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Hello there, and welcome.
In this lesson, we will review the tenets of self-directed learning theory and take a look at some key questions that will help you align this theory with your plans for professional development. Let's get started.
You may have heard of Genius Hour, a practice that Google has been using for years with many of its employees. Basically, they allow developers to spend 20% of their time working on projects that interest them. Since doing this, Google has seen productivity rise steadily. In fact, this Genius Hour is actually credited for the development of Gmail.
The idea is spreading through schools, with so-called passion projects for students happening at all grade levels. We know that providing choice makes learning more fun, and increases an individual's motivation to learn. Let's keep that in mind, because teachers are learners too.
Self-directed learning theory was born out of the work of Cyril Houle, Allen Tough, and Malcolm Knowles. It was Professor Tough, however, that first provided a comprehensive description and model of self-directed learning that he called self-planned learning, and self-teaching, which are terms that are often used interchangeably. Other similar expressions are self-study, self-education, and independent learning. The actual self-directed learning theory is attributed to Malcolm Knowles' assumption of self concept.
Self-directed learning is described as a process where learners assume the responsibility and take the initiative in planning, carrying out, and evaluating their own learning. These practices are generally considered to be part of an adult's natural practice, because as adults we're able to make decisions about content, methods, resources, and evaluation of our own learning.
According to researcher Rosemary Caffarella, there are four main goals of self-directed learning. They are as follows.
Goal one is to have the aspiration to gain knowledge or develop a skill. The second goal is to become more self-directed in learning. Goal three is to foster transformational learning essential to self-directed learning. And the final goal is to promote emancipatory learning, supporting social justice and political action as an integral part of self-directed learning.
There are certain features of self-directed learning theory that should be considered when developing a professional development learning plan. Most notably is the element of choice. Feedback from the Gates Foundation report tells us that offering choice and self-direction will significantly increase the teachers' satisfaction with professional development. In fact, when given the choice of the majority or all of their professional learning, teachers are more than two times as satisfied than those who are not given such choices.
If you've been in the field of education for any length of time, you're probably aware that historically many professional development activities are viewed as wasted time by teachers. Teachers value professional development activities that directly support the work that they are doing every day, such as planning and reflecting on instruction. All of this is why it's so important to analyze and alter professional development plans to align with self-directed learning theories and principles.
Let's walk through the steps you would take to check for alignment between transformational learning and professional development. The three key areas to identify are, areas of alignment, areas of misalignment, and areas of enhancement.
Listed here is a set of questions to ask in order to determine if your professional development plan is aligned with self-directed learning theory. You may want to pause the video here to review them closely.
The key to self-directed learning is choice, so the first question to ask is if there is the opportunity for teachers to make choices in their learning. Next, you'll want to check if the plan is aligned with the four goals of self-directed learning, which are to have the aspiration to gain knowledge, to become more self-directed, to foster transformational learning, and to promote emancipatory learning.
Reflection is another major aspect of self-directed learning. So you will want your professional development plan to include that in order for teachers to evaluate their own learning. We're seeing more of this line of thinking in teacher evaluation systems. And if all this is happening, you're on your way to fostering self-directed learning.
Step two is to look for areas of misalignment, or places in the plan that the theory is not applied, and what can be changed to include it. The questions that will tease out this information are, what are the opportunities or activities in place that align with the four goals of self-directed learning? And is the professional development plan building capacity and skills that support teacher self-direction? If it's not, you risk teachers becoming apathetic and disengaged.
The final step is to look for areas for enhancement. This doesn't necessarily mean you have a poor plan, but there may be some simple adjustments to be made that will increase alignment. What needs to change in order for self-directed learning to take place? What aspects of the professional development plan need to be revised in order to support opportunities for teachers' choice in planning, learning, and evaluation? In many instances, what teachers want and need is more time to make this happen.
It's time to go ahead and summarize this lesson. We reviewed the self-directed learning theory set forth by Knowles, Tough, and Houle, and also the goals set forth by Caffarella. Then we walked through the three step process of identifying alignment, misalignment, and areas of enhancement.
And now for today's food for thought. The word "choice" came up multiple times during this lesson. Is personal choice part of your current professional situation? If so, have you taken advantage of it?
As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you might want to explore the additional resources section that accompanies this video. This is where you'll find links to resources that are chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.
Thanks so much for watching. We'll see you next time.
(00:15-00:51) Genius Hour
(00:52-01:45) Self Directed Learning Theory
(01:46-02:20) Goals Of SDL
(03:20-03:36) The Steps
(03:37-04:28) Step 1
(04:29-04:55) Step 2
(04:56-05:26) Step 3
(05:27-06:14) Food For Thought/Summary
Andragogy and Self-Directed Learning: Pillars of Adult Learning Theory
This chapter from The New Update on Adult Learning Theory provides a comprehensive look at the connection between self-directed learning and adult learning.
Action Research: A Self-Directed Approach to Professional Development
This ASCD article indicates the importance of action research in guiding teachers as self-directed learners.