Self-Directed Adult Learning: Some Implications for Facilitators


Roger Hiemstra, Editor

Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY


Adult Education Program, Occasional Paper No. 3




This report is derived from a workshop conducted during the 1985 summer session at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. Workshop participants who contributed to this report included Margaret (Peg) E. Chambers, Pat Green, Doris Holdorf, Jane M. Hugo, Barry W. Mack, Dawn P. Mullaney, Lois Needham, Gene A. Roche, Mary C. Rommel, and Jack E. Six. Appendix B provides more information about each participant.

The report is made available to readers through the efforts of students and faculty in adult education at Syracuse University. It is hoped that the information will contribute to dialogue, thinking, and research related to self-directed learning.


Roger Hiemstra

July, 1985

(Some minor updating was completed after the 1985 date.)






The Workshop       

Definition of Terms

Group One – Diagnosis of Need

Group Two – Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace

Group Three – The Learning Situation


Appendix A: Information and an Annotated Bibliography Related to Andragogy

Appendix B: Workshop Participants and Staff

Appendix C: Workshop Information

Appendix D Summary of Participants’ Term Project Papers

Appendix E: Summary of Information Presented to Participants




Interest in self-directed learning has been accelerating in the past several years. A number of dissertations, federally funded projects, monographs, and articles have been written during this time. A self-directed learning task force has been created within the North American Commission of Professors of Adult Education (CPAE) and a multitude of related papers are read each year at the Adult Education Research Conference, CPAE Conference, National Adult Education Conference, the Lifelong Learning Research Conference, and at many other conferences both domestically and internationally.

My own work in this area through personal research, reflection, and program demonstration continues to evolve. Elsewhere in this document the reader will find a description of my ten-year research program involving personal research and the research of several students. Several other such dissertations are being conceived. Many of the more recent studies have in some way involved an. administration of Gug1ie1mino's Self Directed Learning Readiness Scale (1977). The recent development of a new instrument related to self-directed learning, the Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (Oddi, 1985), promises to yield many more dissertations. Ralph Brockett and I developed a chapter related to theory and research in self-directed learning (1985). Ralph and I also are beginning work on a larger manuscript on self-directed learning. Finally, the success of a Weekend Scholar Master's degree program at Syracuse University has demonstrated the viability of an educational effort based on self-directed learning principles (Hiemstra, 1984a).

Subsequently, I felt that another workshop involving people interested in the topic would result through synergistic discussion and dialogue in some useful information. Thus, ten people worked together for one week in an intensive all-day workshop on the broad topic of facilitation and resources in self-directed learning. This publication is a report of our activities, deliberations, and products. We made only a start in understanding some of the issues related to facilitation. Hopefully, our efforts will trigger some subsequent activities. Feedback and interactive discussions are welcome.

I would like to acknowledge the splendid efforts put forth by members of the workshop. Their willingness to ask questions, read into the wee hours, and work together on some "tough" issues was much appreciated. The week was quite productive. I'd also like to thank my colleagues Harriet Estrin, Ken Landers, and Janet Leeb for their helpful contributions as presenters.


              Roger Hiemstra


              March, 1982




Andragogy as a system of ideas, concepts, and approaches to adult learning has become foundational to the thinking of many adult educators. Knowles' contributions to this system are many (1980, 1984). In fact, the dialogue, debate, and subsequent writings related to andragogy have been a healthy stimulant to some of the growth of the adult education field during the past two decades. Appendix A provides both a chronological and annotated bibliography on andragogy.

Parallel and foundational to many of the andragogical assumptions has been the research and thinking on self-directed learning. Actually, the concept of self-directedness in learning, as well as andragogy, appeared in the adult education literature as early as 1926 (Brookfield, 1984a; Lindeman, 1926). From these writings, a beginning description of the self-directed learning phenomenon emerged. Lindeman (1926) talked about it in terms of both learners and teachers:

Adults' are motivated to learn as they experience needs and interests that learning will satisfy. . . adults have a deep need to be self-directing, therefore the role of the teacher is to emerge in a process of mutual inquiry. (p. 16)


This self-directed feature is also recognized as having been present in the thinking of ancient scholars such as Socrates and Aristotle (Tough, 1967). Long (1976) noted that a spirit of self-directedness was prevalent in the adult learning of Colonial America. Kidd (1979) (first published as a book in 1959) used the term "learning force" to describe active, independent learners. Such ideas are at the core of the contemporary chain of studies evolving around self-directed learning.

Fundamental to these contemporary studies and the state of the art about self-directed learning was the pioneering work of Houle (1961). Houle used an interview technique with several learners to develop a motivational typology of learning styles. He discovered that people generally were either goal-oriented, activity-oriented, or learning-oriented. However, as his research was with those involved in formal learning, the notion of self-initiated learning was not conceptualized. The more contemporary research that involved both formal and informal learning prompted the editor to add to the typology a fourth category identified as "the self-reliant, autonomous and independent learner." (Hiemstra, 1984b, p. 35).

The chain of research that followed Houle's work began with a study conducted for the National Opinion Research Center (Johnstone & Rivera. 1965). The researchers used interview techniques to estimate that at least nine million adults in the United States carried out one or more self-instruction projects during the year.

Tough then began some work in 1966 that culminated in 1971 with his seminal work on adults' learning projects (1967, 1979). Using a probing interview technique, Tough determined that most adults spend an average of 700-800 hours in deliberate learning projects each year. Nearly two-thirds of his original sample reported that these projects were self-planned. A number of subsequent studies have been completed that generally substantiated these original findings.

Cross (1977) provided some summary information after looking at several studies conducted prior to 1977. She drew the following conclusions about the learning efforts of adults. Almost every adult undertakes learning each year, with the number of activities falling between three and thirteen. She also noted that there are clear differences between different populations in the time spent and that the majority of such learning is self planned.

            A different approach to examining the self-directed phenomenon was initiated by Gibbons, et al. (1980). Utilizing the biographies of twenty top achievers, the researchers determined that self-directed characteristics such as creativity and self-confidence were common among the subjects. Another approach to measuring self-directed involvement was Guglielmino's (1977) work. She developed a scale to measure characteristics related to self-directed learning styles. Oddi's (1985) more recent instrument is another effort to provide some measures related to the self-directed learning phenomenon.

            The above shows a steady progression in the research on and understanding of self-directed learning. The result has been changes in educational practices with adults as learners. Some of this information has been developed into teaching suggestions (Hiemstra, 1980a), some into policy recommendations (Hiemstra, 1980b), some into implications for practice and research (Hiemstra, 1982), and some efforts to glean both theory and practice suggestions (Brookfield, 1985).

            The major purpose of the workshop described in this report was to build on the state of knowledge regarding self-directed learning in terms of needed facilitation and needed learning resources. As will be shown later in the report, a variety of areas were touched on and some exciting concepts emerged. However, much more on the subjects of both facilitation and resource development needs to be determined. We have only identified what we believe is the tip of an iceberg, to put it in terms Allen Tough has used before. Hopefully, the workshop and this report will be a stimulus for much additional dialogue, information, research, and knowledge.


The Workshop


            An intensive three semester hour graduate-level workshop on self-directed learning was held during the summer session, 1985, on the campus of Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York. A total of ten people representing a wide variety of professional backgrounds, experiences, and interests participated in the workshop. Three colleagues in addition to the instructor (Hiemstra) provided some informational support to class members. Appendix B describes the participants and instructional support group.

            Workshop participants met each day for a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with a noon-hour lunch break. Considerable time was spent in and out of class in reading, brain storming, discussing, locating resources, and final project development. For those readers interested in duplicating portions of the class process, Appendix C contains a description of the workshop, the requirements, and the approximate schedule followed. Appendix D summarizes the types of individual student term projects.

            An interactive process of maximizing participant involvement and contributions was utilized throughout the workshop. This included instructor presentations (see Appendix E), presentations by outside resource people, small and large group discussion, agenda building activities, clarifying discussions, sharing and critiquing small group products, and various evaluation activities. As much as possible within the confines of an institutional-based credit course, self-directed learning activity was encouraged.

            A most intriguing aspect of the workshop was to see synergism at work. Interests evolved and merged within the first two days as a variety of possible topics for small group work surfaced. The following topics were considered for possible intensive work by one or more people:


  • Reflective Self-Directed Learning Needs
  • Implementation of Self-Directed Learning Principles in Public Schools
  • Self-Directed Learning Strategies
  • Learning Styles and Resource Needs
  • Self-Directed Learning Opportunities in Traditional Settings
  • Strategies for Rewarding Self-Directed Learning
  • Criteria for Critiquing Self-Directed Learning


Eventually, three groups were formed around the broad categories of diagnosis of needs, strategies for promoting self-directed learning in the work place, and techniques for evaluating where a person was on a self-directed learning and other directed learning continuum. As will be evidenced later in this report, each of these topics continued to evolve as participants worked intensively on them.


Definition of Terms


As small groups deliberated on their specific topics, a variety of terms, words, and concepts emerged that required some definitions in order to build a foundation for communication with others.


assessment – process of identification of a need

1.      internal – perceived by self (felt-Knowles)

2.      external – perceived by others (ascribed-Knowles)


comfort – condition resulting from congruence between the primary learning orientation and situational learning environment


facilitator – person assisting in needs identification and  learning strategies


job enrichment – basic changes in the content and level of job responsibility so as to provide for the satisfaction of personnel motivational needs


need – a gap between present performance and expected performance in one's occupation


primary learning orientation – an individual's disposition toward learning resulting from personal and experiential variables


reflection – process of self-examination and evaluation for the purpose of articulating a current and desired state of being


self-directed learners – people who take primary responsibility for planning, carrying out and evaluating their own learning endeavors


situational learning environment – conditions under which learning takes place. There are control factors in the environment that assist or block self-directed learning


strategy – skill or process of planning, organizing and directing all available resources, personnel or courses of action toward reaching certain objectives among contradictory or opposing forces


tension – a condition of discomfort resulting from a dissonance between the primary learning orientation and the situational learning environment.


Group One Diagnosis of Need




Prior to the development of some ideas, our group established a set of assumptions to serve as foundational guides for our work. Where self-directed learning takes place, we believe the following:


  1. Self-awareness of needs, free from self-deception, is required.
  2. The learning process is internalized.
  3. Needs must be internalized by the learner.
  4. Organizations have a responsibility for facilitating self-directed learning.
  5. Organizations derive numerous long lasting benefits from self-directed learning.


Introduction to Needs


            Various definitions of needs and assessments are found in the literature. Needs are frequently defined in psychological and biological terms as in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Another definition is Miller and Verduin's (1979, p. 42) "the stated differences between the "is" and the "should be." Knowles (1980, p. 88) defines them educationally as "something people ought to learn for their own good, for the good of an organization, or for the good of society." For this discussion we have defined .need as a gap between present performance and expected performance in one's own occupation as our focus is one's performance in an occupation.

            Assessment is thus the process of identification of a need. This may be done formally or informally, by self or, by others. When a person assesses personal needs, it is done from within the self, the person. This we have defined as internal assessment. We have defined assessment from others as external in nature.

            Internal assessment allows for privacy and self-honesty. The person may use a variety of means for this assessment   talking with self, using a questionnaire, conversing with peers or others, or something learned from another learning activity. Internal assessment also has limitations. As Smith, Niedzwiedz, Davis, and Kniesner (1984) state "self-observation can be tarnished by the possible lack of self-understanding or (. . . by a) desire to appear in a self-ordained manner" (p. 11).

            External assessment is that done by others. This also may be carried out in a variety of ways – observation, questionnaires, inventories, or others listed later in the discussion on resources.

            Self-directed learning is dependent upon the internalization of these needs. The following components are necessary for such internalization: desire to change, time to do it, means to do it, reflection on change, and assistance in making changes.




            After needs have been assessed, regardless of whether the learning mode is to be self-directed or other-directed in nature, a planning procedure is required to turn needs into goals that can be achieved through learning. It was one of the group's major contentions that a facilitator of some type has an important role to play.

            An effective facilitator or personal assistant in needs identification and in identifying learning strategies, needs to be many things to many people. While facilitation modes will naturally vary, there are certain crucial roles, skills, and attitudes necessary in fostering adult learning. To illustrate such facilitator roles the example of self-directed learning in the job place will be utilized.

            Helping an employee identify specific needs designed to improve job performance is one role. Identification of these needs can be initiated by the learner/employee (internal) or by the facilitator or other outside (external) means. Another role of the facilitator is to assist learners/employees in identifying learning strategies appropriate to their personality and needs.

In carrying out the above roles, skill in the following areas is crucial for the facilitator of self-directed learning?


  1. Ability to recognize personality types and learning styles
  2. familiarity with a wide variety resources, both personal and material
  3. skill in helping learners understand and demonstrate process of learning (learning how to learn)
  4. communication skills
  5. listening skills
  6. decision making ability
  7. ability to be a liaison between the learner/employee and other peers, as well as between the learner/employee and management.


            An attitude of openness and trust within the place of employment also is imperative for self-directed learning to thrive. Mutual respect, mutual trust, collaboration rather than competition, a sense of support by staff and peers, as well as a sense of humanness are important elements which the facilitator can affect and or implement. The vast resources with which this is done depends on the availability of both personal and material resources.




            Organizations need to provide numerous resource options to aid the occupational growth of all employees. For example, employees need supportive resources for productive learning gains in job skills, habits and attitudes.

            These resources need to be accessible during several phases of employee growth. The first phase in such a continuous growth model (see Figure 1) would be an assessment of current performance through a variety of formal and informal tools.

            These might include such means as supervisor feedback, peer reviews, a competency rating or an informal self-approval, client feedback, or peer feedback.

            The second phase would include the evaluation of expected performances. This might involve such activities as a supervisory evaluation or a self-evaluation.

            Recognition of the desired state of performance is the third phase. This phase is created by internal "dissonance" or "tension" which may be triggered by an external event (supervisor evaluation) or internal need such as desire for achievement through promotion in an organization. There also is recognition that self-reflection is a critical element in the individual's decision to learn for better occupational performance. Resources such as models, visitations, learning style inventories, and personality analysis inventories can all be useful during the phase.

            The fourth phase is the actual employee's process of learning the new skills, habits, or attitudes.  Some of the resources which can be useful include video-tapes, conferences, formal classes, books, journals, magazines, resource people, module films, stimulated recall, or workshops.

            All phases are enhanced through reflection on the parts of employees and supervisors. A facilitator can identify and assist with resources during any of the phases.

Cycle Diagram

Figure 1. A Self-Directed Learning Change Model.


Figure 2 lists a wide variety of resources that facilitators can utilize to promote self-directed learning.



Self talk




Competency Ratings





Cassette Tapes



Learning Projects



Peer Review

Other Professionals

Personal Journals


Various Facilitators


Learning Partners



Other People

Consumer Information

Video Tapes

Programmed Learning





Personality Analysis




Stimulated Recall









Professional Journals

Previous Experiences


Figure 2. Potential Resources for Self-Directed Learners.




            The preceding section of this report referred to the use of instrumentation, persons, and resources as a means for needs assessment. Another section dealt with the role of a facilitator in the process of reflection toward accurate and helpful needs assessment. An obvious omission from the literature of adult learning theory is the uniquely adult function of critical reflectivity which is what makes meaning transformation possible. Prevailing concepts of reflective thinking is limited to interpretation of data, application of fact and principles, and logical reasoning (Knowles, 1975). As Brookfield (1985) notes, "when the techniques of self-directed learning are allied with the adult's quest for critical reflection and the creation of personal meaning after due consideration of a full range of alternative value frameworks and action possibilities, then the most complete form of self-directed learning is exemplified" (p. 15).

            Critical reflection appears to be the key in an adult's creation of meaning and ultimately in self-direction. "For the highest level of individual motivation to be achieved, it is imperative that specific learning needs be self-diagnosed." (Knowles, 1980, p. 227) Where work is related to personal experience and perceived needs and occurs in the context of such experience, the personal investment in the learning effort will be maximized. Most jobs involve orchestration of a great number of factors, continually shifting behaviors designed to respond to the situation. This demand for complex skills, involves more than a mere application of scientific theories. A process of change, of self-directing learning, is required. It most certainly must be more sensitizing than simple measurement. Such a process is ultimately more concerned with the development of goals and setting broad directions than defining terminal behaviors.

             Argyris and Schon (1976) characterized the normal world of learning as a "single loop" where people learn to maintain constancy by designing actions that satisfy existing governing variables (goals). Others refer to this same concept in their discussion of establishing routines. If such theory-in-practice remains unexamined indefinitely, our minds will close to much valid information and possibilities for change will be minimal.

            Double looped learning, on the other hand, involves allowing things which had previously been taken for granted to be seen as problematic and opening oneself to new perspectives and new sources of evidence (Day, 1984, p. 76). If employees are to extend their knowledge about practice, examine their effectiveness and their se1f-directedness, they need to investigate both their thinking and their practice. Reflection is the step in the process that adds dimension as well as direction to one's learning. It challenges one from operating uncritically with a fixed framework of knowledge. Reflection is the one process that allows and requires divergence from the "technicist perspective." Self-directed learning is predicated on adults' awareness of their separateness and on their consciousness of personal power (Brookfield, 1985), or, as Mezirow (1985) notes, we need to help adults become more aware of what has been taken for granted about their own learning. Se1f directed learning is concerned with the internal change of consciousness which involves appreciation of the contextua1ity and an awareness of belief and operational systems. The purposes of critical reflection are not to establish cause and effect but to increase one's understanding and insight.

            Insight requires sufficient self knowledge to evaluate one's own strengths and weaknesses. Reflection brings to light the myriad of variables which are normally filtered out through the development of routines and decision habits. Examining our implicitly unstated knowledge is critical to self-direction. Reflection will occur in the case of certain problematic situations which require a deviation from the routine of activity or where dealing with events is unpredictable. Mezirow's (1980) levels of critical reflectivity include conceptual reflectivity (I am using a stereotype), psychic reflectivity (I am afraid to confront), and theoretical reflectivity (Why am I). Freedom from self deception is necessary to such reflection. It involves examination of the contextual and contingent aspects of reality as well as exploration of alternative perspectives and meaning.

            Routines (Clark & Yinger, 1971) which are seldom made explicit or tested are rarely evaluated in terms of values, assumptions and expectations. Kelly's personal construct theory (Olson, 1984) reveals that only by rendering the tacit knowledge articulate can we gain the advantage of being able to discuss practice and to subject know-how that is in practice to critical scrutiny. His research provides constructs for action via having people articulate what they did and why they did it. Argyris & Schon (1976) adopt the idea that knowing is inherent in action and that the challenge for comprehending and improving professional practice is to make "articulate what is inarticu1ar1y"- embodied in action itself; the starting point for improvement is practice. Critical reflection on the meaning of one's actions in a contextual frame is recommended. Getting at the tacit, the unstated beliefs are the essence of reflection. Knowledge gained through self-reflective learning is valuable; action then becomes emancipatory (Brookfield, 1985). This process of articulating one's practical knowledge does not require a research context nor an expert. As noted in the previous section, it might be a peer, an instrument, or a notebook.

This interpretive perspective becomes a source of under standing, of integration. The empiric-analytic perspective, one of observation, frequencies, and inventories, becomes a fragmented view of behaviors. The triangulation, offered through reflection, looking at the same phenomenon from different perspectives, provides a more valid portrait for the individual. Performance can not be wholly conceived as the sum of a limited number of isolated effective behaviors. It is rather to be understood in relation to the intention and contextual complexity. Reliance on empirical and analytical thought tends to place a relatively low value on experiential knowledge, thus rendering some people as unaware of their own knowledge (Elbaz, 1983). Reflection can lead to internalization. Without such dialogue and consideration, learning relies more on trial and error. Results of reflection can become the impetus for an action plan.

            Persons in a survival and competency stage tend not to reach out. Persons in a self-actualizing state reach out to develop themselves and explore more alternatives (McKibben & Joyce, 1983). An employee who is patient and prepared to tolerate the exposure (even to a notebook) of what appear to be feelings and incoherence will find the task personally rewarding in itself (Elbaz, 1983). It is our belief that in a supportive environment, one in which the organization recognizes the responsibility to facilitate critical reflection; employees can become more self-actualized, more self-directed. Reflection makes self-concept so central and the affective dimension of learning plays a critical role. The process of articulating one's practical knowledge must be distinguished from mere talk. Reflection can not be a paint by number scheme. The tools suggested in the previous section, from instruments to inventories, will provide the grounding of the retrospective and prospective questions that stimulate critical reflection. The mutual trust developed between the employee and the facilitator is an equally critical element. If reflection and discussion are as vital to learning as outlined thus far, we believe that organizations must increasingly make time for it. We must legitimize the time and effort devoted to such reflections. The urgency to get on to the next learning, objective, or goal should not be the excuse to neglect or negate the reflective endeavors. We are convinced that the benefit to the organization from creating self-directed learners is immeasurable. The need for reflection as a part of the process of continuing needs assessment, we hope, has been demonstrated.




Finally, our group spent some time brainstorming on the impact some of our thinking might have on education. Following, therefore, are several implications.


  1. Organizations must build time within their structure for assistant employees/learners in all phases of self-directed learning.
  2. Organizational hierarchy must be committed to and thoroughly understand the components of self-directed learning.
  3. Rewards, intrinsic and extrinsic, must be provided for self-directed learning.
  4. More research is needed on implementation within organizations of all self-directed learning phases.
  5. Research also is needed on short and long-term benefits of self-directed learning to organizations.
  6. Organizations must recognize the critical need accept responsibility for facilitating reflection.
  7. Organizations need to provide opportunities for retrospective and prospective reflection.


Group Two – Self-Directed Learning in the Workplace: A Resource for Promotion, Productivity and Job Enrichment




The purpose of this section is to suggest methods by which the principles of self-directed learning can be put to use in the workplace to further learning and to accomplish the goals of the learner and of the organization. Many of the learning projects studied by Tough (1979, 1982) were work related, and, with minimal investments, organizations can enhance the ability of workers to carry out their own learning projects, such efforts not only provide benefits directly related to organizational goals and objectives, but also improve morale, worker satisfaction, and other less quantitative results.




The group established a set of assumptions to guide our deliberations:


  1. Organizations of all types will face the continuing pressure of job compression, demands for increased productivity, international competition, the rapid growth of technology, and the changes, such as job obsolescence, inherent in the move from a manufacturing economy to a service economy.
  2. Training and education in a variety of modes will continue to be very important to organizations in meeting these challenges.
  3. Programs which will enhance self-directed learning in the workplace will be based more often on the models of Knowles (1980, 1984) and Brookfield (1981, 1984b, 1985) than on that of Tough (1979, 1982).
  4. Self-directed learning has many advantages and rewards both for the learners and for the organization:
    1. Emphasizes personal involvement and commitment
    2. Provides individually tailored programs
    3. Builds self-esteem and self-confidence
    4. Offers most direct transfer of training
    5. Can be extremely cost-effective
    6. Offers a high degree of learning retention.


A Model of Organizational Support of Self-Directed Learners


            Self-directed learning methods in the workplace are not for every worker, nor should they be expected to replace more traditional methods of training. They should be looked upon as valuable enhancements for certain organizational and personal learning needs.

            The model we propose (see Figure 3) suggests that organizations accept the role of actively encouraging and supporting self-directed learning projects as important to their overall training and development mission. Many large organizations already possess most of the resources necessary to carry out this function easily and well, but doing so will require a shift in perspective. Organizations must see themselves not so much as needs assessors, instructors, program developers, and classroom managers, but as advocates, counselors, and helpers to individuals moving through cycles of self-directed learning.


Radial Diagram

Figure 3. Supporting the Self-Directed Learner Within the Organization.


            The cycle of self-directed learning has been well documented and explored in adult education literature. Learners move from an assessment of their learning needs, form a tentative plan of action or learning plan, carry out the learning plan and evaluate their progress. Our model suggests that the organization take a proactive role, offering resources and assistance in support of these steps and, hopefully, helping learners become more effective planners of their own learning.

            Such a stance requires helpers who see themselves as advocates of lifelong learning. They must recognize and accept the value of noninstitutional learning, even to the point of allocating educational benefits for self-directed learning projects. Ideally they will be familiar enough with the research and specialized vocabulary of self-directed learning so that they will appreciate the possibilities. Effective helpers in these positions will actively seek to establish contacts with providers of materials and equipment so that they can deal with a tremendous diversity of learning plans, strategies, and outcomes. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, they will be willing counselors, assistants, problem solvers and lifelong learners, themselves.


Resources Available to Learners at Each Stage of the Process


  • Self-Assessment. Paper and Pencil Inventories, counselors, assessment center techniques, interactive video, video tapes, internship and job sharing opportunities, and Computer Assisted Guidance Systems (Super, 1984; Holland, 1973).
  • Competency Models. Organization charts, job descriptions, standards of performance, biographical material on successful workers, institutional research, counselors, samples of other individual's models, interactive materials and workbooks, and counseling (Knowles, 1975; Collins, 1981).
  • Learning Plan. Books, interactive material, personal counselors, sample learning plans, directories of audio visual materials, inter-organization and intra organizational learning exchanges, feedback, internships and job sharing opportunities, field interviews, mentor programs, and correspondence courses (Gross, 1979; Knowles, 1975).
  • Credentials and Recognition. Internal and external publicity, professional evaluations of learning, directories of degree and certificate granting organizations, corporate advance degrees, promotions, and advancement.


Who Are These Organizations?


A variety of organizations have a stake in helping individuals to become more productive, satisfied in their workplace, and effective in their learning efforts. While the model offered is most easily applicable to training and development departments of large organizations, it is easily adapted to other types of smaller organizations, as well. Individual helpers in the organization need not be highly trained adult educators. Resource centers for adult learners need not be furnished with all the fancy bells and whistles required for some other types of learning. A few of the other organizations that could easily accept this kind of responsibility for helping learners might include:


  • Corporate HRD Offices
  • Educational Brokerage Organizations
  • Special Interest Groups, from real estate to computers
  • General Interest Support Groups, such as churches and neighborhood groups.


Self-Directed Learning in Action


Following are three simulated examples of people involved in self-directed learning activities:


Jan Smith. Jan has worked for Unitex Corporation (a manufacturer of office furniture) as a secretary for the past 14 months. She now finds her position boring and in her own words, "I must have challenging work." She is seeking a new position outside Unitex as her present employer does not have an opening for which she qualifies or in which she is interested in applying. Her evaluations indicate she is an excellent secretary and Unitex offers her $1,000 additional salary per year if she will stay with the company. Jan accepts but at the end of two more months Jan quits her position with Unitex in search of a more challenging one.

Advocates of Herzberg's two factory theory of motivation (1966) suggest that management can assist many employees in meeting their motivational needs by providing them with more challenging and responsible jobs. According to Herzberg, increasing the level of autonomy, skill variety, task significance, and feedback will lead to a better job performance and more satisfaction. This is known as job enrichment. Obviously, for Jan, money is not a motivator.

Argyris's Maturity Theory (1957) suggests that there is a basic difference between the demands of a mature personality and the demands of many organizations. The mature person such as Jan cannot long remain in the adaptation mode without becoming apathetic or indifferent to the work setting. Jan apparently found this state unbearable and decided to "escape" by quitting. Jan desired a position which would allow her the opportunity to rise to the potential within her, whereas, the typical organization expects a subordinate or person in a support position to  concentrate on the orders given and not question or attempt to understand these orders in a broader perspective. In short, the organization believes its employees are immature.

Had the company been aware and sensitive during the first indication of Jan's dissatisfaction in her work setting, they could have played their role quite differently, perhaps as follows. Through the aid of the human resource department, Jan undergoes a self-analysis whereby her strengths and weaknesses are explored. The self-assessment revealed Jan to be an achievement motivated, inner-directed employee who was capable of autonomy to a large degree. These characteristics in conjunction with that of possessing superior human relations skills gave indication she would probably do very well in the area of sales. While Jan was also adept in psychomotor skills required for a secretarial position, this field did not allow her to utilize her other talents to the degree she desired. The human resource department could then design a competency component in consideration of both organizational and individual goals and help her set appropriate goals. A learning project designed according to Figure 3 would permit her as much latitude as possible in designing the "how, when, and where" of a development process. Finally, the evaluation/recognition function would seek to fulfill her desire for meaningful work by offering her either job enrichment in her present position or the opportunity for movement into a more challenging position internal to the organization. The end result might have been that the organization retained a valuable employee and quite possibly reaped larger unperceived benefits in terms of a more satisfied worker. For Jan, the opportunity for higher achievement through a more demanding position would most likely increase self-worth and add to life satisfaction. The mutual benefit derived could be well worth the effort.


Linda Schafer. Linda is a library aide clerical worker at a technical library in a major governmental research center. She has been working in this position for a couple of years and is beginning to tire of it. She feels that with her educational background, an Associate of Arts degree, she has nowhere to go in the organization and is considering moving to another agency.

Linda decides to take her problem to her supervisor. This particular agency has recently implemented new policies regarding the training of employees. Linda's supervisor agrees to help her assess her needs in conjunction with the organization's needs. A member of the training department is called in to help Linda decide what she would like to learn and where she would like to go with it. After speaking at length with the counselor and completing skills and personality inventories, Linda decides that what she would like to do is become skilled in office management.

With the assistance of others in the organization, Linda formulates a learning plan that will help her in reaching her new goal. Time is set aside from each work week so that she may work with an office manager in another department. The office manager is available to answer questions, give guidance, and offer "hands-on" practical assistance. Linda also decides to take a night course in management at the local vocational center and a free workshop in assertiveness training sponsored by a women's group. Several books are suggested to Linda, so she sets up a reading schedule with those books which are of interest to her. The supervisor at the technical library orders those books that are not already present in the library so that Linda does not need to put much personal money into her learning endeavors. It is also decided that Linda will get together with her supervisor and the training counselor in three months to assess progress, her continued interest, any possible modifications to the plan, and to discuss future employment prospects within various departments.


George Adams. George is an entry level extension agent in a rural community. A bright goal-oriented individual, he would very much like to build his career and progress to more responsible positions. Among his strengths he lists the ability to learn from experience, discipline, good interpersonal skills, and an ability to communicate with a variety of constituencies in small group situations.

George's strengths were confirmed by a special workshop run by his organization during a regularly scheduled convention. Meeting for two hours each morning for five days, the workshop facilitator worked with participants to clarify their goals, values, skills, strengths and weaknesses. Through participation in the workshop, George identified long-range career goals, some possible jobs within the organization that might lead him toward those goals, and two areas of knowledge which he considered critical to success in those positions accounting/budgeting and public speaking.

Upon his return to the job, George met with his supervisor. They discussed plans for the future and his supervisor agreed with the conclusions. George felt stymied by the fact that the nearest university offering courses in either management accounting or speech was nearly eighty miles away.

Fortunately, George's supervisor had recently traveled to a convention where he had been exposed to self-directed learning. He turned to George and said, "You know, you may not need to have someone teach you in a formal class everything you want to learn - you might be able to learn it on your own."

George was intrigued with the idea, but wasn't quite convinced. Together they explored the things that he had learned over the past years. George was amazed to discover that he had spent nearly 500 hours involved in seven learning projects each year. As they explored these past projects, he discovered many ways to achieve his goals.

Subsequently, his supervisor:


  1. Helped him find a corporate accounting manual
  2. Assigned him to work with outside auditors
  3. Found a friend who owned several audio learning tapes for the non-profit manager
  4. Suggested he accept a position as budget chairman at his church
  5. Wrote a nice letter to the national office describing George's expertise.


As a result George got asked to give a presentation at the next convention because of his interest in budgeting. He eventually became skilled enough that he was asked to chair a national task force on Extension finance. The future in terms of job advance became much brighter.


Some Final Thoughts


These three scenarios depict only a few of the possibilities when employees and organizations work together on learning needs and activities. The point is that most adult learners would welcome additional help at the work site in planning and carrying out their learning projects if such assistance was readily .available. By encouraging self-directed adult learning projects, such as those indicated in the scenarios, organizations would find many employees who:


  1. Display greater self-confidence in determining their own developmental needs
  2. Look increasingly to their jobs as ways of investing their intellectual energy and achieving personal growth
  3. Are able to make more effective transfer of training to the worksite
  4. Are able to explore areas of interest to themselves and to .their employers which may not be offered in institutional programs.


Ultimately, the institutions will benefit as much as the employer.



Group Three – The Learning Situation




Two basic purposes served to guide our efforts:


  1. To present conceptual models focusing on the relationships between the learner, the learning situation, strategies, and resources as they relate to self-directed learning.
  2. Present implications for practice based on our analysis.




Several assumptions served as foundational guides:


  1. Adult educators have an important role to play in self directed learning.
  2. Self-directed learning is one of several modes/contexts of learning.
  3. Self-directed learning is not done in a vacuum.
  4. The interplay between the learning situation and the learner is the starting point for the development of self-directed learning strategies.
  5. One of the educator's roles is to draw upon, adapt, and create strategies and supporting resources consistent with the interplay between situation and learner.
  6. A large portion of the learning activities facilitated by an adult educator is intentional on the part of the learner and not simply accidental.
  7. Differences in learner, facilitator, and institutional expectations cause tension.
  8. Adult educators strive to foster student centered learning.


Conceptual Models


Our group spent a great deal of time developing three conceptual models we believe will be of benefit to researchers, facilitators, administrators, and others as they think about self-directed learning. A fleshing out of these models awaits future dialogue and inquiry.


Figure 4. Figure 4 represents a summary of the two major lines of self-directed learning research. Sphere A illustrates some of the areas of research focusing on the learner’s disposition toward self-directed learning unique to each learner. Sphere B illustrates some of the areas of research focusing on behavior activities, and process related to self-directed learning. Where the spheres overlap, researchers currently observe, describe, and measure self-directed learning. Up until the present, self directed learning has been understood, interpreted, and promoted based on that overlap, but it offers potential for expansion through future research.



Figure 4. Past Research on Self-Directed Learning.


Figure 5. Figure 5 represents an expansion of the current view of self-directed learning. Spheres A and B remain the two major lines of research to date as illustrated in Figure 4. Sphere C represents the situation in which learning takes place. It consists of the interplay or overlap between situation forces (C-I) and the given environment (C-2). Where Spheres A, B, and C "join," a more comprehensive understanding of self-directed learning becomes possible.


































Figure 5. Basis for the New Model.


Figure 6. Figure 6 illustrates a detailed articulation of the dynamics of the A, B, and C "union" in Figure 5. The PLOSLE Model has three major components identified as Fields. .


Field 1. Primary Learner Orientation (PLO) equivalent to Sphere A of Figures 4 and 5. It represents the learner's disposition toward the management of his or her learning.

Field 2. Situational Learning Environment (SLE) equivalent to Sphere Band C of Figure 5. It represents the various learning situations an adult may enter by choice, obligation, or accident. Each situation is composed of forces which affect the individual's learning experience. When these situational forces are interpreted on a control continuum, from self-directed to other-directed, the compatibility between the individual's PLO and SLE can be predicted.

Field 3 represents a way of viewing multiple learning situations that adults may be involved with at any one time in terms of their preferred orientation. When learner control needs meet situational control factors, the learner experiences tension or comfort to some degree based on the compatibility of the PLO and the SLE.



Field #2


Field #3


Situation One

Self-Directed --- to


Situational Learning Environment

Situation Two

Self-Directed --- to



Situation Three








Field #1



Primary Learning Orientation

Learner’s Orientation




Figure 6. Primary Learning Orientation – Situational Learning Environment (The PLOSLE Model).




The recognition of potential tension and comfort states arising from the match or mismatch of PLO and SLE has the following implications for both learners and educators concerned with self-directed learning.


  1. Adult Educators need skill development in situational analysis, conflict resolution, counseling and advising, learning style diagnosis, and resource adaptation.
  2. Learner support services are needed, especially in a PLO analysis and PLO-SLE counseling.
  3. Learner/facilitator expectations need to be addressed.
  4. Materials and program development will be affected by the three models, especially Figure 6.
  5. Recruitment strategies are needed.
  6. The role of the educator is not understood very well and additional research is required.


There also are several adaptation strategies a facilitator or agency may employ related to where a person may fall on the primary learning orientation scale (PLO) and the situational learning environment continuum (SLE). Figure 7 illustrates these strategies.


1. PLO is Self-Directed; SLE is Other-Directed

Adaptation Strategies


  • Offer a variety of options


  • Offer counseling opportunities


  • Have learners contract for potions of the learning

2. PLO is Other-Directed; SLE is Self-Directed

Adaptation Strategies


  • Provide some structure to the learner


  • Introduce learners to and walk them through the learning plan


  • Offer on-going counseling to learners


  • Provide checkpoints and frequent feedback


  • Facilitate mentoring opportunities

3. Field Shift – Enlarging the Range of the PLO

Adaptation Strategies


  • Gradually introduce more SDL tasks in structured learning setting


  • Explain what SDL is and what it means to learning and personal growth


  • Model the behavior that is desired


  • Structure task groups so other directed behavior is exposed to SDL behavior


  • Help learners know their own learning styles and possibilities


  • Provide examples and models for developing expected products and behavior


  • Help learners assess learning needs and compatible learning strategies


Figure 7. PLO-SLE Adaptation Strategies.


Concluding Comments


The fun, excitement, and creative thinking that results from a workshop of the nature described in this report hopefully have been presented. There was considerable overlap between the three groups in terms of ideas because of our large group interactions with each other periodically. However, some intriguing differences evolved as each group struggled to make some sense out of the literature and knowledge on self-directed learning and their own experiences as adult learners. Obviously, more needs to be written about such topics as facilitation, resource development, and the changes required in the educational enterprise. As has been noted before in this document, dialogue is welcome. It is hoped that dissemination through the ERIC system will promote continued thinking, research, and scholarly activity related to self-directed learning.


Selected Bibliography


Argyris, C. (1957). Personality and organization. New York: Harper and Row.

Argyris, C., & Schon, D. (1976) Theory in practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Baghi, H. (1979). The major learning efforts of participants in adult basic education classes and learning centers. (Doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, 1979). Dissertation Abstracts International, 40, 2410A.

Brockett, R. G. (1983a). Self-directed learning and the hard-to reach adult. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, April, 16-18.

Brockett, R. G. (1983b). Self-directed learning readiness and life satisfaction among older adults. (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1982). Dissertation Abstracts International, 44, 42A.

Brockett, R. G. (1985). The relationship between self-directed learning readiness and life satisfaction among older adults. Adult Education Quarterly, 35, 210-219.

Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (1985). Bridging the theory practice gap in self-directed learning. In Brookfield, S., (Ed.), Self-directed learning: From theory to practice (New Directions for Continuing Education, No. 25). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Bromme, R. (1984). On the limitations of the theory metaphor for the study of teachers' expert knowledge. In R. Halkes & J. Olson, (Eds.), Teacher thinking. New York: International Study Association of Teacher Thinking (ISATT), Isse.

Brookfield, S. (1981). Independent adult learning. Studies in Adult Education, 13(1), 15-27.

Brookfield, S. (1984a). The contribution of Eduard Lindeman to the development of theory and philosophy in adult education. Adult Education, 34, 185-196.

Brookfield, S. (1984b). Self-directed learning: A critical paradigm. Adult Education Quarterly, 35, 59-71.

Brookfield, S. (Ed.) (1985). Self-directed learning: From theory to practice (New Directions for Continuing Education, no. 25). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Clark, C., & Yinger, R. (1971). Research on teacher thinking. Curriculum Inquiry, 7, 4.

Collins, M. (1981). A review of selected competency based systems in adult education. The yearbook of adult and continuing education. Chicago: Marquis Company.

Cooper, S. S. (1980). Self-directed learning in nursing. Wakefield, MA: Nursing Resources.

Cross, K. P. (1977). A critical review of state and national studies of the needs and interests of adult learners. Paper read at the NIE Invitational Conference, Reston, Virginia. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 169 394.)

Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Day, C. (1984). Teachers, thinking, intentions, & practice: An action research perspective. In R. Halkes & J. Olson, (Eds.), Teacher thinking. New York: International Study Association of Teacher Thinking (ISATT), Isse.

Elbaz, R. (1983). Teacher thinking: A study of practical knowledge. New York: Michols Publishing Co.

Elias, J. L. (1979). Andragogy revisited. Adult Education, 29, 252-255.

Estrin, H. R. (1986). Life satisfaction and participation in learning activities among widows (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1985). Dissertation Abstracts International, 46, 3852A.

Gibbons, M., Bailey, A., Comeau, P., Schmuck, J., Seymour, S., Wallace, D. (1980). Toward a theory of self-directed learning: A study of experts without formal training. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 20((2), 41-45.

Gross, R. (1979). The lifelong learning. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Guglielmino, L. M. (1977). Development of the self-directed learning readiness scale. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Georgia, 1977). Dissertation Abstracts International, 38, 6467A.

Guglielmino, P. J. (1979). Developing the top level executive for the 1980's and beyond. Training and Development Journal, April, 48-49.

Halkes, R., & Olson, J. (Eds.) (1984). Teacher thinking. New York: ISATT, Isse.

Hassan, A. M. (1982). An investigation of the learning projects among adults of high and low readiness for self-direction in learning. (Doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, 1981). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 3838A.

Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland, OH: World Publishing.

Herzberg, F. (1968). One more time, how do you motivate employees? Harvard Business Review, 46(Jan-Feb) 53-62. As cited in: Mondy, R., Holmes, R., Flippo, E. (1983). Management: concepts and practices (2nd edition). Newton, MA: Allyn & Bacon, Inc.

Hiemstra, R. (1980a). Policy recommendations related to self-directed adult learning (Occasional Paper No. 1). Available electronically: /policy1.html

Hiemstra, R. (1980b). Guiding the older adult learner.  Available electronically: /guiding.html

Hiemstra, R. (1984a). Weekend scholar program: teaching and learning implications. Paper presented at the National Adult Education Conference, Louisville, Kentucky, November 6-10.

Hiemstra, R. (1984b). Lifelong learning: An exploration of adult and continuing education within a setting of lifelong learning needs. Original Publisher: Professional Educators Publications, Lincoln, NE. Revised in 1984 and 2002. Available electronically: /lll.html

Hiemstra, R. (Ed.) (1982). Self-directed adult learning: Some implications for practice (Occasional Paper No. 2). Available electronically: /policy2.html

Holland, J. L. (1973). Making vocational choices: A theory of careers. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Houle, C. O. (1961). The inquiring mind. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press.

Houle, C. O. (1972). The design of education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Johnstone, J., & Rivera, R. (1965). Volunteers for learning, a study of the educational pursuits of American adults. National Opinion Research Center Report. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.

Kidd, J. R. (1979). A nation of learners. Convergence, 11(1-2), 25-37.

Knowles, M. (1979). Andragogy revisited. Adult Education, 30, 52-53.

Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning. New York: Cambridge Books.

Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education (2nd Ed.) Chicago: Follett.

Knowles, M. S. (1984). Andragogy in action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Landers, K. (1990). The Oddi Continuous Learning Inventory: An alternate measure of self-direction in learning. (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1989). Dissertation Abstracts International, 50, 3824.

Leeb, J. G. (1985). Self-directed learning and growth toward personal responsibility: Implications for a framework for health promotion. (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1983). Dissertation Abstracts International, 45, 724A.

Lindeman, E. C. (1926). The meaning of adult education. New York: New Republic.

London, J. (1973). Adult education for the 1970's: Promise or illusion? Adult Education, 24, 60-70.

Long, H. B. (1976). Continuing education of adults in Colonial America. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education.

Luikart, C. (1975). Social networks and self-planned adult learning. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Also published in University of North Carolina Extension Bulletin (1977), 50(2).

McCarthy, W. F. (1986). The self-directedness and attitude toward mathematics of younger and older undergraduate mathematics students (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1985). Dissertation Abstracts International, 46, 3279A.

McKibben, M., & Joyce, B. (1983). The structure of school improvement. New York: Longman.

Mezirow, J. (1985). A critical theory of self-directed learning. In S. Brookfield, (Ed.), Self-directed learning: From theory to practice (New Directions for Continuing Education, No. 25). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Middlemiss, M. A. (1988). Relationship of self-directed learning readiness and job characteristics to job satisfaction for professional nurses (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1987). Dissertation Abstracts International, 49, 1035A.

Miller, H. G., & Verduin, J. R. Jr. (1979). The adult educator: A handbook for staff development. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.

Mocker, D. W., & Spear, G. E. (1982). Lifelong learning: Formal, nonformal, informal, and self-directed (Information Series No. 241). Columbus, Ohio: ERIC Clearinghouse for Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Ohio State University.

Moran, V. (1977). Study of comparison of independent learning activities vs. attendance at staff development by staff nurses. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 8, 14-21.

Oddi, L. F. (1985). Development and validation of an instrument to identify self-directed continuing learners. Adult education research conference proceedings, Arizona State University, March 22-24, Tempe, Arizona.

Olson, J. (1984). What makes teachers tick? In R. Halkes & J. Olson, (Eds.), Teacher thinking. New York: International Study Association of Teacher Thinking (ISATT), Isse.

Palumbo, D. V. (1990). Influence of upper division education on adult nursing students as self-directed learners (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1989). Dissertation Abstracts International, 51, 382A.

Penland, P. R. (1978). Self planned learning in America. (ERIC Document Repro­duction Service No. ED 152 987). Also summarized as self-initiated learning, Adult Education, (1979), 29, 170-179.Polanyi, M. (1958). The study of men. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Polanyi, M. (1967). The tacit dimension. Garden City, NY:  Doubleday.

Reynolds, M. M. (1986). The self-directedness and motivational orientations of adult part-time students at a community college (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1984). Dissertation Abstracts International, 46, 571A.

Sabbaghian, Z. S. (1980). Adult self-directedness and self-concept: An exploration of relationships (Doctoral dissertation, Iowa State University, 1979). Dissertation Abstracts International, 40, 3701A.

Scissons, E. H. (1984). Needs assessment in adult education (Brackhaus, 1984): A Reaction. Adult Education Quarterly, 35, 105-108.

Sedore, A. L. Z. (1989). The relationships among self-directed learning readiness, self-care agency, and health status in adults four to eight months after myocardial infarction (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1988). Dissertation Abstracts Internation, 50, 601A.

Sisco, B. (1983). The undereducated: Myth or reality. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, April, 14-15, 24, 26.

Six, J. E. (1988). Measuring the performance properties of the Oddi Continuing Learning Inventory (Doctoral dissertation, Syracuse University, 1987). Dissertation Abstracts International, 46, 701A.

Smith, J., Niedzwiedz, E., Davis, M., Kniesner, C. (1984). Handbook of job proficiency criteria: A GIAC report. Chicago: International Personnel Management Association.

Super, D. E. (1984). Career and life development. In D. Brown, L. Brooks, & Others. Career choice and development: Applying contemporary theories to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Torrance, E. P., & Mourad, S. (1978). Some creativity and style of learning and thinking correlates of Guglielmino's Self Directed Learning Readiness Scale. Psychological Reports, 43, 1167-1171.

Tough, A. (1966). The assistance obtained by adult self-teachers. Adult Education, 17, 30-37.

Tough, A. (1967). Learning without a teacher: A study of tasks and assistance during adult self-teaching projects. Toronto: The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Tough, A. (1979). The adult's learning projects (2nd Ed.) Austin, TX: Learning Concepts. (The 1st edition, 1971, was published by the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.)

Tough, A. (1982). Intentional changes. Chicago: Follet Publishing.

Umoren, A. P. (1978). Learning projects: An exploratory study of learning activities of adults in a select socioeconomic group. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska, 1977). Dissertation Abstracts International, 38, 2490A

Zangari, D. J. (1978). Learning projects of adult educators in Nebraska post-secondary institutions. (Doctoral dissertation, University of Nebraska, 1977). Dissertation Abstracts International, 38, 7086A.




Information Related to Andragogy


(Adapted and Updated from Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualizing instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.)


There is little doubt that the most dominant form of instruction in Europe and America is pedagogy, or what some people refer to as didactic, traditional, or teacher-directed approaches. A competing idea in terms of instructing adult learners, and one that gathered momentum within the past three decades, has been dubbed andragogy. The purpose of this resource piece is to provide the interested reader with some background information regarding both instructional forms.

The pedagogical model of instruction was originally developed in the monastic schools of Europe in the Middle Ages. Young boys were received into the monasteries and taught by monks according to a system of instruction that required these children to be obedient, faithful, and efficient servants of the church (Knowles, 1984). From this origin developed the tradition of pedagogy, which later spread to the secular schools of Europe and America and became and remains the dominant form of instruction.

Pedagogy is derived from the Greek word "paid," meaning child plus "agogos," meaning leading. Thus, pedagogy has been defined as the art and science of teaching children. In the pedagogical model, the teacher has full responsibility for making decisions about what will be learned, how it will be learned, when it will be learned, and if the material has been learned. Pedagogy, or teacher-directed instruction as it is commonly known, places the student in a submissive role requiring obedience to the teacher's instructions. It is based on the assumption that learners need to know only what the teacher teaches them. The result is a teaching and learning situation that actively promotes dependency on the instructor (Knowles, 1984).

Up until very recently, the pedagogical model has been applied equally to the teaching of children and adults, and in a sense, is a contradiction in terms. The reason is that as adults mature, they become increasingly independent and responsible for their own actions. They are often motivated to learn by a sincere desire to solve immediate problems in their lives. Additionally, they have an increasing need to be self-directing. In many ways the pedagogical model does not account for such developmental changes on the part of adults, and thus produces tension, resentment, and resistance in individuals (Knowles, 1984).

The growth and development of andragogy as an alternative model of instruction has helped to remedy this situation and improve the teaching of adults. But this change did not occur overnight. In fact, an important event took place some thirty years ago that affected the direction of adult education in North America and, to some extent, elsewhere as well. Andragogy as a system of ideas, concepts, and approaches to adult learning was introduced to adult educators in the United States by Malcolm Knowles. His contributions to this system have been many (1975, 1980, 1984; Knowles & Associates, 1984), and have influenced the thinking of countless educators of adults. Knowles' dialogue, debate, and subsequent writings related to andragogy have been a healthy stimulant to some of the growth of the adult education field during the past thirty years.

The first use of the term "andragogy" to catch the widespread attention of adult educators was in 1968, when Knowles, then a professor of adult education at Boston University, introduced the term (then spelled "androgogy") through a journal article. In a 1970 book (a second edition was published in 1980) he defined the term as the art and science of helping adults learn. His thinking had changed to the point that in the 1980 edition he suggested the following: ". . . andragogy is simply another model of assumptions about adult learners to be used alongside the pedagogical model of assumptions, thereby providing two alternative models for testing out the assumptions as to their 'fit' with particular situations. Furthermore, the models are probably most useful when seen not as dichotomous but rather as two ends of a spectrum , with a realistic assumption (about learners) in a given situation falling in between the two ends" (Knowles, 1980, p. 43 ).

The andragogical model as conceived by Knowles is predicated on four basic assumptions about learners, all of which have some relationship to our notions about a learner's ability, need, and desire to take responsibility for learning:

Their self-concept moves from dependency to independency or self-directedness.

They accumulate a reservoir of experiences that can be used as a basis on which to build learning.

Their readiness to learn becomes increasingly associated with the developmental tasks of social roles.

Their time and curricular perspectives change from postponed to immediacy of application and from subject-centeredness to performance-centeredness (1980, pp. 44-45).


Andragogy as a concept and set of assumptions about adults was actually not new to Knowles' popularization of the term. Anderson and Lindeman (1927) had first used the word in the United States via a published piece, although Stewart (1986a, 1986b) notes that Lindeman apparently even used the term as early as 1926. Brookfield (1984) suggests that Anderson and Lindeman drew upon the work of a German author of the 1920's, Eugene Rosenstock. However, Davenport and Davenport (1985) assert that the word was first coined in 1833 by Kapp, a German teacher.

Several European countries, such as Hungary, Poland, and Yugoslavia, also had used the term prior to 1968. Hungarian educators, for example, place teaching and learning within an overall system called "anthropogogy" (Savicevic, 1981). This system is subdivided into pedagogy (dealing with youth education) and andragogy (concerned with adult education). There is some variety, too, in the application of related terms. Some countries use adult pedagogy, one (the Soviet Union) uses the term auto didactic among others to refer to adult education activities, and a few countries use andragology to refer to andragogical science (Knoll, 1981, p. 92).

Outside of North America there actually are two dominant viewpoints: ". . . one by which the theoretical framework of adult education is found in pedagogy or its branch, adult pedagogy . . . and the other by which the theoretical framework of adult education is found in andragogy . . . as a relatively independent science that includes a whole system of andragogic disciplines" (Savicevic, 1981, p. 88).

Knowles in describing his particular version of andragogy associated it with a variety of instructional suggestions and he, too, detailed roles of facilitation for instructors and talked about ways of helping learners maximize their learning abilities. His early work with andragogy and subsequent interpretation of the learning projects research by Tough (1978) and others led to a 1975 publication on self-directed learning where he provides a variety of inquiry projects and learning resources on the topic.

Knowles (1975) offered some reasons for his evolving scholarship in the area of self-directed learning. One immediate reason was the emerging evidence that people who take initiative in educational activities seem to learn more and learn things better then what resulted from more passive individuals. He noted a second reason that self-directed learning appears "more in tune with our natural process of psychological development" (1975, p. 14). Knowles observed that an essential aspect of the maturation process is the development of an ability to take increasing responsibility for life.

A third reason was the observation that the many evolving educational innovations (nontraditional programs, Open University, weekend colleges, etc.) throughout the world require that learners assume a heavy responsibility and initiative in their own learning.

Knowles also suggested a more long-term reason in terms of individual and collective survival: ". . . it is tragic that we have not learned how to learn without being taught, and it is probably more important than all of the immediate reasons put together. Alvin Toffler calls this reason 'future shock'. The simple truth is that we are entering into a strange new world in which rapid change will be the only stable characteristic" (Knowles, 1975, p. 15).

It is this ability to carry out individual learning long after the stimulation of some activity like a class or workshop is completed that we believe results from individualizing the instructional process (Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990).

Knowles and the andragogical movement as some refer to it, has not been without critics. Carlson (1989) summarizes some of the concerns many people have had about Knowles at times zealous promotion of andragogy. Welton (1995) brought together four other colleagues who share in various ways a more radical philosophy of adult education. They present several arguments against aspects of andragogy and self-directed learning.

However, it is clear that andragogy and Malcolm Knowles have brought considerable attention to the adult education field as a separate field during the past three decades. Applied correctly, the andragogical approach to teaching and learning in the hands of a skilled and dedicated facilitator can make a positive impact on the adult learner. Appendix A provides a bibliography that contains many of the references devoted to andragogy and Malcolm Knowles.


References and Related Sources


Anderson, M. L., & Lindeman, K. C. (1927). Education through experience. New York: Workers Education Bureau.

Brookfield, S. (1984). The contribution of Eduard Lindeman to the development of theory and philosophy in adult education. Adult Education, 34, 185-196.

Carlson, R. (1989). Malcolm Knowles: Apostle of andragogy. Vitae Scholasticae, 8(1), 217-234.

Davenport, J., & Davenport, J. A. (1985). A chronology and analysis of the andragogy debate. Adult Education Quarterly, 35, 152-159.

Hiemstra, R., & Sisco, B. (1990). Individualizing instruction. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knoll, J. H. (1981). Professionalization in adult education in the Federal Republic of Germany Democratic Republic. In A. N. Charters (Ed.), Comparing adult education worldwide (pp. 90-108). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M. S. (1968). Androgogy, not pedagogy! Adult Leadership, 16, 350-352, 386.

Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning. New York: Association Press.

Knowles, M. S. (1980). The modern practice of adult education (revised and updated). Chicago: Association Press (originally published in 1970).

Knowles, M. (1984). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing.

Knowles, M. S. (1986). Using learning contracts. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Knowles, M., & Associates. (1984). Andragogy in Action. Applying modern principles of adult education. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Savicevic, D.M. (1981). Adult education systems in European Socialist countries: Similarities and differences. In A. N. Charters (Ed.), Comparing adult education worldwide (pp. 37-89). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Stewart, D. W. (1986a). Adult learning in America: Eduard Lindeman and his agenda for lifelong learning. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing.

Stewart, D. H. (1986b). Perspectives. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 9(5), 2.

Tough, A. (1978). Major learning efforts: Recent research and future directions. Adult Education, 28, 250-263.

Welton, M. R. (Ed.). (1995). In defense of the lifeworld: Critical perspectives on adult learning. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.


Annotated Bibliography of Sources Related to Andragogy


Anderson, M. L., & Lindeman, E. C. (1927). Education through experience. New York: Workers Education Bureau. In this work the authors provide an interpretative translation of literature describing the folk high school system in Germany. They included a section entitled, "Andragogy," and describe some teaching methods used by the folk high school teachers. Anderson's role was primarily that of translator because much of their source material was in German.

Beder, H., & Carrea, N. (1988). The effects of andragogical teacher training on adult students' attendance and evaluation of their teachers. Adult Education Quarterly, 38, 75-87. The authors examine two hypotheses with an experimental design: (a) andragogically trained teachers of adults will have higher rates of student attendance in their classes than teachers not trained in andragogy and (b) students will evaluate more positively andragogically-trained adult education teachers than teachers not trained in andragogy. The treatment was found to have a positive affect on attendance but not on student evaluations.

Boyer, D. L. (1984). Malcolm Knowles and Carl Rogers: A comparison of andragogy and student-centered education. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 7(4), 17-20. He suggests that there are commonalities between the two authors' concepts. For example, both assert that their theories are separate and distinct from traditional education. In addition, humanism is somewhat foundational to both concepts. Rogers comes at his ideas from a psychotherapy background and tends to be more individual and small group oriented. He emphasizes interpersonal and small group dynamics. Knowles' experience base is in informal and continuing education programs and tends to be more supportive of group and larger organizational perspectives. He emphasizes program development.

Brockett, R. G., & Hiemstra, R. (1991). Self-direction in adult learning: Perspectives on theory, research, and practice. New York: Routledge. In this book the authors describe various aspects of self-direction in adult learning. Included is considerable mention of andragogy as a foundational notion. Included, too, is an earlier version of this annotated bibliography.

Brookfield, S. D. (1984). The Contribution of Eduard Lindeman to the Development of Theory and Philosophy in Adult Education. Adult Education Quarterly, 34, 185-196. In tracing some of the contributions of Lindeman, Brookfield points out that Lindeman, who undertook (with Martha Anderson) an interpretative translation of the folk high school in Germany, first used the term "Andragogy" in their 1927 monograph, Education Through Experience.

Brookfield, S. D. (1986). Understanding and Facilitating Adult Learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Brookfield presents an entire chapter describing and analyzing andragogy, in which he delineates various authors who have in some way evaluated or critiqued andragogy. He also presents several case studies of andragogy in practice.

Brookfield, S. (1987). Learning Democracy: Eduard Lindeman on adult education and social change. Wolfeboro, New Hampshire: Croom Helm. Brookfield pulls together a number of Lindeman's writings and adds some synthesizing chapters. He includes material from the Anderson and Lindeman (1927) discussion of andragogy and speculates as to how Lindeman's interpretation of andragogy might have influenced his later writings.

Brown, H. W. (1985). Lateral thinking and andragogy: Improving problem solving in adulthood. Lifelong learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 8(7), 22-25. Lateral thinking, also referred to as synectics, creative thinking, and conceptualization, is defined as a restructuring of the knowledge a person already has to bring about new ideas and insights. The author suggests that lateral thinking can be incorporated into the andragogical process as a mechanism to promote problem-solving abilities.

Candy, P. C. (1981). Mirrors of the mind: Personal construct theory in the training of adult educators. Manchester Monographs 16. Manchester: Department of Adult and Higher Education, University of Manchester. He places andragogy within what he calls the principle of self-direction. He compares Knowles to George Kelly, a psychologist, who suggested that interpretation of the future is what drives a person to seek knowledge.

Carlson, R. A. (1979). The time of andragogy. Adult Education, 30, 53-57. He suggests that Elias' attack on andragogy does not give much credence to the notions of or possibilities for adult self-directed learning. He supports the notion of facilitating the capable adult learner. He further feels that both a philosophical and political meaning for andragogy must be developed.

Christian, A. C. (1983). A comparative study of the andragogical-pedagogical orientation of military and civilian personnel. (Doctoral dissertation, Oklahoma State University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 44, 0643a. The researcher developed the scale for this study, designed to measure the purpose of education, nature of learners, characteristics of learning experience, management of learning experience, evaluation, and relationships of educator to learners and among learners. The instrument was adapted from work by Hadley and Kerwin (annotated in this bibliography). Military subjects were shown to be less pedagogical than civilians.

Conti, G. J. (1985). Assessing teaching style in adult education: How and why. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 8(8), 7-11, 28. Although not an article to deal directly with the subject of andragogy, the author describes his development of PALS, the Principles of Adult Learning Scale, which identifies different teaching styles, including some that incorporate some of the andragogical concepts.

Courtenay, B., & Stevenson, R. (1983). Avoiding the threat of gogymania. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 6(7), 10-11. They talk about all the efforts to label instruction of various groups of individuals by some sort of "gogy." They suggest that the distinctions between various groups are not great enough to warrant a label and certainly not great enough to talk about there being or the need for a related theory. They believe that appropriate program development principles are what is important.

Cranton, P. (1989). Planning instruction for adult learners. Toronto: Wall & Thompson. The author provides in Chapter One a description of what she refers to as some principles of adult learning. Andragogy and the influence of Knowles are described as a strong influence on adult education practice on pages 6-9.

Cross, K. P. (1981). Adults as learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Cross presents her views on the strengths and weaknesses of the andragogical concept. She believes it is closer to a theory of teaching than to a theory of learning.

Daloisio, T., & Firestone, M. (1983). A case study in applying adult learning theory in developing managers. Training and Development Journal, 37(2), 73-78. The authors talk about andragogy as a tool for the American Management Associations' Competency Program, a non-traditional approach to graduate management education. The andragogy assumptions and process elements are used to describe the operation of the program.

Darkenwald, G. D., & Merriam, S. B. (1982). Adult education: Foundations of practice. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers. The authors describe andragogy in some capacity several times throughout their book. They place andragogy within a context of self-directed learning in their attempt to help the novice reader better understand the field, its terms, and its scholars.

Davenport, J., III. (1987). Is there any way out of the andragogy morass? Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 11(3), 17-20. The author suggests that a way to deal with all the debate and discussion about andragogy is to redefine the term and base its evolving understanding on empirical research.

Davenport, J., & Davenport, J. A. (1985). A chronology and analysis of the andragogy debate. Adult Education Quarterly, 35, 152-159. The authors describe the debate and dialogue that have developed regarding andragogy during the past several years, including some of the dissertations on the subject. Considerable space is devoted to the debate in Adult Education that was held over a several year period and to the various "gogy" terms that have been developed. They suggest that it is time we move beyond debate to research.

Davenport, J. III, & Davenport, J. A. (1985). Andragogical- pedagogical orientations of adult learners: Research results and practice recommendations. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 9(1), 6-8. The authors describe some of the recent research efforts by people studying andragogical-pedagogical orientation of adults. A variety of practice implications for adult educators are presented.

Davenport, J. III, & Davenport, J. A. (1985). Knowles or Lindeman: Would the real father of American andragogy please stand up. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 9(3), 4-6. In this article the authors point out that not only did Lindeman (and Anderson) first introduce the term "andragogy" in American educational literature, the work of Lindeman appears to have played an important foundational role in Knowles' development of andragogical principles and process elements. They suggest that Lindeman should be seen as the spiritual father and Knowles as the protective father who popularized the term.

Day, C., & Baskett, H. K. (1982). Discrepancies between intentions and practice: Reexamining some basic assumptions about adult and continuing education. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 1, 143-155. The authors criticize the "andragogy" notion and suggest that andragogy is not a theory of adult learning, but is an educational ideology rooted in an inquiry-based learning and teaching paradigm. They believe Knowles' conception of pedagogy has been incorrectly conceived.

Elias, J. L. (1979). Andragogy revisited. Adult Education, 29, 252-255. He takes the view that the promoters and defenders of andragogy have not proven their case and that there is no sound basis for a distinction between andragogy and pedagogy. He also feels that the slogan "andragogy not pedagogy" is a well intentioned, but inadequate, attempt to enhance the professionalization of adult education. He suggests that andragogy and pedagogy merely represent two different approaches to the education of children and adults.

Elias, J. L., & Merriam, S. (1980). Philosophical foundations of adult education. Huntington, NY: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company. They place Knowles into a grouping labeled "humanistic adult educators." They suggest that andragogy is basically a humanistic theoretical framework applied primarily to adult education.

Fisher, J. C., & Podeschi, R. L. (1989). From Lindeman to Knowles: A change in vision. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 8, 345-353. The article compares Knowles and Lindeman in relationship to the primary purpose of adult education. They conclude that Knowles and Lindeman are quite different in terms of the process of learning each espouses. They believe Knowles' focus is on the effectiveness of individual means and initiative, whereas Lindeman's stress was on social commitment and the importance of understanding learning within a social context.

Gelfand, B., & Associates (1975). An andragogical application to the training of social workers. Journal of Education for Social Work, 11(3), 55-61. The authors present a discussion of how andragogical principles can be used in social work training. They highlight some research findings that support several of the andragogical principles.

Godbey, G. C. (1978). Applied Andragogy: A practical manual for the continuing education of adults. College Park: Pennsylvania State University. Godbey developed a manual for use in training workshops where participants are shown how to apply andragogical concepts. Guidance is provided on how a variety of teaching/training methods can be utilized.

Griffin, C. (1983). Curriculum theory in adult and lifelong education. London: Croom Helm. Griffin presents a section in the book describing andragogy. He also presents some views on the limitations of andragogy and laments that Knowles does not account for crucial distinctions between the individual purposes and social consequences of learning.

Grubbs, J. C. (1981). A study of faculty members and students in selected Midwestern schools of theology to determine whether their educational orientation is andragogical or pedagogical. (Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 0055a. The Educational Orientation Questionnaire and Educational Orientation Scales (see Hadley) were used in this study. Female faculty, faculty in the pastoral ministries, and faculty in the religious education areas were significantly more andragogically-oriented. Female and younger students also were more andragogically-oriented.

Hadley, H. (1975). Development of an instrument to determine adult educators' orientations: Andragogical or pedagogical. (Doctoral dissertation, Boston University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 7595a. The "Educational Orientation Questionnaire" incorporates six attitudinal dimensions of an adult educator's role: Purposes of education, nature of learners, characteristics of learning experience, management of learning experience, evaluation, and relationships of educator to learners and among learners. A second instrument, "Educational Orientation Scales," with six bipolar measures, was designed to examine predictive validity of the first instrument. A factor analysis determined eight factors, including pedagogical orientation, andragogical orientation, and self-directed change among them.

Hartree, A. (1984). Malcolm Knowles's theory of andragogy: A critique. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 3, 203-210. Hartree analyzes Knowles' work and provides both a critique and some criticism. He proposes for adult educators a critical reformulation of andragogy.

Hiemstra, R. (1976). Lifelong learning. Lincoln, Nebraska: Professional Educators Publications. Reprinted by HiTree Press, Baldwinsville, New York, 1984.Hiemstra presents andragogy as an evolving theory area. He suggests a great deal more research will be required to bring support for and a fuller understanding of the emerging area.

Hiemstra, R. (1985). [Review of Andragogy in action; Applying modern principles of adult learning]. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 9(3), 23-25. In addition to reviewing the book, Hiemstra introduces the reader to some of the debate that has surrounded andragogy in North America adult education literature.

Hiemstra, R. (1987, May). Comparing andragogy in two cultures: Tanzania and the United States. Paper presented at Comparative Adult Education: An International Conference, Oxford, England. Hiemstra describes a Training and Rural Development project in Tanzania sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development for which he served as an external evaluator. The project had been designed, in part, around andragogical concepts. He compares the project activities with a United States example and suggests several similarities.

Holmes, M. R. (1980). Interpersonal behaviors and their relationship to the andragogical and pedagogical orientation of adult educators. Adult Education, 31, 18-29. A research piece in which the author demonstrates some positive relationships between andragogical orientations and perceived effective interpersonal behaviors.

Hopkins, M. A. (1983). An analysis of nurse educators' educational orientation: Andragogical or pedagogical. (Doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 44, 0043a. In this study the Hadley Educational Orientation Questionnaire was utilized to measure the orientation of nurse educators. The subjects were found pedagogically oriented toward education.

Houle, C. O. (1972). The design of education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. Houle describes in a couple of locations in the book that he can't accept the notion there are real differences between youth and children warranting a science of andragogy. He also describes the European and other roots of the term.

Ingalls, J. D. (1973). A trainer's guide to andragogy. (Rev. Ed.). Washington, D. C.: U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The author developed a workbook for use in workshops or courses designed to help staff members in social service agencies understand and apply andragogical principles. A variety of exercises, techniques, and application suggestions are included.

Jahns, I. W. (1973). [Review of Modern practice of adult education]. Adult Education, 24, 72-74. A fairly straight-forward review, although a little more critical of the technical aspects of the book than was Thornton (annotated in this bibliography).

Jarvis, P. (1984). Andragogy -- a sign of the times. Studies in the Education of Adults, 16(October), 32-38. Jarvis provides some sociological explanation of why andragogy became popular. He contends andragogy emerged at a time when the structures of society were conducive to the acceptance of new ideas. He believes it is an expression of the romantic curriculum.

Jones, G. E. (1982). An analysis of the andragogical-pedagogical orientation of selected faculty at Oklahoma State University. (Doctoral dissertation, Oklahoma State University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 43, 2569a. The Educational Orientation Questionnaire was utilized with selected faculty teaching at least 25% of the time. There was a significant difference among departments, by sex, by the time spent off-campus working on extension or service projects, and by the number of years of teaching experience in higher education.

Katz, E. A. (1976). The belief in andragogy and the development of self-actualization. (Doctoral dissertation, Boston University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 36, 7129a. This study was designed to determine whether extrinsic learning (belief in andragogy) or intrinsic learning (development of self-actualization) do occur in the same learning experience. The purpose was to investigate whether a particular andragogical process of teaching was effective in the growth of participants' beliefs in andragogy and in their development of self-actualization. The Educational Orientation Questionnaire was utilized. Belief in andragogy increased throughout the learning experiences but the development of self-actualization did not increase.

Kerwin, M. A. (1979). The relationship of selected factors to the educational orientation of andragogically- and pedagogically-oriented educators teaching in four of North Carolina's two-year colleges. (Doctoral dissertation, North Carolina Sate University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 40, 0610a. The study's purpose was to determine if students perceived differences between the teaching behaviors of andragogically- and pedagogically-oriented educators. The Educational Orientation Questionnaire was adapted and used to determine the two groups of educators and to determine student types. Students of andragogically-oriented educators perceived that their instructors provided more student involvement and counseling and less control over their class than students of pedagogically-oriented educators did of theirs. Andragogically-oriented educators tended to be women and in general educational programs (rather than in vocation programs).

Kerwin, M. A. (1981). Andragogy in the community college. Community College Review, 9(3), 12-14. He describes how andragogical techniques were used in a community college communications course. He designed a questionnaire that measures a student's perceptions of an instructor's behavior. The instrument was used pre and post the educational experience to help students think about their own role as teachers.

Knowles, M. S. (1968). Androgogy, not pedagogy! Adult Leadership, 16, 350-352, 386. In accepting the Delbert Clark Award in 1967, Knowles laid out his androgogical (as he spelled it then) concepts. He refers to it as a technology, introduces self-concept of the adult, experience of the adult, time perspective, and problem centered education as differentiating factors, and suggests some of the technological (teaching) implications, such as climate, needs diagnosis, planning process, mutual self-directed inquiry, and evaluation.

Knowles, M. S. (1968). How andragogy works in leadership training in the girl scouts. Adult Leadership, 17, 161-162, 190-194. Knowles describes how he tested the andragogical concepts with a leader training program for the Girl Scouts program. This case study report outlines the steps used and an analysis of the final results.

Knowles, M. S. (1970). Modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, Association Press. In this first version of the book, Knowles lays out the premise of andragogy as an art and science of teaching adults as opposed to what is used to teach children. The book initiated lots of debate, dialogue, and change in terms of instructional approaches.

Knowles, M. S. (1973). The adult learner: A neglected species. Houston: Gulf Publishing Company. In a presentation of various learning theories and teaching approaches, Knowles slots in the andragogical model.

Knowles, M. (1975). Self-directed learning. New York: Association Press. Although andragogy is mentioned only a very few times in this little book, Knowles actually is utilizing his andragogical principles and process elements as guides in developing the various inquiry projects and learning resource suggestions throughout.

Knowles, M. (1979). Andragogy revisited part II. Adult Education, 30, 52-53. Knowles suggests that he made a mistake in subtitling Modern Practice of Adult Education as "Andragogy versus Pedagogy." He suggests that the title should have been "From Pedagogy to Andragogy" and that his assumptions should have been presented on a continuum. However, he feels that some service came out of the dialogue and debate that was established. A caveat is presented: That an ideological pedagogue would want to keep a learner dependent throughout the learning situation whereas a true andragogue would want to do everything possible to provide the learner with whatever foundational content needed and then encourage a self-directed process of further inquiry.

Knowles, M. S. (1980). Modern practice of adult education: From pedagogy to andragogy. Revised and updated. Chicago: Follett Publishing Company, Association Press. In this revised edition, Knowles recognizes the considerable debate that took place since the 1970 version was published and approaches andragogy as an alternative teaching and learning approach. One that relies on the fact that adults are capable of self-directed learning, as are many youth, but that a person utilizing andragogy as an approach will attempt to move the learner to independent learning as quickly as possible.

Knowles, M. (1984). The adult learner: A neglected species. (3rd ed.), Houston: Gulf Publishing. In this book Knowles discusses andragogy within two different chapters, in terms of reviewing his organizing concepts, teaching, and publication, and its use in HRD settings.

Knowles, M. S., & Associates (1984). Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Two chapters by Knowles (introduction and conclusion) and 36 selections written by 52 authors, five organizational representatives, and some "associates" within seven other chapters grouped according to institutional settings make up this book. The various sections are case study reports of how andragogy or some variations of it has been used.

Knowles, M. S. (1989). The making of an adult educator: An autobiographical journey. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. In this autobiography, Knowles traces his career and the development of his ideas. Of particular interest to readers seeking information on andragogy is a chapter on how Knowles' ideas have evolved over the years. Here, he presents his current conceptualization of six assumptions comprising the andragogical model and includes a discussion on some of the writers who have influenced his thinking in recent years.

Knudson, R. S. (1979). Humanagogy anyone? Adult Education, 29, 261-264. He promotes humanagogy as a theory of learning that takes into account the differences between people of various ages as well as their similarities. It is a human theory of learning as opposed to a theory of child, adult, or elderly learning. The accumulation of experience, for example, is a lifelong process that needs to be considered in educational planning.

Knudson, R. S. (1980). An alternative approach to the andragogy/pedagogy issue. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 3(8), 8-10. Knudson suggests that rather than argue the strengths and weaknesses of andragogy or pedagogy based on assumptions about whether or not adults and children are different, we use a law of identity (defining what is meant by being a child independent of what is meant by being an adult) and a theory of emergence (we emerge into adulthood based on experiences we had as a child). He suggests, therefore, that "humanagogy" replace both pedagogy and andragogy. He likens this to a "holistic" approach to adult education.

Komisin, L., & Gogniat, D. (1987). Andragogy, adult expectations, and international programs. Continuing Higher Education, 35(1), 13-15. The authors describe how andragogical concepts were used to develop international field-based experiences.

Kulich, J. (1975). [Review of Erwachsenenbildung: Einfuhrung in die andragogik (Hanbuch der Erwachsenenbildung, Band 1). (Adult Education: Introduction to Andragogy. Handbook of Adult Education, Volume 1)]. Adult Education, 25, 137-138. This "international" piece is referenced here just to note that there is literature available from throughout the world related to the word or notion of andragogy.

Lebel, J. (1978). Beyond andragogy to gerogogy. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 1(9), 16-18, 24-25. He suggests the existence of sufficient data supporting the need for gerogogy and advocated that it should be studied as a theory. He suggests, further, that the concepts imbued within andragogy may be appropriate only up to certain stages of development chronologically.

Lewis, L. H. (1987). [Review of Modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy]. Adult Education Quarterly, 37, 120-122. A retrospective review of the book presented in a special book review feature of historical landmarks for the field of adult education.

Lindeman, E. C. (1926). Andragogik: The method of teaching adults. Worker's Education, 4, 38. This is the first known use of the term andragogy in North American literature. Lindeman, in a one-paragraph article, described how Professor Eugen Rosenstock of the Frankfurt Academy of Labor coined a new word: Andragogik. He mentioned that andragogy is the true method by which adults keep themselves intelligent about the modern world.

London, J. (1973). Adult education for the 1970's: Promise or illusion? Adult Education, 24, 60-70. In this essay review of Modern Practice of Adult Education, London talks about some of the roles adult educators might play in the 70's. However, he suggests that Knowles' book is largely a technical book which conveys a kind of technicism in referring to adult educators. He describes a problem with the 1970 version in that there is not an effective way of translating the author's discussion into any kind of effective analysis of how adult educators can utilize the presentation of needs into programming which will help adults confront various critical problems facing society. He feels we need more than just methods and techniques to really help adult educators confront some of the major issues of our time. He believes we may need more radical approaches to educating adults, rather than the "sameness" of the technology implied in Knowles' book.

McCullough, K. O. (1978). Andragogy and community problem solving. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 2(2), 8-9, 31. He describes andragogy as a process, a science of teaching adults, and as a profession. He says that the andragogist believes that knowledge is the equalizing factor among people and that people can come to "know" enough through an andragogical process to be a part of community problems solving.

McKenzie, L. (1977). The issue of andragogy. Adult Education, 27, 225-229. Utilizing an Aristotelian approach (classical), a phenomenological approach, and two syllogies, McKenzie provides some philosophical support for andragogy.

McKenzie, L. (1979). A response to Elias. Adult Education, 29, 256-260. He maintains that adults and children are cardinally different by virtue of different modes of being-in-the-world, that adults and children exhibit different modes of existing, that these modes may be identified through phenomenological analysis, and that the existential differences between adults and children require a strategic differentiation of educational practice. He maintains a notion that Knowles' contrast between andragogy and pedagogy remains a useful but initial effort to explicate an approach to education that is related specifically to adult life.

McTernan, E. J. (1974). Androgogical education in the health services. Adult Leadership, 23, 136, 148. He provides a description of how some principles of adult education were utilized in instituting a new master's degree program in the health services area. The author concludes with the notion that their attempt might be a promising model for the reconciliation of androgogy and pedagogy.

Merriam, S. B. (1987). Adult learning and theory building: A review. Adult Education Quarterly, 37, 187-198. She presents an assessment and analysis of the literature related to adult learning. She describes andragogy as a "theory" based on adult characteristics. She also presents a summary of some of the criticism that andragogy as a theory area has received.

Merriam, S. B. (1988). Finding your way through the maze: A guide to the literature on adult learning. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 11(6), 4-7. Merriam presents some guidelines and ideas for organizing the adult learning literature to aid one's selection and reading. Andragogy is presented and described in the article as one of several theories that attempts to explain the phenomenon of adult learning.

Meyer, S. (1977). Andragogy and the aging adult learner. Educational Gerontology, 2(2), 115-122. This article identifies the basic concepts and structures of pedagogy and andragogy as teaching-learning strategies for aging adults. Andragogy is depicted as a relevant participatory adult education technique useful for aging adults.

Mezirow, J. (1981). A critical theory of adult learning and education. Adult Education, 32, 3-24. Mezirow presents what he calls a charter for andragogy, and suggests that andragogy, "as a professional perspective of adult educators, must be defined as an organized and sustained effort to assist adults to learn in a way that enhances their capability to function as self-directed laymen." He presents 12 actions he believes adult educators must carry out.

Newton, E. S. (1970). Andragogy: Understanding the adult as learner. Journal of Reading, 20, 361-363. He believes that curriculum should be timed to be in step with developmental tasks as the individual encounters them to make full use of the teachable moment. The requirements and demands of the present situation and aspiring roles in real life must dominate and supersede all other considerations in andragogy.

Nottingham Andragogy Group. (1983). Toward a developmental theory of andragogy. (Adults: Psychological and Educational Perspective No. 9). Nottingham, England: Department of Adult Education, University of Nottingham. The Nottingham group has somewhat reinterpreted Knowles' andragogical concepts in terms of their beliefs about adults and adults' abilities to think creatively and critically in learning settings. The booklet provides descriptions of methods, several features of a teaching and learning process, and some stages of course development centered on their notions about critical thinking. The Nottingham group also report that they believe Alexander Kapp, a German teacher, first used the word andragogy in 1833 to describe the educational theory of Plato.

Peterson, C. H., Adkins, D., Tzuk, R., & Scott, M. (1981). Adult problem solving training: An experimental investigation of andragogical counseling techniques. Proceedings of the Twenty-second Annual Adult Education Research Conference (pp. 159-163). DeKalb, IL. The authors drew upon available literature to delineate a counseling procedure consistent with andragogical principles and a life span development perspective. They then examined the effects of implementing such procedures and determined that people can be helped to enhance their own problem solving abilities and self-confidence.

Peterson, D. A. (1983). Facilitating education for older adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Peterson describes andragogy in context with older learners. He suggests where an understanding of older adults as learners intersects with various andragogical concepts. He also suggests ways andragogy can be applied with older learners.

Podeschi, R. L. (1987). Andragogy: Proofs or premises. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 11(3), 14-17, 20.The author explores the debate that has continued about andragogy during the past decade and urges adult educators to be concerned about the type and nature of research that is carried out about the topic.

Podeschi, R. (1987). Lindeman, Knowles and American individualism. Proceedings of the Twenty-eighth Annual Adult Education Research Conference (pp. 195-200). Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Conferences and Institutes. In analyzing these two individuals, Podeschi suggests that Lindeman's andragogy is related philosophically to republican individualism, whereas Knowles' andragogy is connected sociologically to utilitarian individualism.

Podeschi, R. L., & Pearson, E. M. (1986). Knowles and Maslow: Differences about freedom. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 9(7), 16-18. The authors talk about Knowles' updated views of freedom and self-directed learning in his more recent writings about andragogy. They suggest that Knowles is perhaps overly dependent on the ability of all people to accept individual freedom in learning.

Pratt, D. D. (1984). Andragogical assumptions: Some counter intuitive logic. Proceedings of the Twenty-fifth Annual Adult Education Research Conference (pp. 147-153). Syracuse, NY: Printing Services, Syracuse University. Pratt reviews the evolution of the concept of andragogy and examines some of the distortions and assumptions that have emerged. Two andragogical assumptions (adults as self-directed learners and shared authority for decision-making) are examined.

Pratt, D. D. (1988). Andragogy as a relational construct. Adult Education Quarterly, 38, 160-171. The author suggests that andragogical practice should acknowledge and accept of its learners both self-directedness and its obverse, dependency. Several learner and teacher variables are described and some figures depicting relationships are provided.

Rachal, J. (1983). The andragogy-pedagogy debate: Another voice in the fray. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 6(9), 14-15. Rachal suggests that adult educators may have become too engrossed in the field's jargon and utilizes "andragogy" as a discussion term. He notes how concepts like "self-directed learning" have spun off from the philosophical underpinnings related to andragogy.

Savicevic, D. M. (1981). Adult education systems in European Socialist countries: Similarities and differences. In A. N. Charters and Associates, Comparing adult education worldwide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. The author introduces the reader to the term "anthropogogy" a term that Hungry utilizes to cover both andragogy and pedagogy. He also describes how various other countries in this region use some form of andragogy.

Savicevic, D. M. (1988, May). Conceptions of andragogy in different countries: Comparative considerations. Paper presented at the 1988 Study Seminar: Comparative Research in Adult Education, Rome, Italy. Savicevic traces the roots of andragogy to Greek philosophy up through the workers' movement in the last two centuries. Its growth in Eastern Europe in the early part of this century is described. He also relates andragogy to the social sciences and makes a plea for more comparative study efforts.

Savicevic, D. (1989). Conceptions of andragogy in different countries: Comparative considerations. In M. Lichtner (Ed.), Comparative research in adult education: Present lines and perspectives (pp. 65-72). Villa Falconieri, 00044 Frascati, Roma, Italy: Centro Europeo Dell Educazione. Savicevic presents the roots and historical development of the concept of andragogy going back to Kapp. The present situation in terms of use of the concept is presented and he includes some discussion on the linkages between andragogy and other sciences.

Sheridan, J. (1986). Andragogy: A new concept for academic librarians. Research Strategies, 4(4), 156-167. A case is made for how andragogical concepts and procedures can be utilized by academic librarians to help meet the many needs of learners and to help them in using various information resources. Several recommendations and suggestions are provided.

Sheridan, J. (1989). Rethinking andragogy: The case for collaborative learning in continuing higher education. Continuing Higher Education, 37(2), 2-6. The author describes collaborative learning and cooperative learning efforts among students that is reported to be gaining wide acceptance in higher education today. Collaborative learning is purported to parallel andragogical procedures in many ways.

Stewart, D. W. (1986). Perspective. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 9(5), 2. Stewart provides some suggestions as to why Anderson and Lindeman did not use the term "andragogy" after their mention of it in 1927.

Stewart, D. W. (1987). Adult learning in America: Eduard Lindeman and his agenda for lifelong education. Malabar, Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company. Stewart writes a masterful biography of Eduard Lindeman, considered by many in the United States as the father of scholarly work in adult education. Chapter 8, entitled "What Adult Education Means: Discovering and Rediscovering the Concept of Andragogy," describes the interconnectedness between Lindeman's thinking about adult education and much of what andragogy has come to represent. He traces the history of Lindeman’s use of the term andragogy in 1926 and 1927.

Suanmali, C. (1982). The core concepts of andragogy. (Doctoral dissertation, Teachers College, Columbia University). Dissertation Abstracts International, 42, 4471a. Utilizing the charter for andragogy outlined by Jack Mezirow, Suanmali developed an "Andragogy in Practice Inventory" and administered it to a group of adult education professors. He believes that there is a consensus regarding the major concepts used in the andragogical process.

Tennant, M. (1986). An evaluation of Knowles' theory of adult learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 6, 113-122.He discusses and evaluates a number of themes which persist explicitly or implicitly throughout Knowles' writings, including the concept of self-actualization, the difference between child and adult learners, and the clinical model influence of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. He argues for a clearer articulation of several underlying tenets and takes issue with the notion that adult learning is different from child learning.

Terry, E. F. (1988). Using andragogy to foster moral development of adults within the institutional church. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 12(2), 4-6. The author believes that the nature of andragogy is such that it can provide an appropriate vehicle for facilitating moral development with a church setting. She relates andragogical process elements closely with the process required for movement throughout the various stages of moral development. The importance of facilitation is described.

Thorne, E. H., & Marshall, J. L. (1985). Managerial-skills development: An experience in program design. Personnel Journal, 55(1), 15-17, 38. The authors describe how andragogy can be adapted to an industrial setting. They describe how to create an environment in which a management skills development program can operate.

Thornton, J. A. (1973). [Review of Modern practice of adult education: Andragogy versus pedagogy]. Adult Education, 24, 70-72. A fairly straight-forward and positive review of the book.

Travis, A. Y. (1985). Andragogy and the disabled adult learner. Lifelong Learning: An Omnibus of Practice and Research, 8(8), 16-18, 20. The author suggests how andragogical principles could be utilized with disabled adult learners. Several descriptive tables are included.

Warren, C. (1989). Andragogy and N. F. S. Grundtvig: A critical link. Adult Education Quarterly, 39(4), 211-223. Warren compares the ideas of N.F.S. Grundtvig with those of various American adult education thinkers, particularly as those thinkers have addressed the concept of andragogy. Warren suggests that while Grundtvig has basically gone unread in North America, his ideas have had a major influence on adult education in this context, largely due to the legacy of Eduard Lindeman. He suggests that the basic ideas of Grundtvig essentially parallel Knowles' assumptions of andragogy.

Yeo, G. (1982). 'Eldergogy' a specialized approach to education for elders. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 5(5), 4-7. She recommends a new "gogy," eldergogy, defined as a specialized approach to education for elders. She believes that eldergogy would help teachers of older adults to become more effective. She provides a number of instruction-related strategies.

Yonge, A. D. (1985). Andragogy and pedagogy: two ways of accompaniment. Adult Education Quarterly, 35, 160-167. In this article, Yonge talks about how discussions of andragogy revolving around learning and teaching are both necessary and confusing. Some important differences between a situation of andragogy and pedagogy are presented.

Vacca, R. T., & Walker, J. E. (1980). Andragogy: The missing link in college reading programs. Lifelong Learning: The Adult Years, 3(6), 16, 24-25. The authors talk about how andragogical assumptions and approaches can be used to teach reading to incoming college students.

Van Allen, G. H. (1982). Educational attitudes in a state system of community colleges. Community College Review, 10(2), 44-47. Using the Educational Orientation Questionnaire, an instrument developed to measure attitudes along an andragogical-pedagogical continuum, attitudes of community college faculty and students were found to fit well together and to fall near the middle of the scale.




Workshop Participants


Margaret E. Chambers

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Syracuse University

and Hospital In-service Educator


Pat Green

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Syracuse University

and Public School Reading Specialist


Doris Holdorf

Chair, Management Studies Center

and Director, Business Management Program

Cazenovia College


Jane M. Hugo

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Syracuse University


Barry W. Mack

Graduate Student in Educational Administration

Syracuse University


Dawn P. Mullaney

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Syracuse University


Lois Needham

Course Chairperson and Instructor

St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing


Gene Roche

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Syracuse University

and Director of Career Center

Hamilton College


Mary C. Rommel

Graduate Student in Educational Administration

Syracuse University

and Director Elementary Education

West Canada Valley Central Schools


Jack E. Six

Graduate Student in Adult Education

Syracuse University


Workshop Staff


Dr. Harriet Estrin, workshop presenter, is a consultant in gerontology and widowhood, Kingston, Rhode Island. A 1985 doctoral graduate in adult education from Syracuse University, Harriet made a presentation on her doctoral research entitled, "Life Satisfaction and Learning Activities Among Widows" (Estrin, 1986).


Dr. Roger Hiemstra, workshop facilitator, is Professor and Chair, Adult Education, Syracuse University. He has carried out or directed several research studies related to self directed learning and written extensively on the subject. He presented a variety of information on self-directed learning.


Mr. Ken Landers, workshop presenter, is a doctoral student in adult education, Syracuse University, and part-time instructor, Maria Regina College. Ken made a presentation on the Oddi instrument and helped workshop participants learn how to use and score it. He is doing a doctoral dissertation involving a comparison of the Oddi instrument with the Guglielmino instrument.


Dr. Janet Leeb, workshop presenter, is a professor of nursing, College of Nursing, Syracuse University. A 1983 doctoral graduate in adult education from Syracuse University, Janet made a presentation on her dissertation entitled, "Self-Directed Learning and Growth toward Personal Responsibility: Implication for a Framework for Health Promotion" (Leeb, 1985).




Workshop Information


Self-Directed Adult Learning




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. Further, Cross urged the study of "the improvement of the help and resources available for self-directed learning." (1981, p. 195)

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 and discussion of needed resources and other recommendations for professional adult educators will be an important activity.


Competency Expectations


At the completion of the workshop, each participant should be able to perform in the following ways:


  1. Understand the state of the art regarding knowledge about learning projects and self-directed adult learning.
  2. Contribute to the discussion of implications for adult educators and suggest recommendations for future practice.
  3. Develop a variety of recommendations for resources for needed resources for self-directed adult learners.




  1. Participate in the workshop activities and read the available materials. Bibliographic and media reserve lists will be provided. The text requirements are as follows: (a) Roger Hiemstra, Workbook/Supplemental Materials; (b) Malcolm Knowles, Self-Directed Learning, (c) Stephen Brookfield, Ed., Self-Directed Learning: From Theory to Practice. (d) In addition, Ron Gross, The Lifelong Learner, is recommended as an excellent supplement.
  2. Participate in group activities on developing recommendations for needed resources for the self-directed adult learner. (Learning activity #1).
  3. Develop a statement of intent (learning contract) relative to the requirements of the workshop. Complete a term project working individually or in groups. This could include interviewing self-directed adult learners, doing extensive readings, or a variety of other activities.


Term Project


(Select anyone of the following)


  • Select and interview at least five people as to the number of learning projects completed in the past year. (An interview schedule is provided.) Analyze and summarize your findings with enough tables, narrative, and discussion of implications to capture the essence of your interviews.
  • Complete a series of readings necessary to provide you with a comprehensive view of the "state of the art" in self-directed adult learning. Develop a log, diary or some other means of recording your personal ideas, reactions, learnings, and relevant recommendations for change.
  • Carry out some mini-research project that examines theoretically and/or empirically some aspect of se1f directed adult learning.
  • Develop a concept paper outlining what some specific agency or group could do to institute basic concepts about self-directed adult learning or related resources into their actual practice.
  • Select some activity of your own choosing that makes "sense" to you in relation to the content of the workshop. Present a write-up on your activity.


Learning Contracts


Utilizing the material contained in the course workbook, the material distributed during the workshop, the information contained in Knowles' (1975) Self-directed Learning, or other material of your own choosing, develop and turn in to the instructor a learning contract by the third day of the workshop. The contract should detail your term project and provide any additional information about which you would like feedback from the instructor. Sample contracts will be made available during the workshop.


Tentative Schedule


  • Monday, June 24
    • Introductions
    • Administrative Details
    • Registration
    • Workshop Requirements/Materials
    • Begin Work on Learning Contracts
    • Group Formation (as needed)
    • "Introduction to Self-Directed Learning" – Roger Hiemstra
    • Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale
  • Tuesday, June 25
    • Learning Projects Interviews
    • General Discussion of Self-Directed Learning
    • Discussion Regarding the Workshop Monograph
    • Research Symposium:
      • Janet Leeb - "Individuals Who Practice Health Conducive Lifestyles and SDLRS"
      • Ken Landers- "Oddi Instrument"
      • Dialogue with Presenters
  • Wednesday, June 26
    • Research Presentation:
      • Harriet Estrin - "Widows, Life Satisfaction, and Learning Projects"
      • Dialogue with Presenter
      • Small Group Work to Begin Exploration of Self-Directed Learning Needs
      • End of Day Debriefing
    • Learning Contracts Due by End of Day
  • Thursday, June 27
    • Work Sessions in Small Groups to Develop Information on Self-Directed Learning
    • Instructor Available as Resource, Facilitator, and Sounding Board
    • Work Begins on Developing Monograph
  • Friday, June 28
    • Morning:
      • Presentations by Groups of Monograph Material
      • Reactions and Feedback
    • Afternoon:
      • Fine Tuning on Monograph Material
      • Instructor Continues Work on Monograph Structure
      • Workshop Wrap-up and Evaluation




Summary of Students' Term Project Papers


Margaret Chambers


An interview, analysis, and comparison of 10-13 people over the age of 55 on a variety of characteristics in relationship to self-planned learning. The Tough interview protocol was utilized to gather data.


Pat Green


Examined learning in terms of what constituted each learning project. Evolved a variety of implications for adult education. The Tough interview protocol was utilized to gather data.


Doris Holdorf


An interview, analysis and comparison of learning projects among a group of adults. The Tough interview protocol was utilized to gather data.


Jane Hugo


Studied the Coterie, a hundred year old women's study group in Fayetteville, New York. The Coterie stimulates personal and intellectual growth through a seven-month program of reading and discussion.


Barry Mack


Modified the Tough interview protocol for a sharper focus on occupationally related learning projects and utilized it with vocational education administrators. The final result was the development of professional development goal sheets.


Dawn Mullaney


Developed an interactive reading log on a variety of literature related to adult and self-directed learning.


Lois Needham


An interview of and analysis, and comparison of learning projects among a group of adults. The Tough interview protocol was utilized to gather data.


Gene Roche


Developed an interactive reading log on a variety of literature related to andragogy and self-directed learning.


Mary Rommel


Modified the Tough interview protocol for job related learning projects and interviewed and compared public school administrators. Also interviewed public school teachers to identify resources, methods, and contexts that aid teachers in using critical reflection as a needs assessment tool.


Jack Six


Described the linkage between self-directed learning, adult learning, and andragogical assumptions and the basic principles of adult progressive and humanistic education.




A Summary of the Information Presented By the Instructor to Participants


The State of the Art


Houle's pioneering work The Inquiring Mind (1961) inspired work by Tough (1967, 1979), Knowles (1980, 1984), and many others during the past couple of decades. Much of this work has directly or indirectly come to be attached to a line of inquiry and scholarship referred to by many as self-directed learning.

            There are two separate but parallel, and often overlapping, streams of work on self-directed learning that have taken place in North America. Allen Tough, a Canadian professor and former doctoral student of Houle's, became interested in the learning oriented person uncovered in Houle research. Tough's early research (1966) analyzed the self-teaching activities of 40 college students. He subsequently became involved in other research and his study of adult's learning projects (1979) laid the foundation for numerous follow-up studies by various researchers. A general pattern has emerged from all this research that can be summarized as follows: approximately 90% of all adults conduct at least one major learning effort, or project, each year; the average is five separate projects annually and 100 hours on each project. Probably relevant to the area of self-directed learning, is the fact that the majority of learning projects, about 70%, are planned by individual learners themselves.

            Research replicating the Tough interview technique or utilizing the Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS) (Guglielmino, 1977), a 57-item Likert scale developed to measure one aspect of self-directedness, has been completed by many doctoral students and others in North America during the past decade. Such research has helped to focus considerable educational attention on adult learning, has demonstrated that considerable learning takes place outside of institutional settings, and has suggested the need for new roles among adult education teachers.

            This stream of research and scholarship is not without its critics. Several researchers have added qualitative examinations of "self-directed learners" (Brookfield, 1981; Gibbons, et al) to the literature. Brockett (1985) has questioned the appropriateness of the SDLRS with certain groups. Brookfield (1984b) provides an extensive criticism regarding the current status of self-directed learning research. This criticism focuses on four main areas: "(1) the emphasis on middle class adults as the sampling frame for studies..., (2) the almost exclusive use of quantitative or quasi-quantitative measures in assessing the extent of learning and the concomitant lack of attention to its quality, (3) the emphasis on the individual dimensions of such learning to the exclusion of any consideration of the social context in which it occurs, and, finally, (4) to the absence of any extended discussion of the considerable implications raised by these studies for questions of social and political change." (p. 60).

            The other stream of work related to self-directed learning also has attracted some criticism. Another leader in the adult education field, Malcolm Knowles, also at one time was a student under Houle's direction. Knowles popularized in North American adult education literature the concept of andragogy (1980, 1984). Andragogy was originally conceived by Knowles as a teaching and learning approach in opposition to pedagogy. A variety of critics (Houle, 1972; London, 1973; & Elias, 1979) suggest that there is no real basis for making distinctions between youth and adults as learners. Knowles, in more recent publications (1979, 1980, 1984) suggests that andragogy is a teaching and learning system that may work with people of all ages, assuming that an encouragement of student-directed learning is an instructional desire. (See Appendix A for additional information.)

            It is this student-directed learning notion or the instructor being seen as a facilitator rather than director of learning that presents this parallel focus on self-directed learning. Knowles in another publication (1975) defines self directed learning as "a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning .goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes." (p. 18) Considerably less research thus far has been conducted related to the andragogical side of self directed learning, so the overlap between the two flows is still somewhat unclear.

            During the course of the workshop these two streams of work were explored, as was some of the literature with tangential relationships and some emerging literature that appears related (see the Selected Bibliography). Participants were helped to obtain a general understanding of self-directed learning through reading, discussions, and outside presenters. Individuals who have completed research using the Tough interview protocol or the SDLRS described their work. One person who is beginning work that will explore the relationship of the SDLRS and a new instrument developed to identify self-directed continuing learners (Oddi, 1985) described the latter inventory. Participants had an opportunity to experience first hand all three data collection devices.


Ten-Year Research Program on Self-Directed Adult Learning


The workshop facilitator has engaged in research on self-directed learning for more than a decade. Figure B-1 summarizes this research effort.


Year Completed

Name of Researcher

Population Studied

Instruments Used

Main Variables Studied



Older adults

Tough protocol

# of learning projects

Hours of learning

Planning preferences



Adult educators

Tough protocol

# of learning projects

Hours of learning

Planning preferences



Lower socio-econ. Group

Tough protocol

# of learning projects

Hours of learning

Planning preferences



ABE students

Tough protocol

# of learning projects

Hours of learning

Planning preferences



Adult and non-adult undergraduates

SDLRS (Guglielmino)

Bill’s Self-concept scale

Comparison of SDLRS and self-concept scores


Hiemstra & colleagues



Developed policies for self-directed learning



General adult population


Tough protocol

Comparison of SDLRS and learning projects information



Older adults (frail elderly)


Life satisfaction

Comparison of SDLRS and life satisfaction scores


Hiemstra & colleagues

General adult population

Tough protocol

# of learning projects

Hours of learning

Planning preferences



Individuals who practice health conducive lifestyles


Personal Wellness Inventory

Comparison of SDLRS and personal wellness scores



Part-time adult undergraduates


EPS (Educational Participation Scale)

Comparison of SDLRS and EPS scores



Widows and non-widows

Tough protocol

Life satisfaction

Comparison of learning project information according to level of life satisfaction and widows vs. non-widows



Adult and non-adult undergraduates


Math Anxiety Scale

Comparison of SDLRS and math anxiety scores



Adult graduate students



Comparison of SDLRS and OCLI scores



Practicing nurses


Job satisfaction

Comparison of SDLRS and job satisfaction scores



Adult nursing students



Comparison of SDLRS and self-initiative pre and post a self-directed learning promotion treatment



Middle aged adults


PSCAQ (Perception of Self-Care)

Comparison of SDLRS and PSCAQ scores



Undergraduate students


Classroom Learning Scale (CLS)

Comparison of OCLI and CLS relationships

aDoctoral advisees/dissertation students of Hiemstra.

bDoctoral advisee of Hiemstra.


Figure E-1. Ten-Year Research Program on Self-Directed Learning.


Lecturette Topics


A variety of topics or issues were discussed during the workshop. A summary outline follows:


Why Self-Directed Learning?

1.      People prefer SDL

2.      As result, tend to be more highly motivated, learn more, and learn better

3.      SDL is more in "Tune" with natural psychological development

4.      More emphasis today on nontraditional forms of education; thus greater need for SDL skills

5.      Need for new definitions of education and learning

6.      Need to view education and lifelong learning as a process

7.      Need to recognize learning how to learn on one’s own as the essential human competence.

Principles and Conditions of Self-Theory

1.      Human beings have a natural potential for learning

2.      Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the learner to be relevant to his/her own purposes

3.      Learning that involves a change in self organization (in the perception of oneself) is threatening, and tends to be resisted

4.      Learning that threatens "self" is more easily perceived and assimilated when the external threats are at a minimum

5.      When threat to self is low, experience can be perceived in a differentiated way, and learning is enhanced

6.      Learning is facilitated when the learner participates responsibly in the process

7.      Self-initiated learning that involves the whole person (feelings as well as intellect) is the most lasting and pervasive

8.      The most useful learning is learning the process by which one learns, a continuing openness to experience, and incorporation of the change process into oneself.

Central Concepts in Tough Research

1.      Learning Project: A highly deliberate effort to gain and retain certain definite knowledge and skill, or to change in some other way that takes at least 7 hours of time during the past year.

2.      Self as Planner: Approximately 75% of the planning for learning preference is "self."

Method Used by Tough to Collect Data

1.      Structured Interview

2.      Probing Questions

Interview Questions Asked by Tough

1.      What did you intentionally do this past year that resulted in any learning?

2.      How much time did you spend?

3.      Why did you do it?

4.      Are you still active?

5.      How pleased are you in having learned the information?

6.      Who decided what you would learn and how you would learn?

Barriers to adult learning (Cross, 1981)

1.      Situational (cost, time, family, transportation, health)

2.      Institutional (scheduling, location, registration procedures, admission policies, administrative logistics, lack of information, funding/aid)

3.      Dispositional (self-concept, previous education, perceived lack of energy or health, role changes, lack of motivation or interest)

4.      Environmental (physical, pace, length, threatening learning situation, dependency on instructor).

Learning variables controlled by the learner

1.      Identification of need

2.      Topic and purpose

3.      Objectives

4.      Appropriate learning experience

5.      Learning resources

6.      Environment

7.      Time

8.      Pace

9.      Evaluation methods

10.  Documentation methods.

Some SDAL activities

1.      Personal investigations

2.      Self-guided reading

3.      Study groups

4.      Directed learning

5.      Study tours

6.      Practicum

7.      Correspondence study

8.      Self-contained package

9.      Programmed instruction

10.  CAI modules

Some Benefits

1.      Greater transfer of learning from one situation to another

2.      Increased retention

3.      Greater interest in continued learning

4.      Improved self-concept

5.      Development of patterns for approaching and solving problems.

Facilitating Roles

1.      Encourage assessment of need

2.      Encourage setting of objectives

3.      Encourage design of learning

4.      Encourage evaluation of learning

5.      Encourage utilization of evaluation information for future learning


1.      Make available a variety of SDAL and non-traditional resources

2.      Make available materials and study space in a of settings

3.      Learners should have easy/quick access resources

4.      Develop various flexible self-study materials

5.      Develop better methods of helping people identify learning deficiencies and capacities

6.      Help learners become more self-directed as learners

7.      Create a learning climate which will stimulate continuous learning.



May 2, 2005


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