comprehension of related literature.
  3. Learning Activity #1 -- Work actively in a small group to discuss impli­cations, develop recommendations, and determine future adult education programming needed in relation to the self-directed learning potential of adult learners. Each small group will be expected to make a report of their activities to the total group. Objective: To foster the learner's ability to identify educational implications and needed programs related to existing problems in adult education.
  4. Learning Activity #2 -- Develop in small groups some written information on needed policy recommendations. This will become a portion of the monograph created as a final product of the workshop. Objective: To facilitate each learner's scholarly abilities and skill in developing educational policy.
  5. Learning Activity #3 is for those participants taking the workshop for 3 credits -­- Design and carry out a project for "back-home" use that is aimed at the dissemination and implementation of recommendations developed during the workshop. Objective: To facilitate the learner's self-directed ability to share personal knowledge and skill with colleagues.




July 14


  1. Introductions, resources, goals, learning tasks, and starting the learning process.
  2. Opening keynote via tele-lecture: Dr. Allen Tough "Self-Directed Adult Learning -- The State of the Art"
  3. Research presentation: Dr. Roger Hiemstra "Policy Needs and Self-Directed Adult Learning"
  4. 7:00 p.m. -- Evening reception for workshop participants and staff.


July 15


  1. Research presentation: Dr. Mick Zangari "The Learning Projects of Professional Adult Educators"
  2. Research presentation: Dr. Asuquo Umoren "The Learning Activities of Adults in A Selected Socio­economic Group"
  3. Dialogue with research presenters.


July 16


  1. Research presentation: Ms. Awatif Hassan "An Investigation of the Learning Projects Among Adults of Low and High Readiness for Self-Direction"
  2. Research presentation: Mr. Robert Judd "The Decision Making Processes Involved in Institutional and Non-Institutional Self-Directed Learning"
  3. Dialogue with research presenters.


July 17


  1. Small group formation.
  2. Beginning explorations of implications for practice (Learning Activity #1)


July 18


  1. Continued explorations.
  2. Small group reports on findings.
  3. Tele-lecture presentation: Dr. Norman Kurland "Deriving Policy in Adult Education"
  4. Task force formation (for Learning Activity #2).
  5. Summarizing policy derivation information.


July 21


  1. Dialogue on work to be accomplished.
  2. Task force development of policy (Dr. Connie Leean serves as a general resource, a facilitator, and process evaluation observer during the week).


July 22


  1. Continued policy development.
  2. Task force reports of findings.
  3. Dialogue on findings, implications, and needs.


July 23


  1. Writing activities related to development of the monograph.
  2. Dialogue as needed.


July 24


  1. Continued writing activities related to development of the monograph.
  2. Dialogue as needed.


July 25


  1. Dialogue on "Back-home" applications.
  2. Conference wrap-up.
  3. Evaluation.




Summary of Presentations


Allen Tough


  1. Amount of learning known from research:
    1.  90% of all adults do at least one learning project each year.
    2. The average learner completes five projects per year and spends about 100 hours per project.
  2. 70 - 75% of it is planned by the learner and only about 20% is professionally guided.
  3. Implications: (also see attachment C-l provided by Allen to the students)
    1. Research has turned upside down our thinking about how you promote learning.
    2. In courses and classes:

                                                               i.      promote self-directed learning through different teaching styles.

                                                             ii.      need to promote freedom (not total freedom -- but toward that end of the continuum).

                                                            iii.      need appropriate support, guidance, etc.

                                                           iv.      need to provide enough help (self-directed learners do seek lots of help).

    1. Look at people's self concept -- perceptions of self often very negative regarding learning -- we need to do something about changing this attitude -- help people realize they are doing lots of learning, they are successful, etc. Policy needs to emphasize this helping people become aware of self.
    2. Help people make choices on learning goals, paths they follow, etc. Use printed materials and tools, etc. to do this -- need a range of people to experiment with various tools to see which ones work, which ones don't, etc.
    3. Help people to be responsible for themselves -- for their own health -­- self-directed learning can help people help themselves with all of life.
  1. He feels we need to maintain a fairly free and open competitive market -­let the market determine what works.
  2. Differences seem to be greater within age groups than between age groups -­need to look at policies for all people rather than one age group -- older people in nursing homes, for example, not learning much.
  3. Ideas from dialoguing with students:
    1. Misuse of research by some
    2. Resource development -- how do we go about it?
    3. Working with administrators -- how do we change their minds?
    4. In-service training with traditional teachers is needed
    5. People move back and forth between self directed learning
    6. Big struggle in 1980s will be those who try to promote self directed learning       versus those who dig in their heels and want the professional in control
    7. Need to move from surveys like the 25 - 30 that have been done to research on how people do the learning
    8. Penland's study -- he found that the reasons people choose self-directed learning were not factors like transportation or cost limitations but dealt with the learners wanting to maintain the control over the learning
    9. Attempts to change teachers in their approaches are not always successful -­- he feels we should help those who want to change rather than trying to force people to change
    10. Need better research on helping people identify needs and set goals -- can use some structured approaches but need to interpret that to learners so they can make choices
    11. We all love to be the boss so it is hard for teachers to give up control or to feel that they can be a facilitator -- perhaps we need to show teachers that students often learn on their own outside the classroom


Norm Kurland


  1. Some basic questions raised as challenges to the participants:
    1. How should the learning facilitation efforts of educators be related to museums, libraries, colleges, and a variety of other settings?
    2. How do we handle credit versus non-credit, institutional versus non­-institutional, etc.?
    3. How do we relate to credentials and the movement toward credentia1ing in a variety of professions?
    4. How much control should a central governmental body have on evaluation, credentia1ing, etc. in relation to self-directed adult learning?
  2. Policy writing recommendations:
    1. To whom is it directed -- be specific regarding to whom the action is recommended.
    2. Shorter term policy recommendations need to lead toward long range policy recommendations.
    3. Goa1 statements in New York are derived by using futures invention scenario format.
    4. Need goals, objectives, and activity for each policy.
    5. Public monies in the near future probably will have to emphasize primarily jobs and basic literacy skills.
    6. Definition of terms -- need common understanding built into a final report; consider including statements regarding the effects on society, the time involved, and who will be involved.
  3. Miscellaneous dialoguing comments:
    1. Media -- how can they be used in fostering attitudes about self directed learning.
    2. Institutional goals and objectives often do not match reality.
    3. Need to give more effort to needs assessment.
    4. Need experimental approaches.
    5. Need to help people achieve their potential.
    6. Grading is an obstacle.
    7. Work with teachers first.
    8. Counseling is needed.
    9. Need quality resources -- make them immediately available.
    10. How can self-directed projects be made reality outside of the university setting?
    11. How can non-credit activities be turned into credit ones?




The remarks by Hassan, Hiemstra, Judd, Umoren, and Zangari centered on a summary of their respective research efforts. Summary comments and basic findings from their research projects have been incorporated in the body of this report. The interested reader is encouraged to read the complete documents as cited in the references section.


Attachment C-1




  1. Become committed to fostering the entire range of major learning efforts. Feel a kinship with the total helping enterprise. devoted to facilitating the person's efforts to learn and grow. Feel part of an even wider enterprise: to foster the humane, loving, .liberating, growth-enhancing, creative elements in our society.
  2. In your entire program or institution, or at least in your own work with learners, be sure they have plenty of freedom and options.
    1. Provide a variety of opportunities and resources for learning and personal growth.
    2. Be sure people can get plenty of information about these.
    3. Encourage autonomous groups of peers ("self-help groups") to form around a common interest or need.
    4. As much as possible, give the learners a wide choice of how and what to learn.
    5. Simultaneously be sure they can get enough help.
    6. Browse through chapter 14 in The Adult's Learning projects.
    7. Shift away from "we know best," from emphasis on credit or grades, from coercion or forced attendance, from a high degree of control by the instructor.
  3. Through printed materials or in one-to-one conversations or in a group, experiment with helping learners to:
    1. thoughtfully choose their learning goals (after reflecting on their life goals, seeking feedback on their performance, clarifying needs and interests, and examining their current learning patterns)
    2. become aware of the vast panorama of available opportunities and methods (including self-guided and peer-guided), and choose the most appropriate strategy
    3. become competent at making choices and plans more effectively and independently next time.
  4. Develop or integrate new knowledge about all this, or encourage others to do so. Eventually this increased understanding will lead to better help and resources for the entire range of intentional human learning.
  5. Try to improve as a learning consultant and helper. For example, you could read about learning projects, study your own learning, read about being an effective helper, seek constructive feedback, try to listen better, try to be more loving and spontaneous and authentic, attend a personal growth group.




Reflections From A Process Observer

Connie Leean


Just as a small community is a microcosm of the larger society, exhibiting the needs, fears, frustrations and hopes of a nation, so was the workshop a microcosm of the larger educational community. This patterning could be seen in the different ages represented, the different educational histories and backgrounds, the blending of men and women and the pluralistic styles of learning and problem solving exhibited by workshop participants. As three subgroups attempted to address the policy making task (relatively new for everyone), they not only had to deal with content (adult learning concepts and policy perspectives), but also with their own processes of arriving at clarification, understanding and consensus. One could observe a constant undercurrent of process concerns in the three

groups -- all related to group dynamics of emerging leadership, perceptions of each other's professional roles, negotiations of meaning and intent, or just simply dealing with tensions and frustrations (often done in humorous, ice-break­ing tones).

One group, in particular, was very conscious of these undertones and over­tones in their process of deliberation. The "Learners Group" took time to process personal concerns and frustrations in order to understand where these were coming from and how they were affecting the task at hand. At one point near the end of the policy formulation stage, the male member of the group of four restated again that he felt his ideas and approach to the task were not seriously considered. This had been stated previously, but this time the claim was listened to and dealt with as everyone stepped back from the task to reflect on the reasons for this frustration. As described and clarified by group members, it appeared that one reason for this discontent was that two different styles of problem solving were in operation and were being experienced as conflictual, rather than complementary. One style could be called "inductive," or moving from the particular ( in this case, participants' experiences) to the general (clustering of categories). For the most part, this style seemed to be comfortable and natural for the three women in the group. The second style was more "deductive in the sense of starting with a broad conceptual framework or model and moving toward a verification of this through the particulars. This approach was presented by the one male member of the group. Once these different styles were identified, it surfaced some unstated frustrations of one woman in the group who from time to time was concerned about where the "inductive" approach was going -- i.e., what the final picture or model would be and whether they would even get there.

Some time was spent speculating on whether these two approaches tended to correlate with male and female differences. It was pointed out that some researchers in adult learning have drawn out some intriguing interpretations from their data along these lines of thought. Penland, in his study on Self Directed Learning in America (1979), made the claim that in self-directed learning projects, men tend to concentrate and work on learning efforts in vertical, in-depth (perhaps hierarchical) ways, whereas women are more explorative, seeking and searching in lateral or horizontal ways. For women, this usually translates into more variety of learn­ing efforts than men, although these efforts are not usually connected or linked as would be a series of linear, hierarchical learning efforts of a focuser.

However we interpret different modes of cognition, it is important to keep track of these phenomena within the process of self-directed learning. If individual learners could be helped to identify their cognitive style and examine its effective­ness for them, they would be in a better position to improve, change or reinforce their approach to learning. Equally important, if a group of self-directed learners wishes to work together on a learning or problem solving effort, the effectiveness of their deliberations may be dependent, in great measure, on their awareness of divergent and common cognitive styles and the willingness to deal with these differences. One may speculate that the research on group dynamics which has dealt primarily with concepts of personality differences, leadership roles,

shifting interactions, empathy and communication skills may need to be reassessed in light of cognitive style research. This reassessment of group dynamics, as well as further investigations into cognitive styles may be essential to the emerging field of adult learning, providing a clearer understanding and foundation to the question of "Why do adults learn the way they do, individually and collective­ly?"

Finally, I would propose that we begin to investigate this question by addressing it to ourselves. Learning begins when personal meaning is the focus of our actions. Thus, whenever groups of adults come together around a common task or concern (as in this workshop), their process of deliberation should be as important as their product so that the individuals involved learn something new about themselves and what this means for their further development as growing, caring and committed adults. I believe this process was experienced to some degree by all three groups during this workshop, perhaps more consciously by the Learners Group. The workshop leader and the participants should be applauded for allowing these interactions to happen.




The Derivation of Policy


The development of educational policy is a difficult and complicated activity. It requires the utilization of a multidisciplinary view, the recognition of the multifactoral nature of most problems, and the bringing together of a great deal of information, beliefs, and existing practice. Perhaps even more importantly, facilitating the actual implementation of policy recommendations takes care, dedication, and patience.

In normal conversation the work "policy" can refer to almost anything, ranging from rules, procedures, directives, to even traditions. This unfortunate circumstance leads to a great deal of confusion found in trying to communicate about and implement policies. Therefore, some specific definitions are needed:


1. Rule -- an inflexible regulation or statement of action or inaction that does not permit any deviation or allow for individual judgment. In general, the fewer the better.


2. Directive -- a specific order describing a one-time course of action for a non-repeating occasion.


3. Procedure -- a step-by-step description of how to perform a task. This might be filling out forms, help in setting up programs, etc.


4. Policy -- a recommended course of action for carrying out an organizational goal.


The key word in this definition policy is "recommended," as it is expected that individual judgment will determine the appropriateness of the application of a policy. Thus, policies become a framework for operational decision making. The most common pitfall in everyday practice is that policies are treated as if they were rules. If personnel think of policies as rules, they are likely to fear criticisms if they use their own judgment, especially if they work for or with persons who think policies are carved in stone. When this occurs, a rigid and authoritarian operational framework does indeed exist. Personnel, therefore, need to know these definitions as well as the purpose of each policy in order to know when and where individual judgment is expected, acceptable, and desirable. In other words, a policy is applicable in the majority of instances, but there will be exceptions.


Purposes of Policies


The first purpose of a policy is to bring the philosophy, purposes and objectives of an organization into everyday care and operations. You cannot begin to write policies until you know what these are. The purpose of a policy must also be closely related to its uses. If the purpose of a policy is not carried out, or if controversy often occurs when it is implemented, there is reason to examine its purpose. Is it self-serving or does it serve clients' needs? Is the original intent not in keeping with the times? Do new factors make it desirable for modification or deletion? Is it cumbersome or difficult to enforce?

In general, the major purpose of policies are to:


  1. lay guidelines for providing efficient and effective services or programs;
  2. express the thinking of management in order to assist middle managerial staff in their daily activities;
  3. express and guide the implementation of organization/agency goals;
  4. aid in the planning and coordinating process within an organization/ agency;
  5. provide information and reference material to employees.


For purposes of this workshop, small groups will need to make some assumptions about generally applicable philosophies, purposes, and objectives for adult education agencies.


Writing Policies


Policies need to be written in clear, concise language, using as few words as possible. The following are suggested criteria for examining policy statements in terms of clarity and conciseness:


  1. Comprehensiveness. What is the degree of comprehensiveness of the issue being addressed? Can each policy statement be reasonably linked to other factors or issues within and outside the educational domain?
  2. Temporality. Will the problem or situation being addressed by a policy statement go away or become greater if not attended to or if not attended to by change in existing policy? Does the situation possess long-term consequences?
  3. Political Relevance. Is the issue being addressed of current political concern and, if so, to whom? Will a developed policy statement have political ramifications?
  4. Comprehensibility. Can the existing situation or problems be made comprehensible and understandable to most educators? Will the derived policy statement be understandable and can it be implemented at various levels or within different educational organizations?
  5. Priority. Are the particular issues under examination more important than other issues? How should issues be prioritized in terms of potential change and importance?
  6. Available Resources. What resources and personnel needs will exist to implement a derived policy? What will be any long range requirements?


Although there are several ways in which policy statements can be written, four operational steps are recommended as necessary for developing, providing clarity, and facilitating the dissemination of policy statements:


  1. The statement of condition, need, or problem area serving as a background for a particular situation.
  2. A statement of objectives or purposes for the particular policy.
  3. The policy statement, itself.
  4. Recommended implementation activities related to the policy state­ment.


Following is an example of what a policy statement might look like:




Because existing knowledge suggests that the self-directed learning potential of adults is much greater than what most people realized only a few years ago, institutions of higher education need to greatly increase self-directed learning opportunities.




To effect change in the training of instructional staff regarding the facilitation of self-directed adult learning.




It is recommended that each instructional staff member be provided with comprehensive information regarding the state of the art pertaining to self-directed adult learning.


Implementation Recommendations


  1. Provide instructional staff with a workshop experience on self-directed adult learning information.
  2. Develop a teaching and learning center or office to work with instructors as they alter their instructional style, to develop self-directed learn­ing resources, and to evaluate the long range effects of the implemented changes.



aThere could, of course, be several policies developed from just this one need.




Impediments to Implementing Policy


(Some of the ideas presented here are adapted from Gross, 1977.)




  1. Problems often are not diagnosed carefully or properly.
  2. Administrators often do not identify and deal effectively with obstacles related to implementing policies, such as staff opposition, new skills needed, conflicts with ongoing processes, and a lack of necessary resources.
  3. Policies often are introduced with little concern for their compatibility with the existing educational program.
  4. Widely publicized, interested, or "trendy" innovations may not necessarily be appropriate for particular organizations -- their introduction without thinking through local situations may cause problems.
  5. The absences of a good monitoring and feedback mechanism within an organization may prevent necessary corrective, change, or support-related decisions.
  6. The failure to involve such people as staff and students in determining or introducing policy create resistance.
  7. The failure to utilize good short term, intermediate, and long term implementa­tion strategies may prevent success.
  8. A failure to select carefully the leadership responsible for introducing and implementing policy may be a troublesome barrier.


Questions to be Asked


  1. Who will be affected?
    1. Colleagues
    2. Clients
    3. Community officials/leaders
    4. “Innocent bystanders”
    5. Others
  2. What are the costs?
    1. Temporary
    2. Permanent
    3. Short term
    4. Long term
    5. Others
  3. What are the costs?
    1. Financial
    2. Human resources
    3. Other
  4. Is it worth it?
    1. Commitments needed
    2. Long term implications
    3. Other questions
  5. How should the decision be implemented?
    1. People to be involved
    2. Time required
    3. Other resources required
    4. Sequencing needs
    5. Dissemination ideas and needs
    6. Other needs




Consequence Analysis Guidelines


(Points A-F are from force field analysis techniques, futures invention processes, and other analysis methods presented by Connie Leean.)




  1. Diagnosis of Problem. What is the underlying and primary problem (not need) that this particular policy or innovation is attempting to address?
  2. Anticipated Obstacles. What obstacles (attitudinal, personnel, support services, financial, etc.) are anticipated which might hinder the implementation of this policy?
  3. Anticipated Enhancers. What enhancers (values, commitments, research, organizations) are anticipated which might help the implementation of this policy?
  4. Obstacle Sorting. Which obstacle(s) is critical/pivotal to the chances of successful implementa­tion (asterisk on chart).
  5. Enhancer Sorting. Which enhancer(s) is critical/pivotal to the chances of successful implementa­tion (asterisk on chart).
  6. Strategy Plan. What basic strategy/strategies need to be developed which would either remove pivotal obstacles or reinforce pivotal enhancers?




Policy: ____________________________________________________________________________________________


A. Problem underlying policy: __________________________________________________________________________


B. Obstacles ---------------------------------->   <--------------------------- C. Enhancers
















D. Obstacle Sorting (go back and asterisk

those PIVOTAL obstacles)


E. Enhancer Sorting (go back and asterisk

Those PIVOTAL enhancers)


F. Strategy Planning (outline basic strategies or program plans needed for incorporation of the policy)




Terms and Concepts Needing Commonly Accepted Definitions/Meanings


Adult Education

Adult Education Agencies

Adult Education Institutions

Adult Education Organizations

Adult Learners

Advocacy (for adult learners)

Correspondence Study (to reflect current use of television, newspapers, etc.)

Individual to Individual Study Support

Individualized Instruction

Learning Brokers (Brokering)

Learning Exchange Networks

Lifelong Education

Lifelong Learners

Lifelong Learning

Needs Assessment

Needs Diagnosis

Performance Contracts (Learning Contracts)

Program Planning

Self Concept

Study Circles

Study Groups




April 26, 2005


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