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University of Wyoming

Self-Directed Learning


"Every man who rises above the common level has received two educations: the first from his teachers; the second, more personal and important, from himself."

Edward Gibon, 1923

Self-directedness depends on who is in charge--who decides what should be learned, who should learn it, what methods and resources should be used, and how the success of the effort should be measured.

"The focus of learning is on the individual and self-development, with learners expected to assume primary responsibility for their own learning."
R. S. Caffarella, An Update on Adult Learning

Self Directed

-directed or guided by oneself


-instruction/education or acquired wisdom, knowledge, or skill

Roles of Educators and Institutions:
Cheryl Lowry has compiled an extensive list summarizing the opinions of many writers regarding the role of the educator as a facilitator of learning. 

  • Help the learner identify the starting point for a learning project
  • Create a partnership with the learner
  • Be a manager rather than an information provider
  • Teach inquiry skills, decision making, personal development, and self evaluation
  • Act as advocates for under served populations

Role of Learners:
The Self-Directed Learner takes control of all variables in the learning process to the extend possible.