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Keys To Success: Self Directed Learning

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.417.1 - 5.417.15



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Paper Authors

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William C. Beston

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Sharon B. Fellows

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Richard Culver

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 1430

Keys To Success: Self-Directed Learning Sharon Fellows, Richard Culver, William Beston SUNY-Binghamton/Broome Community College


Every study of engineering education and the skills required of practicing engineers lists life- long learning (LLL) as a necessary ingredient. And yet, there has been little developed in the way of formal preparation for engineering students so that they will become life-long learners. In fact, the loaded curriculum presented in most engineering programs works against developing the learning skills and love of learning required to be a successful LLL. Students do not have time to reflect on what they are learning or to explore personal interests through elective courses while in college. The seeds of effective LLL must be sown at the beginning of the program if the college experience is going to support this type of development in engineering students. This paper describes activities being introduced in the DTeC course at Binghamton University (BU) and the engineering science program at Broome Community College (BCC) to start students on the path toward becoming self-directed learners (SDL), the key to LLL.

A successful program for teaching SDL must have two components. First, it must motivate the students to aspire to be self-directed learners. This is not easy. In the traditional program, the instructor assumes responsibility for organizing the learning, defining what is to be learned, and assessing the success achieved by each student. All the student has to do is show up and do the work. The reasons for developing the SDL skills must be made explicit in terms that the student can understand and accept. Second, the program must structure the development of the critical skills for SDL in order for the students to master them, practice them, and adopt them as the natural approach to learning any new topic.

Self directed learners, when confronted with a new topic which they need or want to learn, are capable of setting educational goals, establishing a program for learning the desired information/skills, adapting the learning program to their preferred learning styles, and evaluating their own level of achievement. They have the motivation and discipline to work through the difficult stages of learning and can use a variety of resources, as needed, to help them master the material. In other words, they are mature learners. Indeed, there is a wealth of material in the adult education field describing SDL.1 Our special problem is that most students entering engineering programs are “traditional students, (approximately 18 years old and a recent high school graduate) willingly dependent upon the instructor to take charge of their learning.

A Model for SDL

Gerald Grow2 has presented an useful model for staged self directed learning (SSDL) based on the Situational Leadership Model of Hersey and Blanchard3. They state that management should be situational, matched to the employee's readiness. Readiness - a combination of ability and motivation - ranges from "not able" and "not willing or motivated" to "able and willing". Good instruction must be formatted so that the intellectual challenge is appropriate and the

Beston, W. C., & Fellows, S. B., & Culver, R. (2000, June), Keys To Success: Self Directed Learning Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8524

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