Malcolm Knowles, the father of andragogy, whose work focused on self-directed learning defined it in this way: “In its broadest meaning, ’self-directed learning’ describes a process by which individuals take the initiative, with our without the assistance of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identify human and material resources for learning, choosing and implement appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.” (Knowles, 1975, p. 18).

Often, self-directed learning can be mistaken for a Robinson Crusoe existence where the learner works and achieves his/her goals in isolation. On the contrary, a self-directed learner knows to select resources and when to seek support and peer learning to achieve one’s goal. Also, a self-directed learner could still use the guidance of a facilitator. The challenge for the facilitator is to create an optimal learning environment in such a way that the learner can develop as autonomous learners.

In this section, we are presenting examples from student work that show characteristics of self-directed learning.

Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning.

Self-directed Learning Across Multiple Disciplines

Here are examples of student work across a variety of disciplines. Each student artefact showcased below is a testimony to the self-directed learning process undertaken by the students.

Freshman Seminar Discussion using Audio Podcasts

In fall 2016, Prof. Jaya Kannan experimented with the use of podcasts for a freshman seminar course titled, “Truth and Right Action.” Please listen to the playlist of audio podcasts from this class to see how students engage in a group discussion to critically analyze the readings. The students took charge of developing and documenting these discussions and the instructor is not present in these discussions.

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