A Guide of Self-Directed Learning


In this paper, the assessment of self-directed and self-aware learning is outlined through Costa and Kallick’s “Habits of Mind” (2000), through analyzing the factors in other critical work. The contrast in various approaches will be presented as an overview of the current trends in that field. The paper contains an overview of self-directed learning as well as a discussion on the relation between the different views.

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With the rapid development of the Internet and the introduction of the concepts of distant learning, much attention has been paid to self-directed and self-aware learning. Being a concept that was researched extensively in the twentieth century, and even having historical figures that were associated with self-directed learning, it is not limited to distant internet learning, as it might seem. Self-directed and self-aware learning, requires specific skills, of which the ability to distance learning might be one of the factors. Self-directed learners should have skills, attributes and habits which lead to critical thinking. Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick (2000) call such attributes “habits of mind” which can be implemented in all traditional knowledge areas and do not have age limit. In their work, the parallel between critical thinking and self-directed learning can be apparent, as the people who have specific habits mentioned by Costa and Kallick, would be able to identify their learning needs and draw their own educational pattern.

Review of Literature

The main approach implemented in Costa and Kallick (2000) is that by analyzing intelligent behavior, several sets of attributes can be associated with effective thinking, and if these attributes could be taught, the mindset to think effectively when faced with unknown dilemmas. The keyword ineffective thinking and the skills that are associated with it, is creating a particular pattern of behavior; “A “Habit of Mind” means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known.” Observing the habits of mind outlined in their work, among which persisting, thinking flexibly, questioning and Posing Problems and others, it can be seen that most of the habits imply self-awareness and self-development in which the habits should overcome certain internal obstacles to learning goals. Possessing the skill is not enough for Costa and Kallick where they stated that a habit of mind should include: valuing, having the inclination, being alert, being capable, and making a commitment. (Costa, 2001)

In the same manner, in Roger (1986), self-directed learning in contrast to traditional education, the person should diagnose personal learning needs, set goals, explore the environment, and carry out learning activities. In that matter, much attention is paid to the issues of motivation where “internal needs, motives, and values of the learner and the external means employed, should be taken into account.” (Roger, 1978) The main difference stated by the author in regards the traditional and self-directed lies in the awareness of the educator’s that the learner’s own forces are more accessible and controllable. The norms for self-directed and self-aware learning can be summarized as the initiation of anything useful for one’s own learning, withdrawing resources and energies from previous commitment when a better option comes along, and being conscious of one’s intentions and goals.

The issue of how to deal with unknown information covered by Costa and Killick (2000) was also approached by Evensen (2000) in “Problem Based Learning”. The abilities that allow the person to go beyond the known, create new knowledge for novel situations, know how to formulate questions and seek their answers, and define “what has been referred to as expertise in self-directed learning. (Evensen, Hmelo, & Hmelo-Silver, 2000) In that matter Evensen concludes that problem-based learning can be effective in facilitating the development of self-directed strategies. Self-awareness and self-directed learning by increasing the autonomy of the student, empowers learners to take increased responsibility for decisions related to learning. In that sense, Evensen provided the study where self-development learning can be assessed as a developmental process that “needs to be understood, recognized, and nurtured by faculty.” (Ola, Dauna, Patricia, Cottie, & et al., 2001)

The self-directed learning readiness scale, developed by Guglielmino, was taken as a recognized predictive or diagnostic tool for people preparing for self-directed learning. The factors upon which this scale was measuring included the following:

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  • Openness to learning opportunities.
  • Creativity.
  • Future Orientation.
  • Self-concept is an effective learner
  • Initiative and independence in learning
  • Informed acceptance of responsibility for one’s own learning
  • Love of Learning
  • Ability to use basic skills and problem skills. (Turner, 2007)

Taking the positive aspects of this rating the main characteristics of the person that is self-directed and self-aware learner is apparent.


Paralleling Guglielmino’s scale and Costa and Killick’s characteristics, it can be seen that there are certain direct similarities. These two works were outlined as they are the most appreciative of the learner’s individual contribution, rather than the influence of the educator. Taking as an example, a “habit” such as persistence, and a Guglielmino factor such as Self-concept as an effective learner, it can be seen that they are associated with self-development. In that way, taking the concept of “Habits of Mind” and its attributes of intelligent thinking, it could be easily transformed into attributes of effective self-directed learner. The main point is that these attributes should be made as habits, so that the person can intelligently behave.


Self-directed learning has a definite future in the era of communications and globalization. The current trends in introducing e-learning, and m-learning, imply that in such cases of distant administration of curriculums, the main responsibility of managing one’s progress is being a self-directed and self-aware learner. Following an established pattern, and having the habits of intelligent behavior will have a direct impact on the self-directed learning. Finally, the implications of the paper in addition to outlining the role of self-directed learning in determining the goals, the strategies and resources of learning, self-directed learning can be used as an approach of incorporating awareness of any presented information, in a way of challenging any previously accepted assumptions.


This paper recommends that in order to be an effective self-direct learner, learners should implement and develop critical thinking and intelligent behavior. Despite the existence of educational frameworks that address developing these attributes, the learners should consider the keywords being ‘self’, which points to the great role of the individual efforts in managing self-directed and self-aware learning.


Costa, A. L. (2001). Components of a Well Developed Thinking Skills Program. Web.

Evensen, D. H., Hmelo, C. E., & Hmelo-Silver, C. E. (2000). Problem-based learning: a research perspective on learning interactions: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Ola, I. L.-C., Dauna, C., Patricia, J. E., Cottie, O., & et al. (2001). Self-directed learning: Faculty and student perceptions. Journal of Nursing Education, 40(3), 116.

Roger, H. (1978). How to Design and Conduct Self-Directed Learning Experiences. Group & Organization Studies (pre-1986), 3(2), 149.

Turner, J. E. (2007). Readiness for self-directed learning: Comparison of college-prep and vocational education public high school seniors. Unpublished Ph.D., University of Missouri – Saint Louis, United States — Missouri.

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