Grow’s Self-Directed Learning Model

Where are you on the Grow’s Staged Self-Directed Learning Model described in Ch. 2 of Stavredes? What is the implication of this model for you as an online teacher?

Self-directedness is a key principle for adult learning. However, David Grow argued that not all adults are self-directed. It was dependent on the situation. An adult may be confident in one situation, but in something unfamiliar, he or she may need more direction. In chapter 2 of Stavredes’s book, four stages of self-directedness were outlined. On one extreme you had a very dependent learner and the other extreme was the independent learner. When thinking about what Grow said, I would also agree. Although we normally think of adults as independent and being able to direct their learning, there are times when they need more guidance. I think of two situations when this could occur. One is when a learner’s level of knowledge in reference to the content of a subject is low. Several years ago I took an online course in audio production using the software Ableton Live. I had some experience using the program, but overall I considered myself to be a beginner. In this situation I needed structure to learn a good way to use the program so that I could experiment with the key features but not be overwhelmed by the program’s complexity. The second aspect of self-directedness is the learner’s knowledge in how learning occurs. It means being aware of the following: diagnosing the learning need, developing learning goals, choosing appropriate resources, choosing the activities and strategies to use, and evaluating the learning outcome. Unless a learner has background in education, such as many of the students in this course EDTECH 522, they are not going to be familiar with this process. This means that structure has be in place by the course designer or instructor to make learning effective and efficient.

With that in mind, how would an instructor or a course designer accommodate this variable for adults? One insight that was gained by looking at Grow’s table was understanding the learner’s characteristics because this determined the level of self-directedness. It’s a core principle when developing learning experiences and also reiterated by Stavredes who dedicated the first three chapters on this subject. The Ableton Live course that I took was for beginners, but within the course there were varying levels of competency, and so it was the job of the instructor to assess these differences and structure and adjust activities accordingly. This week, one of the videos that our class watched explained the 85 percent rule. The meaning of the rule was that most learners already know or can work out 85 percent of a lesson. That said, the instructor can focus on assessing and teaching the remaining 15 percent. It makes learning an active process for students and teaching more effective. An instructor gives minimal instructions, have students work on an assignment, examine students’ work, and then provide constructive feedback. Another approach to this would be to assess students using a formative assessment such as a survey to collect data on essential knowledge and skills. The data could be analyzed by the instructor who would then make course adjustments on the fly. Self-directedness can be addressed by focusing on the assessment or designing the content with guidelines to meet the requirements for the dependent learner. It would mean again assessing who the learners are, but organizing it in this manner makes it easier to remove parts to increase flexibility at a later point than the other way around. An example of this would be a course syllabus. In a new course, learners are viewed as being dependent and as a result the syllabus is highly structured. It has all the essential information and acts like a reference manual for operating a course.

What is involved in designing effective online course?

I approached this by thinking about the questions that came up while studying the initial question.

  1. Who are the learners? What is their background and purpose for taking this course? Collecting data about the learner dictates how to organize the course contents and the strategies. Data from Stavredes’s book stated that adult learners are career orientated. In addition, Knowles six assumptions further explained how learning occurs. The first assumption stated adults need to know why they are learning meaning that the course has to be relevant and useful for their career. For Edtech 522 course designers knew that the students are adults and they will be using the knowledge and skills to teach adults.
  2. What knowledge and skills are needed for these learners? After identifying these, course designers can use them as the objectives.
  3. What kind of activities will be selected to build the knowledge and skills? Are there advantages and disadvantages in activities? What kind technology and resources will be considered? The activities should stress foundational skills and a project that synthesizes the skills. Each of these should allow learners to apply back to their profession.
  4. How will students be measured to determine if they have reached the learning objectives? Based on my experience as an adult student, the artifacts are the assessments and a rubric is used to measure the quality of work and issued a grade or points.
  5. Other considerations:
    What was the students’ level of satisfaction?


Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective Teaching Online: Foundations and Strategies for Student Success. : Jossey-Bass.

Finlay, J. (2010). Andragogy (Adult Learning). Retrieved 3 July, 2016, from


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