Instructor support for self-directed learning in higher education
Wilcox, Susan M. P.
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This study addressed the problem of instructor support for self-directed learning, specifically, learner-directed program planning, within a classroom setting in higher education. A combination of survey, interview, document analysis, and observation was used to assess and evaluate the attitudes and practices of a sample of full-time faculty at an Ontario university. Eighty-seven percent of the study sample reported instructional beliefs, values, and expectations that were not supportive of self-directed learning, especially in terms of student participation in program planning. Planning was seen as the responsibility of the instructor. Instructors were least open to student participation in the planning of the evaluation of learning. However, there was considerable stated support for other of the basic principles of adult education. The remaining 13% of the study sample reported instructional beliefs, values, and expectations that were fully supportive of self-directed learning. Instructional practices were analyzed in relation to the instructors' stated beliefs. Although practices reflected, in many instances, instructors' statements of support, there were some significant discrepancies between apparent support for the concept of self-directed learning and actual classroom practice. Both beliefs and practice were compared to a research model of self-directed learning. Most instructors did not have a concept of self-directed learning as comprehensive as that described in the research model. Instructor support for self-directed learning was profoundly influenced by the university setting. It was concluded that more strenuous attempts to research, enhance, and promote instructional and institutional support for self-directed learning in higher education are warranted.