Inquiry requires self-directed learning, but do primary students learn from teaching about self-directed learning?

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Self-directed learning is important for an inquiry approach to learning. Many descriptions of Self-Directed Learning (SDL) suggest that it is an innate capacity that some students have while others do not. It is important to know if students of varying levels of reasoning increase their knowledge of SDL as a result of being taught about it because this knowledge is the basis of SDL behaviour required to carry out inquiry. This study reports on an assessment of knowledge of SDL in one hundred and fifty primary (elementary) school students of whom fifty-six were judged to be high reasoning, sixty-eight were regular reasoning and fifteen were judged to be low reasoning. The students participated in an intervention study in which in-tact classes were taught about SDL. A problem-based learning approach was used in four lessons about SDL in which students were active in interpreting a short scenario presented at the beginning of each lesson. Lesson activities were accompanied by worksheets that were used to assess students' engagement by calculating the mean frequency of responses to each activity. Analyses of data from four assessments of SDL showed that there were differences in development of this knowledge related to student reasoning ability. Low reasoning students gained in knowledge of SDL as a result of explicit teaching, demonstrating the importance of explicit teaching of process knowledge for these students. However, these students did not maintain this knowledge over time. The finding that there were significant (negative) differences in high reasoning students' development of knowledge of SDL indicates that high reasoning students were more engaged in the lessons and had an indirect gain of knowledge of SDL as a result of the teaching intervention. Unlike low reasoning students, the high reasoning students maintained gains in knowledge of SDL. This can be interpreted to mean that classroom teachers need to develop pedagogy that encourages engagement for low reasoning students so that they could also maintain increases in their knowledge of SDL. Overall, the results of the study indicate that knowledge of SDL can be assessed and developed by teachers in classrooms and that assessments of this knowledge should be used to guide the development of students as effective self-directed learners. This is an important finding if students are to be involved in inquiry at school because it indicates that all students benefit from being taught about self-directed learning.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPedagogy
    Subtitle of host publicationNew Developments in the Learning Sciences
    PublisherNova Science Publishing Incorporated
    Number of pages26
    ISBN (Print)9781621008460
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


    • Constructivist pedagogy
    • Engagement
    • Explicit teaching
    • Inquiry
    • Kerneling
    • Knowledge of self-directed learning
    • Learning at school questionnaire (LASQ)
    • Motivation
    • Partial least squares path analysis
    • Problem-based learning
    • Reasoning
    • Resnick's thinking curriculum
    • Self-directed learning
    • Self-efficacy
    • Self-management
    • Self-regulated learning
    • Treffinger's model of self-directed learning.


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