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Self-Directed Learning: Goals, Theories, Process Essay


Self-directed learning is central to andragogy. It has been acknowledged that adult learners prefer having a great deal of autonomy when acquiring knowledge (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2012). Of course, to be effective, the learning should be structured and well-thought. People have different learning styles, and it is essential to understand one’s most effective approach. Mezirow identified three major learning styles (instrumental, dialogic and self-reflective), and the individuals should choose strategies consistent with their styles (Kitchenham, 2008). However, prior to choosing the necessary strategies, materials and so on, it is crucial to identify the goal and major objectives of the learning.

Goals and Objectives

To start any learning process, it is essential to identify reasons for such learning. Thus, I want to learn how to bake cakes. I have a sweet tooth, and I have tried thousands of types of pastry. I have become quite picky, and it is difficult to surprise me so my friends and relatives often say that I should bake myself if no one can satisfy my needs in the delicious dessert. I have tried to bake a sponge cake and failed completely. Therefore, the primary objective of my learning will be the ability to bake a sponge cake. At that, I will also aim at baking a good cake in a week.

Theoretical Background

To choose the most appropriate strategies and materials, it is helpful to outline the theoretical framework. I believe Mezirow’s approach is the most relevant in my case. After some reflection, I understood that my learning style was instrumental. I always focus on the ways I can acquire knowledge rather than reasons for learning or environment (Kitchenham, 2008). Hence, I will concentrate on materials and tools to acquire knowledge and skills as well as use them in the future.

Importantly, Gureckis and Markant (2012) stress that decision-making is one of the central peculiarities of self-directed learning. The learner is empowered to craft the entire process, which makes him/her more motivated. It is also necessary to add that Illeris model provides insights into the effective knowledge acquisition. I agree that the three dimensions (cognitive, emotional and social) are central to the learning process. In my case, the social dimension plays an important role as I am motivated to prove to my relatives and friends that I am able to bake. Appraisal or even admiration will be my extrinsic motivation. At that, emotional component is also very strong due to the involvement of my close ones. It is also significant as I will do something I like very much (learn to do something, eat desserts, achieve goals set).

The Process

The reflection on some theoretical points helped me to develop an effective plan. First, I made a simple plan. I focused on timing. I knew I would be invited to a birthday party, so I decided to bring my cake. I had a week, so I had to practice each day. Of course, I had many responsibilities so I could practice several hours a day only.

The first stage was collecting the necessary information. The major source of knowledge was the Internet in this case. It is the fastest way to find some information. Kop and Fournier (2010) note that online students often find it difficult to cope with the abundance of information and resources. I have also faced this issue. There are various books, journals, websites, workshops and so on teaching how to bake. At that, I was not devastated as I knew that I did not have to go through all resources available, but I could choose the ones I find the most effective. First, I found a recipe of the cake I want to bake. I also read some how-to websites. I was especially focused on something I failed to do previously (bake sponge). I also watch some videos on YouTube and found many useful tips. I wrote down some of the most helpful hints.

When I decided I was ready to practice, I started baking. Of course, I had access to the Internet all the time, and I followed the stages in a video. I have to add that there was a social component in my learning as I called my mother. At that, I faced a kind of dilemma. I wanted to surprise everyone, and I did not want my mother to think that I was inexperienced in quite simple things. I believe this is an influential aspect when it comes to self-directed learning.

Many learners face similar issues as they do not want to seem inexperienced, unconfident or unaware of some things, which makes them reluctant to address other people (peers, instructors and so on). I would like to add that I enjoyed a significant sense of autonomy as I knew I was totally responsible for all choices I make (including assessment, which will be my personal assessment). Nonetheless, I have to admit that I limited my autonomy when I practiced the knowledge I obtained. I used the video tutorial during several times as I was not sure I could handle it.

I have to admit that I did everything needed, but the cake was not as perfect as it was in the pictures. At that, I acknowledged errors I made. Those were errors with temperatures, time and technique. After some time, I tried to bake one more time. I used some video tutorials. After several attempts, I focused on the recipe only. I knew the techniques necessary to make the sponge. That attempt was successful, but I spent too much time. I knew that my learning was not complete as I was not a confident baker of the cake in question. At that, my major goal, to bake a cake for the party, was achieved, and people liked my treat. Of course, I intend to make other attempts until baking the cake becomes a simple task for me.

I would like to note that the project considerably enhanced my knowledge of some aspects of self-directed learning. I was able to apply one of the models of learning. I think the understanding of the theoretical framework helped me apply the model effectively. I reflected on the three dimensions, which enabled me to set specific goals and objectives. I also acknowledged the way the context affects my decisions. Thus, I chose the cake that could be to particular people’s taste. I also wanted to learn without any help from people I knew, which could negatively affect my learning as I limited resources available. One of my friends is a chef, and he could help me a lot, but I did not address him.

I think I was quite a successful self-directed learner. I managed to set goals, to develop a plan and implement it. My time-management was efficient as well. I have gained a valuable experience that will be applied later. Of course, there were some difficulties and errors. Thus, I was not confident enough. I limited my autonomy when practicing my knowledge and skills. I believe it can be more effective to be more autonomous during my further projects. I believe my use of videos led to the prolonged time of skills acquisition. I could have learned earlier. I also think that my unwillingness to address some people had an adverse effect on my learning. I will be more open next time. At that, I understand that there will always be some situations when I will be unwilling or unable to use this or that source of information.


On balance, I would like to note that the project was a valuable experience for me. I was able to revisit the theoretical frameworks we studied and use them. Of course, I should also note that the project changed me to a certain degree. For instance, I understood the complexity of autonomy in self-directed learning. I changed my perspective, and I now understand that my sense of autonomy can be limited by many factors even though there can be no formal assessment. I also acquired the necessary experience in developing and implementing the plan. I have become a more efficient self-directed learner. I also intend to continue my attempts to acquire new knowledge and skills. I will also continue my research concerning theoretical frameworks and practical strategies associated with self-directed learning.

Reference List

Gureckis, T.M., & Markant, D.B. (2012). Self-directed learning: A cognitive and computational perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7(5), 464-481.

Kitchenham, A. (2008). The evolution of John Mezirow’s transformational learning theory. Journal of Transformative Education, 6(2), 104-123.

Kop, R., & Fournier, H. (2010). New dimensions to self-directed learning in an open networked learning environment. International Journal for Self-Directed Learning, 7(2), 1-19.

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S., & Baumgartner, L.S. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

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IvyPanda. "Self-Directed Learning: Goals, Theories, Process." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/self-directed-learning-goals-theories-process/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Self-Directed Learning: Goals, Theories, Process." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/self-directed-learning-goals-theories-process/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Self-Directed Learning: Goals, Theories, Process'. 10 June.

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