Self-Directed Learning: A Key Component of Adult Learning Theory

  • Geri Manning


The relationship between adult learning and self‑directed learning is a topic worth exploring on both theoretical and practical grounds. Mezirow points out that, "no concept is more central to what adult education is all about than self‑directed learning".Knowles describes self‑directed learning as "a process in which individuals take the initiative without the help of others in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating goals, identifying human and material resources, and evaluating learning outcomes".            What and who is an adult learner?  A person is an adult to the extent that he or she is performing social roles typically assigned by our culture to those it considers adults, and to the extent that the individual perceives him or herself to be essentially responsible for his or her life. A child is not responsible for his or her life even from a legal point of view. According to Neimi, the adult learner is one who returns to study, on a full‑time or part‑time basis, after a period of time spent in other pursuits.  Freedman states that the adult learner is someone who is motivated enough to want to pin further education at the end of a working day or is required to come to a program for certification. 

Author Biography

Geri Manning
Geraldine A. Manning received a PhD in education from the George Washington University in January 2004 as part of GWU Executive Leadership Program.  She recently retired from government after 31 years of service. Mrs. Manning works as a consultant at the Customs and Border Protection, Office of Finance.