Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed Learning is at the Core of the King's View Academy Educational Model.

What is Self-Directed Learning?

"In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes." (page 18).

Knowles, M. (1975) Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers, New York: Cambridge Books

Check out this link for a great discussion of Self-Directed Learning:

King's View Academy supports self-directed learning because it best encapsulates the characteristics of a university-prepared high school graduate. If you question how an Adult Education model can be applied to children and youth, our response would be that even Adult Education the line between child and adult is unclear. There are many children that behave with adult characteristics, as there are adults with childish characteristics. Eventually, as a student approaches that him in his or her life when the decision to attend post-secondary education is inevitable, that student should have the abilities, strategies, and learning repertoire to be successful in post-secondary education. The day of graduating high school is certainly not the day to start building these skills.

KVA's self-directed approach to education is not for everyone. It is different than typical Junior High School and High School approaches to education. The main difference is that KVA students are given the flexibility to act in a self-directed manner, consistent with the assumptions of Andragogy (below, this page) rather than accepting the guidance of teachers in choosing content, scheduling and assessment (i.e., making most of the learning decisions for the student.)

What is Andragogy?

This is a great description of Andragogy. Its original source is .

Andragogy refers to a theory of adult learning that details some of the ways in which adults learn differently than children. For example, adults tend to be more self-directed, internally motivated, and ready to learn. Teachers can draw on concepts of andragogy to increase the effectiveness of their adult education classes.

Andragogy, also known as adult learning theory, was proposed by Malcom Shepard Knowles in 1968 (Merriam, 2001). Previously, much research and attention had been given to the concept of pedagogy – teaching children. Knowles recognized that there are many differences in the ways that adults learn as opposed to children. His thoughts surrounding andragogy sought to capitalize on the unique learning styles and strengths of adult learners.

Knowles’ Five Assumptions of Adult Learners

Knowles theory of andragogy identified five assumptions that teachers should make about adult learners.

  1. Self-ConceptBecause adults are at a mature developmental stage, they have a more secure self-concept than children. This allows them to take part in directing their own learning.
  2. Past Learning ExperienceAdults have a vast array of experiences to draw on as they learn, as opposed to children who are in the process of gaining new experiences.
  3. Readiness to Learn Many adults have reached a point in which they see the value of education and are ready to be serious about and focused on learning.
  4. Practical Reasons to LearnAdults are looking for practical, problem-centered approaches to learning. Many adults return to continuing education for specific practical reasons, such as entering a new field.
  5. Driven by Internal MotivationWhile many children are driven by external motivators – such as punishment if they get bad grades or rewards if they get good grades – adults are more internally motivated.

Four Principles of Andragogy

Based on these five assumptions about adult learners, Knowles discussed four principles that educators should consider when teaching adults.

  1. Since adults are self-directed, they should have a say in the content and process of their learning.
  2. Because adults have so much experience to draw from, their learning should focus on adding to what they have already learned in the past.
  3. Since adults are looking for practical learning, content should focus on issues related to their work or personal life.
  4. Additionally, learning should be centered on solving problems instead of memorizing content.

Merriam, S. B. (2001). Andragogy and self-directed learning: Pillars of adult learning theory. Merriam, S. B. (Ed.), The new update on adult learning theory: New directions for adult and continuing education. (pp.1-13) .

(source: )

There is a quote on the Halifax Regional Centre for Education website:

"The Impact of High Quality Instruction ... Educational research indicates that the greatest single determinant of student success is the quality of classroom teaching" (HRCE website, accessed May 2019)

In a big-school, classroom setting, with scheduled start and stop times for classes, and assigned rooms for specific courses, there will always be self-directed students who will be successful regardless of the quality of classroom instruction. For those students who are not being as successful as they can be (and thus maximizing their options for post-secondary life) there are likely multiple factors contributing to their reduced level of success. Many of those factors are highlighted throughout this website.

At King's View Academy we believe that the "greatest single determinant of student success" is student engagement. Regardless of the student's grade, interests, favourite subject; regardless of the style of learning the content (self-directed vs. instruction-based); regardless of the origin of the activities (student-based vs. content-expert based); and even regardless of the student's goals for the term, year, or to the end of grade 12, the amount of engagement (including effort and focus) that a student puts into his/her academic work is the best indicator of student success.

High quality instruction is the most effective form of instruction.

Nobody will ever dispute this statement. But is instruction the best, most effective, most engaging way to deliver the content to every student? Will instruction assure that the content successfully travels the path to become knowledgeable? Are learners so passive that the only factor determining learning success is the presentation of the material? If they were, would it be possible that textbooks, and Khan Academy videos, and multiple other sources of presentation would also be effective starting points for learning?

Ultimately, do we believe that instruction is a replacement for learning? Is instruction more important than learning? Can learning happen without instruction?

Think about an adult, no longer enrolled in public school, college or university. Does learning stop when you are no longer in school? Is it no longer possible to learn if you do not have an instructor to deliver the content to you? The answer to both is "no." Humans learn regardless of instruction. Learning is a skill that can be developed, improved upon, and made effective. There are multiple dimensions to learning, in a unique combination for every person.

By focusing on instruction-based education contexts we are neglecting the entire self-directed potential of learners. When they get into context that require self-direction (such as university, or employment) they may be unprepared. In addition, the phrase "lifelong learners" refers to self-directed learners, who learn throughout life, in all contexts and situation.

A Student's Engagement in learning is the "greatest single determinant" of learning success, regardless of age or context.