Has self-directed learning (SDL) finally come of age?


Two great HBR articles caught my eye in the last few days; both articles focus on ways you can professionally develop outside of formal learning interventions such as bootcamp training  You can learn and get work done at the same time by Liane Daveylooks looks at “on-the-job” learning where you develop fresh skills/innovations in your everyday work. Plan your professional development for the Year by Dorie Clark explores ways in which you can cultivate your thought leadership by connecting with the right people and sharing ideas and knowledge.

What I like about these articles is how the learner plays a freehand in planning, implementing and evaluating learning. S/he builds learning goals, identifies resources, creates a self-paced timetable, relates the learning to the workplace, and evaluates success. This is not managed by professional pedagogues, but through self-sufficient means. These articles connect to a particular passion of mine: self-directed learning (SDL). Pioneered by Houle (1961 ), Knowles (1975), Tough (1979) and Guglielmino (1977). SDL (an Autodidactic theory) has gone through cycles of popularity over the years but as the HBR articles signify, the opportunities for self-resourcefulness, resource based learning and connecting/communicating ideas and knowledge outside of one´s immediate office environment has become commonplace in this era of internet and social media.

As we move toward holacracy and a more flexible workplace maybe we also need to move toward more flexible learner-centric models of self-development. It seems SDL may have finally come of age.

Ric Kelly PhD.