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Facilitating Self-Directed Learning

To some readers it may seem quite a paradox to talk about the facilitation of self-directed learning when self-direction implies learning alone. However, one of our reasons for writing this book is to explore appropriate roles for educators of adults, given this widespread interest in self-direction. This chapter is designed to provide some initial ideas about the process of facilitating self-direction from the instructor's perspective. Chapter Seven will deal with self-direction from the learner's perspective.

As we pointed out in earlier chapters, some critics of the "self-directed learning movement" argue that the research related to such concepts as andragogy and learning projects is flawed in some ways. As we note throughout the book, certainly more research is needed to better understand implications for instruction, program development, and so forth. However, it has been our experience, both in and out of the classroom, that most adults do prefer to assume considerable responsibility for their own learning if given the opportunity and appropriate support.

In this chapter we describe how we have translated our knowledge and experience into a teaching and learning process that works for us in facilitating self-directed learning. The collective "we" is used in that we talk about various procedures and techniques that at least one of us uses or has tried. We also will use "you" to communicate directly in terms of our recommendations for your use of the information in the chapter. Obviously, we can only present you with an accounting of how we translate beliefs and experiences into instructional activities, and you will need to make adaptations that fit your preferred teaching style, philosophical framework, and institutional requirements.


Much attention has been given to the North American version of

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andragogical teaching and learning as developed by Knowles (1980). His initial description of andragogy (Knowles, 1968), subsequent modifications from the first edition of Modern Practice (1970) to the second (1980), and description of the process used various ways (Knowles & Associates, 1984) have certainly popularized the term. Appendix A provides an annotated bibliography of writings that deal directly with andragogy and some of its implied concepts. For the reader interested in pursuing further variations, Savicevic (1981, 1988, 1989) describes how certain Eastern European countries have used some form of andragogy.

Popularization of andragogy has been accompanied by numerous debates for and against the concept put forth by many writers (Brookfield, 1986; Candy, 1981; Carlson, 1979; Cross, 1981; Darkenwald & Merriam, 1982; Davenport, 1987; Davenport & Davenport, 1985a, 1985b, 1985c; Day & Baskett, 1982; Elias, 1979; Griffin, 1983; Houle, 1972; Jarvis, 1984; Knudson, 1979; London, 1973; McKenzie, 1977, 1979; Podeschi, 1987; Podeschi & Pearson, 1986; Pratt, 1988; Rachal, 1983; Tennant, 1986; and Yonge, 1985). Many North American critics of the concept argue that differences between adults and children are not significant enough to warrant different teaching and learning approaches. Some people also believe that Knowles is too dependent on the ability of all people to accept individual freedom in learning. For example, Pratt (1988) believes that self-direction is a situational attribute or "an impermanent state of being dependent on the learner's competence, commitment and confidence at a given moment in time" (p. 162).

Knowles has responded to some of this criticism by saying he made a mistake in subtitling the 1970 version of Modern Practice "Andragogy versus Pedagogy." He now believes the subtitle should have been "From Pedagogy to Andragogy," (a subtitle he actually used in the 1980 second edition) and that he should have presented these ideas as two points on a continuum (Knowles, 1979), rather than as a dichotomy.

Criticism of andragogy outside of North America has taken a somewhat different turn. Griffin (1983), for example, suggests that Knowles fails to account for crucial distinctions between individual purposes and social consequences of learning. This results in extreme individualism and, in effect, "the social functions of adult education are reduced to the sum of the purposes of individual learners" (p. 60). Day and Baskett (1982) suggest that andragogy is not a theory of adult learning at all; rather, it is an educational ideology rooted in an inquiry-based learning and teaching paradigm. Tennant (1986) worries that andragogy places the individual at the center of a value system that relegates the group to second place.

We are largely in agreement with Knowles' current view of andragogy as a continuum. We also believe that individuals can be assisted to become

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increasingly more self-directed when given appropriate learning tools, resources, experiences, and encouragement. This is because an underlying theme in our interpretation of teaching and learning as a process is that of facilitating learning, or as Knowles would put it, "self-directed" as opposed to "teacher-directed" learning. In fact, self-directed learning is seen as a goal, an underlying assumption of andragogy, and a prevailing philosophy for adult education by many in North America (Mezirow, 1985).

Mezirow (1981) also has described 12 activities fundamental to the enhancement of learners becoming more self-directed in what he calls a "charter for andragogy." For facilitators this involves helping learners participate in various activities, including the assessment of personal needs, planning subsequent learning activities, securing or creating necessary learning resources, and assessing personal progress in achieving learning goals. Schuttenberg and Tracy (1987) believe there are many different roles a facilitator should assume, including that of a leader, collaborator, or colleague, in promoting varying types of self-directed behavior. In other words, a facilitator is not just a classroom teacher, but also can be a counselor, consultant, tutor, and resource locator.

However, for such activities and roles to be successful, a partnership must be developed between learner and facilitator. We believe this is important so that issues like quality of the experience, a personal desire to continue learning activities, and obtaining necessary support are considered. It has been our experience that such a partnership works best within an individualized teaching and learning process. It involves mentoring, building collegiality, helping learners free themselves from expected dependent relationships with teachers, and developing greater learner independence. Individualized, as used here, refers more to the degree of--or potential for--learner control of the process than to independence of the study method (Candy, 1981).

The purpose of this chapter is to describe such a process and how facilitation of self-direction or increased learner control is carried out. This, then, is a discussion of the "self-directed learning" side of the PRO model described in Chapter Two. The focus will be primarily on what Mocker and Spear (1962) refer to as an expected formal relationship between a learner or group of learners and an instructor. We do recognize that not all self-directed learning activity involves developing such formal roles but, for purposes of this chapter, we stress the involvement of a facilitator in describing the process.


Some basic assumptions underlie the notion that self-direction in learning is

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possible. For example, we accept that the mature adult is quite capable of assuming personal responsibility for planning and carrying out learning activities. Thus, we believe an adult is a person who fulfills adult social roles and who possesses self-directed abilities and beliefs (Mezirow, 1985). However, it has been our experience that most adults, when entering a formal educational setting, initially expect the teacher to be an authority who passes knowledge on to them as receptive learners. On the other hand, research noted earlier, as well as our personal experiences as facilitators, has shown us how quickly learners will adapt to assuming self-direction in learning. The landmark Learning To Be report (Faure and others, 1972) made this point more than 15 years ago: "From the standpoint of lifelong education and in the present state of human knowledge, calling teachers "masters" (whichever of its meanings we give the word), is more and more an abuse of terms. The teacher's duty is less and less to inculcate knowledge and more and more to encourage thinking; . . . [this includes becoming increasingly] an advisor, a partner to talk to, someone who seeks out conflicting arguments rather than handing out ready-made truths. . . . [The teacher] will have to devote more time and energy to productive and creative activities: interaction, discussion, stimulation, understanding, encouragement." (pp. 77-78)

This interactive role does require lots of time and energy on the part of the teacher throughout the process. In fact, we believe our process requires considerably more effort than do more traditional, teacher-directed approaches. A facilitator must be able to provide numerous kinds of support because of the many barriers to self-direction that a learner will face.

As with any teaching and learning process, an instructor's activities do not begin during initial contact with learners. Some participatory planning takes place, resources are secured, and some thinking is done regarding what is to be expected of learners. Each learner or group of learners will be unique, the state of knowledge regarding the subject will constantly change, and needs uncovered during the learning process will provide new information for identifying learning resources and activities.

Self-directed learning by individuals frequently is inhibited by the absence of a guiding model or plan. Stubblefield (1981a) has suggested a model with four phases. Table 6-1 describes each phase and provides some questions that should be asked during the planning process. The first phase, initiating, involves focusing on needs, objectives, and benefits from the learning activity. The second phase, planning, involves identifying learning resources, specifying learning activities, and establishing criteria for successful

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Table 6.1 Guiding Model, or Plan, for Self-Directed Learning
Initiating Phase Planning Phase Managing Phase Evaluating Phase
What is the purpose or goal of the learning endeavor? What questions are to be answered or what needs met? What are the intended outcomes or personal benefits? What learning resources are available or attainable?
What activities can best stimulate learning? What are the criteria for successful accomplishment of any learning goals? Has each learning activity been carried out? How can the acquired information and knowledge be analyzed, interpreted, and incorporated?
What conclusions or personal change is obtainable from the experience? Were the learning goals achieved? Are there other goals that can be established? How can personal proficiencies as a learner be improved?

Source: Stubblefield (1981a), pp. 24-25.

accomplishments. The next phase, management, involves carrying out the learning activities, analyzing the information obtained, and recording progress toward some personal changes. The final phase, evaluation, should answer questions whether or not objectives were achieved and where do we go from here.

Spear and Mocker (1984) looked at planning in terms of patterns of involvement. They derived four patterns from qualitative research on adult learning that can serve as a basis for organizing the circumstances that affect learning activities. Type I, which they defined as a single event with anticipated learning, is where the environment containing learning resources governs the learning process to a large degree. An example would be a new car owner being shown a video tape about and being given a brief lesson related to operating the vehicle. Type II, a single event with unanticipated learning, is where learning grows out of observations of and contact with a set of actual circumstances. For instance, a new secretary sees an experienced colleague utilizing a different word processing package than the one taught in business school. It seems to have some superior qualities. The colleague is asked to demonstrate its capabilities and to teach the fundamentals. The

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new secretary also takes the manual home and reads it until, finally, there is a great enough feeling of comfort to switch over to the new software.

Type III, a series of events with related learning, is where one learning experience naturally leads to another. Neal, one of our examples in Chapter One, became somewhat of an expert on alternative energy sources utilizing primarily Type III learning experiences. Type IV, a series of events with unrelated learning, includes a number of different learning experiences which provide considerable background knowledge on a particular topic. Mary from Chapter One demonstrated Type IV learning. She gained most of her genealogical skills through various learning experiences over long periods of time, many of which were mainly unrelated to each other.

Spear and Mocker point out that more research is needed to understand better "how the structure for learning is constructed and how and why self-directed learners make their decisions as their learning activities proceed" (p. 8). However, their current framework on involvement patterns still provides some help in understanding the different types of teaching and learning that are possible.

The teaching and learning process we advocate in this book encompasses most aspects of Stubblefield's four stage model. It also allows for the varied organizing and decision-making circumstances suggested by Spear and Mocker, although Type IV learning usually occurs after more formal experiences take place. As Little (1985) notes, the strategies employed to learn in a self-directed manner will necessarily vary as a function of what is being learned.

Following, therefore, are some specific roles we believe the facilitator needs to undertake in promoting self-direction in learning:

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Thus, the individualized process that we advocate calls for an instructor to serve as facilitator and for learners to assume personal responsibility related to their own achievements. It has been our experience that the mature learner flourishes in a setting where identification of needs, personal ownership of learning involvement, and use of a wide variety of available resources are thoroughly and thoughtfully integrated into the instructional process.


The process described in this chapter has evolved through several years of experimentation and feedback from learners, primarily in the graduate classroom with students majoring in adult education. Together we have over 30 years of experience instructing adults in a wide variety of settings. This has included weekly classes, intensive summer classes, weekend classes, independent study via learning contracts, instruction via television, tele-lecture, and computer conferencing software, workshops, conferences, and informal training sessions. We stress, however, that the ideas presented here are but a few possible strategies for facilitating self-directed learning. Nonetheless, they are strategies that work for one or both of us.

We believe that the process can work, with various modifications, in virtually any setting. The librarian, for example, can use approaches for determining needs and helping learners select learning resources similar to what we describe. The County Extension agent can incorporate learners' experiences and needs in teaching about appropriate pesticide use. The literacy volunteer can adapt variations of learning contracts for helping learners make progress on reading and writing.

As noted earlier in this chapter, the andragogical teaching and learning procedures advocated by Knowles (1980) have clearly influenced our approach. In addition, Knowles and Associates (1984) describe adaptations of

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the andragogical process in various formal and informal settings. In Chapters Eight and Ten we also summarize some individualized approaches used in various settings and with various groupings of people. Understanding the influence oF Knowles' work on us and studying all these variations will be useful as you think about adaptations you can make to the process we describe. Therefore, we present our process with the expectation that it will be necessary to make appropriate adjustments that fit your personality, preferred teaching techniques, and organizational requirements.

Finally, we must note that your teaching and learning philosophy and the teaching style growing out of this philosophy will impact on the adaptations you will make. Understanding and being able to delineate a personal philosophy promotes both the flexibility and consistency we believe is needed in working with adult learners. Hiemstra (1988b) provides some guidelines for thinking about personal philosophy and how that philosophy can be used to guide action within the classroom. White and Brockett (1983) also share some ideas about applying philosophy in an informal adult education setting. Hayes (1989) provides a wide range of insights relative to teaching style.

Initial Planning

One of the first things we usually do in preparing for a facilitator role is develop what we call a "learning rationale" sheet. In this rationale statement we go further than simply developing a description of the learning experience. We develop for learners a statement that describes some reasons why we believe they will be interested in the learning experiences. We also describe how we will work as instructors in the individualized experience. Philosophically, it is not our intent to manipulate learners into following some preset direction, but we believe facilitators must constantly be diligent in finding an appropriate balance between learner freedom and whatever organizational requirements might exist. Thus, in the rationale statement, we also include comments about self-direction in learning and what learners can expect from us.

Another preparation activity involves specifying necessary competencies, learning requirements, and goals. In reality, most learners will expect you to put on an "expert" hat from time to time. In other words, as we noted above you need to make sure the course covers those topics included in the catalog description and curricular guide, or implied in the title.

Before a learning experience actually begins, it is important to design some appropriate needs assessment materials. When we are teaching a formal course, for example, we normally use two needs assessment techniques. The first technique involves written responses by learners to a needs assessment tool. The second technique involves learners in some small

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group discussions in which each person's needs can be contrasted with others in the group. This usually leads to more clearly defined personal needs and, frequently, discovery of previously unrecognized needs. More information on needs assessment is presented later in the chapter.

Another initial course planning activity involves finding, building, designing, and developing relevant support materials. This function actually is ongoing, with new materials constantly being developed and old ones phased out as needed. It involves continuous reading and collecting materials related to various subjects or content areas. The job is almost overwhelming, especially as one adds courses to a teaching repertoire. However, the process is predicated on a philosophy that places instructors in the role of learning facilitators, resource providers, and encouragers of as much self-direction as is possible in a learner. Thus, we believe an important part of the teaching process is providing a wide variety of learning materials to the learners.

One more activity we have often found quite helpful both to us and to learners is the preparation of a workbook or study guide of supplemental materials related to the course. This includes course syllabus materials, descriptions of learning activities, bibliographic citations, learning contract forms, any necessary descriptions or instructions, and special materials we think will be useful to learners. In most instances, we also provide material specific or supplemental to certain learning activities. There are two distinct advantages to creating your own workbook for a learning experience. First, such an endeavor promotes advance planning and preparation related to a course or content area. Obviously, not everything can be prepared in advance if you plan to use needs assessment activities to determine specific learning requirements. However, after a course is taught once or twice you will have a fairly good understanding of the core material that typically needs to be covered.

A second advantage is that much of the material pertaining to a course that normally is handed out in a piecemeal fashion, is distributed all at once. We often make arrangements with a local printing company to copy and bind all the material within an attractive cover. Then the workbook is sold to learners as a normal text requirement for the course. Most learners do not seem to object to the arrangement because the materials are bound together and most photocopying processes result in material of a uniform quality. Such a procedure potentially has a spin-off advantage of saving the institution some money and some secretarial time. Even if such a workbook or study guide is done entirely in-house, it has proven to us to be easier than developing the materials from session to session.

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Climate Setting

Once the course is underway, there are several activities important in establishing a positive learning climate. This section's purpose is to describe these activities and to provide a picture of the approach used in those crucial first few hours together. As Pratt notes, "the first session can be critical to the eventual success of . . . [the course]" (1984, p. 7).

In many learning experiences the actual content acquisition begins within the first few minutes of the first session. In essence, many instructors assume that each student is there with textbooks in hand, an appropriate mental attitude in place, and pencil poised to receive the gospel. Consequently, what often happens is that the "gospel" is given via a lecture that continues throughout the initial period. Any mention of assignments, expectations, and course direction is made almost incidentally. Very often learners are even discouraged from talking with each other, seeking an understanding of course goals, or asking questions.

We realize that a somewhat negative picture of teaching is being painted in the above paragraph. However, many of our graduate students report that they frequently experience something similar in many of their courses. Both authors also have participated in training experiences in which we were subjected to a "fill in the empty reservoir" approach.

We realize that most teachers or trainers are given the freedom to make presentations in whatever style or manner desired. However, based on our teaching experiences, we contend that the independent, self-directed learner deserves and desires a different approach. This is especially true during the first few hours together, when personal attitudes about subject, instructor, teaching style, and learning activities are formed.

Some additional strategies we have used with success include the following:

  1. Physical arrangements and personal comfort are important ingredients in successful teaching and learning. Plan ahead to make sure the classroom or meeting place arrangements will meet the needs of the participants and your learning expectations. Hiemstra and Sisco (1990), Vosko (1984, 1985) and Vosko and Hiemstra (1988) provide some ideas related to the physical setting and environment;
  2. Arrive at the classroom setting early enough to ensure that the space is appropriately set up. This may include moving chairs, checking the room temperature, checking for adequate lighting, arranging for any needed break-out areas for group discussion, and making sure all audio-visual equipment is in place and working;
  3. Make provisions for coffee/tea, smoking, and bathroom breaks, taking into account both those who may be very much opposed to smoking and those who cannot go for long periods of not smoking without it having an effect on their ability to learn.

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Helping Learners Become Acquainted

There are a number of techniques that we use to help learners become acquainted and to begin to feel comfortable in the learning setting. One of the first things we usually do is spend a very brief time introducing ourselves. We then ask all participants to fill out one side of a card with their name, address, and other useful information. We note that the information will be used for a group roster so they can contact fellow students outside of group meeting times. We encourage such networking for purposes of raising questions, studying together, or working jointly on course projects.

We then ask them to turn the card over, fold it in half so the above information is on the inside, and make a tent card that will stand up by itself. Then they are asked to print their first name, a nickname, or whatever name they would like to be called in large block letters on both sides of the card. The instructor should make a tent card, too (we both prefer to use our first names rather than titles or last names to help create an informal climate). Such name cards are used for at least the first several group sessions to help in the learning of each others' names.

Next, we have students introduce themselves. One technique is to have the students turn to their closest partner and work in dyads. We ask them to spend about 15 minutes becoming acquainted. Then each partner in a dyad introduces the other to all group members and tells something about each other's background. This provides a chance for participants to get to know another person and for remaining group members to learn something about everyone through the subsequent introductions.

If the group isn't too large (probably no larger than 16 people), or if several people already know each other quite well, we ask partners to find out and report something unusual or special about each other. If there are uneven numbers, a group of three can introduce one of the other two or an instructor can participate in the activities to form the last dyad. There also will be occasions, such as in small seminars or training workshops, where stick-on or pin-on names tags can be used so group members can read the names as they enter into personal conversations.

Such techniques may sound simplistic at first glance. However, we have found they do a nice job of breaking the ice, setting a tone of informality and mutual respect, and helping people learn names. In addition, you as the instructor can learn some valuable things about members of the group.

We also have found it very important during the first session to spend some time talking about the teaching and learning process we use. The

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workbook of supplemental materials described earlier contains a write-up that both describes the process and the instructor's personal teaching philosophy. Typically we describe various examples of how the process is employed, how self-directed learning is encouraged, and how the instructor's role as facilitator evolves during the course. Discussion and answering questions about the process or course requirements can go on until students appear to have an understanding of the proposed process.

Needs Assessment

It is our premise that learners should become actively involved in determining specific needs around which subsequent learning activities are planned. This involvement usually takes place or at least is begun during the first session. There are two aspects to the needs assessment process that we use.

Individual Needs Assessment

As noted earlier, we spend considerable time before each session thinking through the probable topics of student interest. The resulting needs diagnosis form provides a starting point for learners to assess individual ability and experience. Within the first three hours together (or as a take-home assignment in between sessions one and two) learners are asked to rate themselves on several competency areas listed on the form. We also encourage them to add other items that are not covered on the form but that they think should be included.

The point of this activity is to begin building personal ownership for learning through a process involving self-recognition of strengths and weaknesses. Thus, we ask them to look at their own needs rather than guessing what their needs might be. In this way, the learners begin to see how a certain set of experiences can be used to fill in gaps or to enhance personal strengths.

If it is impossible to pre-design an instrument, group members can be asked to list their learning expectations and personal needs, and/or to begin a process of designing learning objectives. In one graduate course, for example, a gaming and simulation device on community needs analysis is employed the first session as a means of stimulating awareness on the part of students of what they do and don't know. In another course, a pre-test of knowledge most likely to be covered during the semester is administered as a means of stimulating thinking about the range of topic possibilities.

Group Activities

We also believe that it is very important to involve participants in group

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needs assessment. In our experience, hearing how others are both similar and dissimilar helps most individuals obtain a perspective on why certain topics should be covered in formal group sessions, even if they don't meet every person's needs.

The technique that we use most often involves the formation of groups of five to eight people. This is usually done at the conclusion of the first session together or at the beginning of the second. If possible, we like to put together in groups people who already have been through courses taught with the interactive process and people who have not. Frequently, people will be asked ahead of time (perhaps before the first session actually starts or during the first break) to serve as a leader for a small group.

Thus, after people have had time to complete an individual needs diagnosis form, and after everyone has some notions about the range of possible topics, we ask people to move into a group setting. We often use a numbering technique to divide people into groups, where we go around the room and each person counts off in sequence up to the number of groups desired. Each person who numbered themselves as a one in the counting sequence goes into group number one, those numbered two would go into group number two, and so on. Sometimes we put up on a chalkboard the names of individuals within each group, or let learners form their own groups. If possible, we have extra rooms available or we use areas like hallways, private offices, or faculty lounges, so each group's discussion will not be disruptive to other groups. We either appoint a group leader and a recorder or, more often, ask that they be picked by the group.

The leader and group members are instructed to use the needs diagnosis form as a starting point by ranking listed topics according to how each person rated a topic on the form and how much class time should be devoted to them. The process facilitates discussion of the various topics. It helps participants recognize the individual differences within the group, and occasionally prompts a request for clarification from the instructor. We make ourselves available as a resource but attempt to keep a low profile during the process. We want the students to struggle with the terms and language, to seek out clarification, and to realize that they will need to spend time during the course on certain topics.

We also encourage each group to determine whether there are additional topics that require some attention during future meetings. Each group is asked to supply a report that provides a ranking of the topics, describes other topics needing attention, and seeks clarification of any concepts. We also encourage them to provide suggestions relative to teaching techniques, learning resources, and sequencing ideas. Typically each leader or recorder makes a brief report to the larger group so everyone can see similarities or differences among the various rankings.

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Implementing Self-Directed Learning

Designing future learning activities begins to take place after the session devoted to needs are diagnosis. Using the needs assessment information, the instructor builds a tentative group plan for the remainder of the course. We do this by examining the various small group reports, compiling a majority report of needs, and estimating the amount of time required to cover each topic. We also suggest the various resources that can be used or developed.

Next we take a careful look at any requirements for the course to see how closely they match the compiled needs information. This is where the instructor's expertise comes into play to be sure that students will finish the course with any basics necessary for subject mastery or to move on to a next level. Then we begin detailing activities for remaining sessions and pulling together resources that will complement and supplement each group period.

The result is a plan of action for the course that is shown to learners for a final review and approval the next time they gather. This tentative plan typically lays out a weekly schedule of learning experiences, suggests appropriate support materials and objectives, and highlights any required course deadlines. We also attempt to ensure that the weekly schedule is flexible, contains slack time so particular topics can be explored in depth as interest dictates, and that time is allotted for what Danis and Tremblay (1985) call "reflective activity" (p. 142) and what Little (1985) would call primary and support learning strategies.

Next, the instructor tries to bring about a logical flow of events. This includes securing the necessary resources, arranging for any guest presenters, communicating the class plan to learners, and rediagnosing learner needs whenever it is deemed necessary. Rydell (1983) provides several ideas on how to develop and use various educational materials with self-directed learners.

The learners then develop a learning plan or contract through which they design an individualized approach to meeting identified needs. These plans typically describe personal goals, resources to be employed, learning strategies, evidence planned to show accomplishment, anticipated validation means, and time frames for completing activities. Knowles (1986) presents a variety of contracting forms that can be used. The instructor provides feedback and help in insuring that a meaningful and realistic plan for the course is completed. Throughout the course learners are urged to partake of group activities as appropriate to their learning plan. Some learners will participate in every remaining session. Others will participate in only selected group activities and use time away from class to pursue individualized learning activities.

During the remainder of such a course the instructor takes on two roles.

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One is the management of each remaining session in such a manner as to promote both learning and involvement. We also support Brookfield's (1987) urging that a conscious effort to promote critical reflection by learners must be made so that all the intricacies of managing a process do not get in the way of promoting thinking, theory building, and intellectual transformation.

A second role involves one-to-one communication with learners through written feedback and individual appointments, renegotiation of learning plans as needs evolve, assistance in securing learning resources, and evaluation of any products developed. Courses that meet daily (such as an intensive summer session workshop), every other weekend, or electronically will require some variations on those that meet weekly during a 15-week semester or a 10-week quarter.

Evaluation Activities

We use three means of evaluation during a graduate course to help us keep our teaching fresh and to provide indications of how well the self-directed learning process is working for participants. One involves formative evaluation throughout the course. This includes being sensitive to non-verbal cues of problems, soliciting written feedback occasionally, employing a mid-course evaluation tool, and encouraging appointments outside of class as concerns or problems arise. Another technique is an instrument we employ during the last class session. It is designed to evaluate us as instructors and facilitators of self-directed learning. The third technique is another instrument also administered at the end of the course. This instrument seeks evaluation of the process used, content covered, and resources employed during the course.

We ask learners to exclude their names on evaluation instruments unless they want us to have such information. Our belief is that an anonymous response is preferred by most people. Also, in our experience most learners take these evaluation assignments quite seriously. Consequently, over the past decade we have refined our process so that self-directed learning skills are maximized for most learners.


Within the confines of any formal or individual learning experience, there are several ways learners can maximize their self-directed learning skills. Borrowing from work by Cooper (1980) and adapting material from Hiemstra (1988a), we suggest there are at least nine learning variables that can be controlled by learners. The extent to which control is shared between

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learner and facilitator may shift from time to time, but it has been our experience "that these variables are important to the overall encouragement of self-directed learning" (Hiemstra, 1988a, p.119):

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The learner also can control many aspects of individualized learning activities outside the course parameters. We can thus: "encourage learners to seek ways of tying learning activities to practical realities of job, home, and community. In addition, learners have the freedom to select a wide variety of written or media resources to enhance their intellectual growth related to the subject matter, especially once the course has been completed and subsequent application needs arise." (Hiemstra, 1988a, p. 120)


As noted throughout this chapter, the fostering of self-directed learning requires that many resources be made available to learners. These resources frequently need to be made accessible during an entire learning experience because of varied learner needs, pacing requirements, and plans. This also means there needs to be continuous evaluation of resource selections and feedback by the facilitator. This final section provides some thoughts regarding the types of resources that can be used for self-directed learning activities.

When looking in book stores, media catalogs, and general magazines there are many resources self-directed learners can use, including a multitude of do-it-yourself books, video tapes, and audio tapes. In addition, public agencies like libraries and adult learning centers have compiled many resources on a variety of subjects that may be of value to learners.

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Table 6.2 Range of Potential Resources Identified During a Workshop on Self-Directed Learning
Mediated Resources         Individualized                   Agency/Group           Mentored                  
Journals/Magazines Travel Classes Peer Reviews
Programmed Learning Competency Ratings Free Universities Modeling
Cassette Tapes Gaming Devices Libraries Mentors
Computers Observations Proprietary Schools Personality Analyses
Workbooks Personal Inventories Agency Visits Learning Partners
Interactive Video Self-Talk Conferences Counseling/Testing
Television Learning Projects Museums/Galleries Information Counselors
Radio Personal Journals/Diaries Discussion Groups Networks/Networking
Learning Modules/Kits Internships . .
Films/Video Tapes Stimulated Recall . .
Conferencing Software . . .
Electronic Networks . .


Source: Hiemstra (1985c)

Unfortunately from our viewpoint, there has not been much work to date in evaluating the effectiveness of these resources. Gross' (1977) book on lifelong learning, Knowles' (1975) self-directed learning guide, and a sourcebook for independent learners by Smith and Cunningham (1987) are examples of some efforts to provide resource suggestions. In most learning experiences, however, the facilitator still needs to play some sort of role in evaluating, locating, providing, and even creating learning resources.

A group of people thought about possible resources for self-directed learners during a workshop on the topic (Hiemstra, 1985c). Although the purpose was not to evaluate resources, a classification scheme was developed to aid in the selection of resources. Table 6-2 represents the range of potential resources identified. Such resources only scratch the surface in identifying possible aids or learning activities in support of self-directed activity. As you begin to use aspects of the process described in this chapter, you will no doubt be able to add to the list those resources specific to your locations or teaching situations.


This chapter has presented various examples and ideas related to the facilitation

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of self-directed learning. Much of the individualized process elements described have evolved from our own instructional experiences. However, many of them have been influenced by the andragogical teaching and learning process, as well as several other ideas.

Obviously, we would like to be influential in helping you think about and alter your own approaches to instructing adults or we wouldn't be writing this book. In reality, though, you will need to filter our thinking and instructional process ideas through your own experience base, philosophical beliefs, and day-to-day instructional realities. We hope that our ideas and experiences will enhance your instructional skills and abilities.


Go to the bibliography.

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