Characteristics of Self-Directed Learners

The first assumption underlying Knowles’s view of andragogy is that learners become increasingly self-directed as they mature. In is broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a practice in which individuals, with or without the help of others, identify their own learning needs, create learning goals, find resources for learning, select and put into practice suitable learning strategies, and assess learning outcomes.


Self-directed learners facilitate their own purposes or drives.  Needs, interests, and objectives are essential to the self-directed learning process.   The learners desire to learn gives satisfaction when he or she is performing the learning activity.  A learning activity that is self-motivated receives an abundant amount of the learner’s energy.  Interest produced during motivation fosters efficiency in self-directed learning.  Self-directed learners have a variety of levels of motivation, and they acknowledge responsibility for themselves as learners.  This self-directedness takes place continuously; it is a lifelong process. 


Readiness is another characteristic of self-directed learners. Readiness refers to the degree of desire to learn.  It further signifies motivation and the need for the learner to be prepared for the learning activity.  Readiness is a preliminary attitude in engaging in a learning activity.  Motivation creates a reason for learning.  Self-directed learning is one of the best outcomes of the intensity of motivation.  The desire or inclination produced during motivation must be maintained for the best development and efficient growth of the learner specifically to become a lifelong learner.  Readiness includes learner’s purpose or interest to learn, the learner’s self-concept and self-confidence, the learner’s levels of ambition for learning, and the learner’s understanding and evaluation of how well he or she is doing in relation to his or her goals.


Self-directed learning is a lifelong process.  Self-directed learners are aware of their own learning desires and interests, confident of their learning abilities based on previous learning experiences, capable of setting their own goals in learning, are able to choose strategies for learning, are capable of being self-motivated and self-disciplined, understand the process of  learning, and are aware of their own learning skills, including strengths and weaknesses in learning.   

By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development

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