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University of Wyoming

Self-Directed Learning

The Process

"The focus of learning is on the individual and self-development, with learners expected to assume primary responsibility for their own learning."

Caffarella, R.S., 1993

Linear Models | Interactive Models | Instructional Models

Linear Models:

Early models of self-directed learning proposed that learners moved through a series of steps to reach their goals. 

Tough's Model- Found learners passing through thirteen decision-making points.

Knowles's Model-Condensed his points to six:

(1) setting climate

(2) diagnosing needs

(3) setting goals

(4) identifying resources

(5) choosing and implementing strategies

(6) evaluating outcomes   

Interactive Models:

Interactive Models are not linear, but occur around two or more factors, such as the learner's personality or the learning context.

Spear's Model-(1988) Based on opportunities, past/new knowledge & chance occurrences, each self-directed learning episode is made up of  "clusters" of information which are stored.  When a number of relevant clusters are assembled, the learner constructs a "whole."  Learners tend to use trial-and-error methods and are guided by their successes and failures.

Cavaliere's Model-(1990) The presence of specific opportunities and resources is essential to successful self-directed learning around five stages:

(1) inquiring,

(2) modeling,

(3) experimenting & practicing,

(4) theorizing &  perfecting

(5) receiving recognition.   

Within each stage, four cognitive processes repeat--goal setting, focusing, persevering, & reformulation.  Based on a case study of the Wright Bothers, learners are characterized by frustration and confusion, followed by breakthrough.

Brockett & Hiemsta's Model-(1991) The Personal Responsibility Orientation (PRO) model combines self-directed learning and the learner's personality characteristics (learner self-direction).  Based in the concepts of humanism and human potential,  learners are responsible for their learning experiences, although an educator/resource may facilitate the process.  Also important are context and situational factors in the self-directed learning process. 

Danis's Framework-(1992) This framework is a synthesis of research data and intended as a "map of the territory" that researchers could use to study the interaction of the components of self-directed learning.  Danis's components are

(1) strategies,

(2) phases,

(3) learning content,

(4) the learner

(5) context.

Garrison's Model-(1997) This "collaborative constructivist" approach has three components:

(1) Self-management--learners collaborate and shape contextual environment to reach their goals, 

(2) Self-monitoring--learners use many learning strategies &  think about their thinking, and 

(3) Motivation--learners' choices of learning activities and factors influencing continued participation.

Instructional Models:

1. Used to integrate self-directed methods into their classroom and activities.

2. Allow for more learner control and independence

3. Grow's Staged Self-Directed Learning (SSDL)- Four Stages: Good teachers individualize according to which stage students are in.

  • Stage 1: low self-direction need authority figure
  • Stage 2: moderate self-direction, motivated and confident but ignorant of subject matter
  • Stage 3: intermediate self-direction, both skill and basic knowledge, can proceed with good guide
  • Stage 4: high self-direction, plan, execute and evaluate their own learning

4. Questions and answers about Grow's model

5. Questions and answers about Grow's model Hammond and Collins Learners take iniative to:

  1. build cooperative learning environment.
  2. analyze and critically reflect their own social, economic, and political contexts
  3. generate competency profiles
  4. diagnose learning needs
  5. formulate learning goals (social and personal)
  6. implement and manage learning
  7. reflect and evaluate learning