Self-Directed Learning: Self-Directed Learning Contract

Self-directed learning is an initial process, which elaborate upon the main characteristics of adult learner and its’ implications for designing education programs for adult learners. In the context of globalization and given fast-faced environment, it is not possible to teach everything, which is necessary for adults in the formal class room setting. Therefore, self-directed learning has become a very important tool in adult education. Before conducting a detail analysis of self-directed learning, it is necessary to identify the characteristics of self-directed learning. According to Knowles self-directed learning is a process where an individual takes initiatives without assistance of others to identify learning objectives, set study goals, find human and material resources, and evaluate learning outcomes.
Self-directed learning is known as an independent process. It is a context dependent process where the psychological, social, political, cultural, and economic environment factors play a significant role in implementing effective adult learning strategies. In self-directed learning, it is also important to identify the role of learners’ characteristics such as age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status in appreciating both learners and educators. Self-directed learning can be occurred in the range of contexts such as personal life, professional organizations, and higher education etc.
To apply self-directed learning as an instructional strategy in the class room, self-directed learning contract is a very important document. This is a tool that students use in planning and preparing their study objectives and learning process. Furthermore, this document includes evaluation procedure, time line of the study, and resources and strategies to achieve study objectives. This document also includes the starting and end date of the study. A student hands over the learning contract to the advisor for further review. Then, the faculty advisor reviews the document and suggests necessary changes to the document. After that both student and the faculty member sign the agreement. After signing for the learning contract, it becomes a formal arrangement between the advisor and student regarding the proposed learning process.
I applied self-directed learning approach when I conducted the directed study with students of bachelor degree program in economics major at the University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. In the directed study project, I had an opportunity to lead students work independently in their research project. Self-directed learning contract shifted the responsibility of learning from instructor to students. As a result, students set their study objectives and action plan to achieve set study goals. Similarly, in completing learning contract, students examined their capabilities, achievements, and identified their own course of actions to complete the directed study project. Furthermore, students found their own information which is necessary for a successful completion of the research project. In short, self-directed learning contract between me and my students led them to establish their learning goals based on their aspiration, abilities, and available resources. In addition, the contract assisted to work independently with minimal supervision. Finally, this approach taught students to regulate their learning habits for high level academic achievements and led them to be life-long learners and self-evaluators.
Considering the competencies of graduates demanded by 21st century labor market, I strongly believe that self-directed learning contract associated with directed study is an effective learning approach, which is able to create range of soft-skills among graduate students.


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