The bumper sticker which says “Quick, hire teenagers while they still know everything” may evoke a smile but it leads one to reflect that no one knows everything and that life is a learning process until the day we die. Self-directed learning in its various forms affects us every day of our life. This essay will therefore explain and explore the concept of self-directed learning focusing on aspects such as motivation and features of self-direction. In addition, discussion will elaborate on Mezirow’s description of three types of self-directed learning: instrumental, communicative (dialogic) and self reflective.
Self-directed learning has been described as "a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others," (Knowles 1975, p18) to diagnose their learning needs or interests, formulate learning goals, identify resources for learning, select and implement learning strategies, and evaluate learning outcomes (Knowles 1975). Most adults spend a considerable time acquiring information and learning new skills. Constant and rapid social, political and economic change, the continuous creation of new knowledge, and an ever-widening access to information make such acquisitions necessary. It is the learner who initiates much of this learning even if available through formal settings.
Adult learners are volunteers and therefore motivation is usually not a problem. Adults tend to seek out learning opportunities because often life changes, such as marriage, divorce, a job change, termination, retirement or a geographical change, serve as the motivation for the adult to seek new learning opportunities. They usually want to learn something that they can use to better their position or make a change for the better. They are not always interested in knowledge for it's own sake. Learning is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Several things are known about self-directed learning: (a) individual learners can become empowered to...