Self-Directed Learning Contention: Student and Faculty Views


Self-directed learning (SDL) is a pedagogical technique that is commonly practiced within the framework of project-based learning (PjBL) SDL has been found to be useful in the development of skills necessary for engineering careers, including open-ended problem-solving, life-long learning, and critical thinking. Implemented in a variety of ways, SDL is primarily characterized by developing student autonomy. According to Stefanou et al.'s framework, student autonomy can be promoted at three different levels: organizational, procedural, and cognitive. These three levels include varying degree of student choice: organizational autonomy takes into account the environment (e.g., due dates), procedural autonomy incorporates form (e.g., deliverable form), and cognitive autonomy involves content (e.g., designing projects). This range of possible SDL experiences allows for a wide interpretation of the role and value of SDL and student autonomy by both students and faculty. Using methods of grounded theory, three research questions were addressed: (a) How do the pedagogical practices in the first-year mathematics, physics, and engineering classes fit into Stefanou et al.'s autonomy framework? (b) How does the level of student autonomy impact student's participation, interest, and perception of performance in these classrooms? and (c) How do student and faculty perspectives on student autonomy affect the classroom environment? Our results indicate that students and faculty have mixed feelings regarding SDL, which drive frustration and discomfort with open-ended learning in the classroom. In general, students often do not feel well-supported in SDL environments and exhibit a lowered sense of competency and expectancy. On the other hand, faculty present blindness towards structural supports necessary for effective SDL classroom environment and specifically their own roles in scaffolding students' SDL experiences.

Meeting Name

2013 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition (2013: Jun. 23-26, Atlanta, GA)


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Education; Problem Solving; Professional Aspects; Scaffolds; Teaching, Classroom Environment; Engineering Careers; Open-Ended Problem Solving; Pedagogical Practices; Pedagogical Technique; Project Based Learning; Self-Directed Learning; Structural Support, Students

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Article - Conference proceedings

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