Self-Directed Learning Individuals and Human Resource Management


In simple words, learning is the process of gaining knowledge. Learning is an important thing for every individual. One must understand that the concept of learning is to understand self and others. Self-directed learning means information will be perceived with the people’s grasping skill and ability. When one interacts with others then he learns so many things such as others’ behavior, individual nature, language sense, ability and skills and response. The definition of self-directed learning is “a variety of knowledge, skills attitudes and habits which comprise readiness for self-directed learning.” (Piskurich, 2003, p.90)

Self-directed learning

“It has been well established in the scholarly literature that learning is a significant source of competitive advantage for organizations and that creating environments conducive for learning and development can enhance individual and organizational performance.” (Ellinger, 2004). Hence the human resources department should take this concept seriously and provide an atmosphere and facility for this.

Alan Tough’s theory: The paper from which the above quote was taken also provides the views of Alan Tough with regard to this area. Tough says that most learners follow thirteen steps in the process of planning and decision-making with regard to a learning regimen. They are given below. The first step is to decide the area of knowledge or skill that is to be learned. The next step is to find out what is needed to learn the topic decided upon. It can include activities, equipment and all the other resources needed for learning. The next is finding the place from which it can be learned. The period and time to start the process form the next two steps. The person will also test his current knowledge and skill on the topic. He or she will also try and find out any obstacles that may happen which may affect the study. The next step will actually acquire all the necessary resources for study and also a room or place from which studying can be done. The final three steps are making finances available for the cost of the study, making available time to study, and finding motivation for the study.

Malcolm Knowle’s theory on self-directed learning

Knowles was one of the earliest proponents of theories of adult education and self directed learning. “In 1975, Malcolm Knowles published his book ‘Self-directed learning: A Guide for Learners and Teachers’, in which he defined self-directed learning as a process in which individual learners, without the help of others, construct their own learning activity.” (Leonard, 2004, 167). Managers can be useful in this regard by doing the following. They should take the role of being a manager of learning rather than be a giver of information. In other words, a giver of information need not facilitate interactions that are essential for effective learning. Unlike children, grown-up learning can never be effectively pushed. Managers should act as a facilitator within an organizational setting rather than be a teacher in a conventional classroom. There are other important aspects to Knowle’s observations. “self-directed learners are better learners: ‘People who take the initiative in learning…. learn more things, and learn better, than do people who sit at the feet of teachers passively waiting to be taught.” (Jarvis, Holford & Griffin 2003, 94). Moreover, adult learners do not really need teachers in the traditional sense of the word. A highly motivated adult learner can find his or her own ways of learning things and gaining knowledge. What managers should do with the support of the HR department is to identify probable highly motivated individuals and support them in their learning process.

Confessore and Kops

Many models based on what has been propounded by earlier theorists like Knowles and Tough have developed over the years. The ideas developed by the two theorists mentioned above is worth mentioning because it includes concepts that are useful for an adult learning environment. It is also directly related to learning in organizations and human resources.

The chance of errors and mistakes cropping up is high in adult learning. It is said that adults are more conscious of making mistakes especially in front of others. Tolerance of mistakes should be taken up by the management. Moreover, chances of experimentation and risk-taking may also be high in this environment. All these should be encouraged by the management. A participative style of leadership is most acceptable for encouraging self-directed adult learning, and delegation of responsibilities is seen as a motivating factor. All learning initiatives should preferably be linked to organizational goals, visions, and targets. Interactive communication is essential, linked with teamwork should be developed. Finally, the management should provide an environment plus all necessary resources for encouraging employees to pursue self-directed learning. (Ellinger, 2004, 169).

A self-directed learner should know about the culture of other individuals. The culture and learning methodology will be different in different countries. Each and every person interested to learn new things has to improve his self vision. The successful self-directed learner believes that the primary onus for learning is on the learner. He or she is the one who needs to recognize needs for learning and take the responsibility for making it happen (Piskurich, 2003, p. 90). So the learner has to think and grasp so many things from his environment.

Self-directed learners are also usually skilled at identifying and analyzing the learning needs (Piskurich, 2003).

The most important aspect of self directed learner is determination. The self-learner determines his individual problems and solves the problems himself. Many organizations provide facilities for generating self-directed learning activities like inside and outside training programs, group discussion on special matters and include self opinions and self-perceptions. Many organizations give the responsibility for product launching and marketing. In this case the learner or employee is determined and generates new ideas for marketing the product. The learner has to adopt his own ideas for marketing a product. The overall meaning of self-directed learning is “self-directed learning is a learning in which the design, conduct and evaluation of learning effort are directed by the learner.” (DiStefano, Rudestam, &Silverman, 2004, p. 397). So the self-directed learner has to detect a problem of his life then he can manage and determine the solution for his own thought.

A self-directed learner has to adopt organized planning for learning. He has to evaluate his planning of ideas, screening the works and finding the correct thing. (Brookfield, 2008, p.331).

The self directed learners need to get feedback on how they are doing. The learners should be given support of correct nature. The self-directed learner has to adopt his own learning style. Every individual person’s thinking and planning are different from others. The styles and behavior of one-earner will be different from other learners. The learning style of a learner is very important in learning process. The imitation of others’ learning styles will be the reason for failing the self-directed learning behavior. The incorrect planning of learning and incorrect thinking of learning will be changing the learner’s nature and character; the self-directed learner has to direct the idea of thinking, doing action and responses. (Armstrong, 2006, p. 566)

Self-directed learner has to set a task to find out the learning information. (Jeroen, Merriënboer, & Arthur Kirschner, 2007, p. 237).

Every organization has adopted different self-directed learning processes and techniques. The organizational managers must understand the behavior, learning skills, and ability of people. Every human being has several common traits, each person is individually different from others. Managers allow free personal or professional interaction with the employees of the organization. Every individual gives respect to other people. It is the social and fundamental concept of self-directed learning. A self-learner has to possess creativeness and self-determination in learning. “The important component of self direct learning is the valuing of one’s own learning, a belief in the importance of learning achieved on one’s own.” (Piskurich, 2003, p. 25).

“Instrumental planning time also seems to be emerging a particularly critical concern in implementing innovations intended to improve learners thinking skills.” (Idol, &Jones,1991, p. 401). Education is the important technique for self-learning. The individual person will study many self-directed learning methods like, assignments, projects, independent works and training programs.


Self learning is the important aspect of every human being. It helps to learn more and more and get a clear-cut idea of knowledge. It becomes easy to handle any work at any time. The learning knowledge should be generated within the learners’ perception. Human resource development is the development of human needs and resources at personal and organizational levels. Human resource development programs have to improve the individuals’ learning knowledge, skills and abilities, learning ability, leadership, work, confidence, thinking, emotional and personal skills.

The self-directed learners have to think about the applicability of new ideas to his life. Practical works will more than increase self-directed learning and thinking capacity. The thinking and learning ability will be increasing in the period of childhood. So the self-directed learning will be very important to any human being. The criterion for measuring an individual’s intelligence is individual learning and thinking ability.

In this competitive world, human resource development programs are changing day by day. 20 years ago, the development in human resources was very little. Today the developed countries are using modern self-directed learning techniques like face-to-face interaction, usage of infrastructural facilities, video conferencing, online motivational training programs, PowerPoint presentations in international human resource development training activities and electronic lecturing. Most of the developing countries have adopted infrastructural facilities for using self-directed individual learning programs.


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