Self-directed learning

During December 2016 I shared articles about self-directed learning (SDL), exploring what it involves and the skills required to successfully become a SD learner.

What is SDL?

Malcolm Knowles defined SDL as:

“A process by which individuals take the initiative, with or 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)

Simply put, SDL is a process of learning where you are in full control.

The autumn 2016 CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report discovered L&D departments aren’t successfully developing people. As such, employees believe that development opportunities aren’t possible in their current roles. SDL is becoming an essential part of career and personal development.

5 ways to become more Self-directed

Recognise your learning needs

Which area(s) do you want to improve and increase your knowledge or skills?

Take initiative

Accept responsibility and take charge of this learning experience.

Set goals

Plan how you intend to meet your learning needs, set objectives and use these to keep you motivated.

Use available resources

Decide how you will learn and select the best method for your learning style.

Overcome problems

Stay motivated when things don’t go to plan. Use the experience to discover your strengths and weaknesses.

SDL resources

Malcolm Knowles also said “the ability to learn on one’s own—that has suddenly become a prerequisite for living in this new world.” Being a SD learner doesn’t mean you have to learn alone or in isolation; use a variety of resources to keep the subject interesting.

I found an interesting picture from Teach Thought, which describes why individuals take the self directed route.


Within this image Teach Thought lists some of learning resources that may be considered:

  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Open online courses
  • Audio books
  • Videos
  • DVD’s

Don’t forget:

  • Podcasts
  • Blogs
  • Ted Talks
  • Social Networking
  • Experience within work
  • Informal mentoring

Procrastination and lack of motivation are the biggest challenges to any SDL, and could discourage an individual from developing.

Throughout January 2017 I will focus on motivation and how to keep yourself motivated whether it’s for a New Year’s Resolution or your development journey.


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