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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Expanding the understanding of self-directed learning : community action and innovative workplaces Taylor, Rosemary


Much confusion surrounds the term 'self-directed learning', which presently describes a process, a goal, a teaching technique, and an outcome of that teaching. As a process, the literature concentrates mainly on how individuals learn, with little reference to groups that can be as selfdirected as individuals. The purposes of this study were: (a) to reduce conceptual confusion by creating a typology distinguishing different processes of self-directed learning; (b) to explore the phenomenon of group self-directed learning; and (c) to illustrate the effect of environment on learning, and the complex learning dynamics in group settings. This project arose somewhat differently from typical doctoral research. Data from two unrelated field studies conducted for other purposes, completed before this thesis work began, each illustrated self-directed groups learning informally in the contexts of community action and innovative small workplaces. A subsequent review of the literature indicated a lack of attention to this form of group learning, and the field studies were then re-analyzed from this perspective. As a result of the literature review and data re-analysis (1) a typology emerged from the literature review that divides the process of self-directed learning into three forms, each of which is context sensitive but between which learners can continually move back and forth; (2) it appears that the term 'autodidactic' can apply to specific groups which are both self-organized and self-directed in their learning efforts; and (3) that the term 'autodidaxy' as presently defined is as conceptually confusing as the term 'self-directed learning'. This confusion is reduced by the typology proposed by this thesis. Minor findings indicate two continuing problems. The first is reluctance by some to accord non-credentialed learning the value it deserves, and the second is the difficulty often encountered in transferring knowledge from the site of learning to the site of application. This study concludes that 'informalizing' some formal curricula, and encouraging self-directed learning at all levels and in all contexts, may provide some of the tools necessary for living and learning in the twenty-first century.

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