Grow, G. Teaching learners to be self-directed. Adult Education Quarterly, 41 3 , — Hake, B. Lifelong learning in late modernity: The challenges to society, organizations, and individuals. Adult Education Quarterly, 49 , 79— Haskell, W. Health consequences of physical activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 26 , — Hiemstra, R. The older adult and learning. Educational Gerontology, 1 , — From whence have we come? The first twenty-five years of educational gerontology. Hill, L. Adult education in rural community development. In Arthur L. Wilson and Elisabeth R. Hayes Eds. Toward a revolutionary feminist pedagogy.
Merriam Ed. Malabar, FL: Krieger. Houle, C. The inquiring mind. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Jarvis, P. Learning in later life. London: Kogan Page. Jensen, R. Altering perceptions of aging: Pursuing a degree as an older adult learner. Dissertation Abstracts International, 60 , Kasworm, C. Self-directed learning and life span development. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 2 1 , 29— Kelly, J. Later life leisure: How they play in Peoria. The Gerontologist, 26 , — Kleiber, D. Leisure experience and human development: A dialectical interpretation. New York: Basic Books.
Andragogy in action: Applying modern principles of adult learning. The adult learner. Houston, TX: Gulf. Krout, J. Aging in rural environments. Coward and J. Krout Eds. New York: Springer.
Edited By Regina Egetenmeyer and Monica Fedeli
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Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide 2 nd ed. Mezirow, J. Transformative dimensions of adult learning. Moreland, R. Towards a learning society: The role of formal, non-formal and informal learning. Oliver Ed.
Self-directed learning: implications and limitations for undergraduate nursing education.
Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate. Neikrug, S. A special case of the very old: Lifelong learners. Patton, M. Qualitative evaluation and research methods 2 nd ed. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Penrod, J. Learning from elders: Managing multiple health conditions. In Wayland R. Walker, Jr. Keith Dooley Eds. Quadagno, J. Aging and the lifecourse. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill. Rogers, C. Freedom to learn. Columbus, OH: Merrill. Freedom to learn 3 rd ed. Sears, E. Self-directed learning projects of older adults.
Dissertation Abstracts International, 50 9 , Siegenthaler, K. Poster Presentation. Spear, G. O Dealing with difficulty in understanding some part. O Deciding whether to continue after reaching some goal. Individual respondents were asked to assess their own learning experiences within the context of the list of activities put before them. The results of the study further confirmed Tough's hypothesis that adults do engage in self -teaching and, furthermore, they also seek out assistance from a range of sources.
All forty adults in the sample had each spent more than eight hours engaged in acquiring some previously specified knowledge or skill in the previous year.
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However, many subjects spent many more hours engaged in learning projects than the minimum eight hours would suggest. Tough concludes: Many of the projects seemed to form an extremely important part of the subject's life and seemed to dominate his time and thought for weeks or even months.
Tough 73 During their self-teaching projects, individuals were given assistance by an average of Tough highlights the importance of two types of helpers - those of guides and, more importantly, mentors. Mentors included a spouse, fellow learner or a tutor who were particularly singled out as important sources of help during the learning process. However, not all self teachers' experiences during their learning projects were positive. Tough notes that individuals were subjected to critical, smug, destructive and unpleasant reactions.
Nevertheless, rather than deterring self-teachers, this behaviour merely reinforced their determination to continue. A particularly interesting observation from this study was that even though subjects were told of the extent of their learning it was not held by them 19 in high esteem.
Subjects compared it unfavourably with more traditional forms of learning activity because it had not been certificated as effective by an accredited professional. The research, subsequently publish jd in as Why Adults Learn, involved thirty-five adults who had completed at least six months of post-compulsory education. This piece of research was significant because it introduced the concept of a learning 'project' which was a permanent feature of his work thereafter. A learning project was defined by Tough as being of a minimum of seven hours duration.
The seven hours must occur within a six month period and usually learning projects consisted of more than three or four episodes which occur on at least two or three different days. The learning project was contrasted with the learning 'episodes', which were usually of 30 to 60 minutes duration Tough All thirty-five adults were subjected to intensive, semi-structured two-hour long interviews. As Tough describes: During the 2 hours he subject was interviewed, the adult was guided by detailed lay descriptions of the various benefits that might have influenced his decision to begin Tough Following on from the interviews, a four point scale was constructed, and the adults were asked to rate the strength of each reason for beginning and continuing the learning project.
Five strong reasons and one weak reason were typical outcomes of the exercise. The most common reason cited for learning was knowledge or skill which could be applied at a later date. Another fairly common reason was puzzlement or curiosity. Because each of the thirty-five adults in the sample all had one more reason for continuing their learning project rather than for beginning them, Tough concluded that the total motivation for continuing was greater than for starting a learning project.
An additional significant finding from this study was that few adults had discontinued a learning project before the planned learning goal was reached. Tough stressed two other main findings generated by the research. First, a whole range of motives were cited by respondents for their learning activities. This was used as a critique against lea. Second, he rejected the division between different types of learning, for example vocational and practical learning. In , probably the most widely read of Tough's books was published. The Adult's Learning Projects - subtitled "a fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning" - not only provided details of Tough's research in but also summarised his work to date.
However, it is the research findings' from the study which have been widely replicated by other writers on self-directed learning. The aim of the project in was to measure more precisely "how common nd important learning projects are". Tough suggests that deliberate learning episodes occur when "more than half of the person's intention is to gain and retain certain definite knowledge and skill" Tough 7. Learning episodes of this nature need not be carried out alone, nor be constrained within particular settings.
Such episodes might therefore include reading, watching television; they may take place in a library, classroom or train; they can be undertaken in conjunction with an instructor, in a group or atone. Tough deliberately chose this type of learning episode "because it seems especially interesting and significant" Tough 8.
Unlike many of Tough's previous studies which had focused exclusively upon adults, this study compared the learning activities of adults with ten year old children and sixteen year old adolescents. Another novel feature of the project was that the sixty-six adult respondents in the sample were chosen from seven distinct occupational categories. This was in contrast to most of Tough's earlier work, which concentrated on well-educated, middle class subjects.
The seven groups were: Blue collar factory workers. The sample consisted of tyre and rubber plant workers, whose employment did not require lots of knowledge, training and interpersonal or mental skill. The age range of respondents was 25 to 45 years. None had undertaken post-compulsory education. Women in jobs at ttie lower end of the white collar scale.
Respondents within this category were typists and secretaries in two large companies. None of the sample had children, they had all been working for at least two years and none had attended college. A variety of occupational groups were drawn together within this sample, which included departmental store salesmen, airline passenger agents and clerks working in a large store.
All the respondents had worked for at least three years, none had attended college and all were on a low income. Elementary school teachers. Municipal politicians. Social science professors. Upper middle class women with preschool children. All of the subjects in the sample lived in a middle class neighbourhood. A year prior to being interviewed the women were all full-time mothers.
Each of the sample had one ,Te-school child at home.
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Within each of the seven categories there were ten subjects: the only exception being the 'elementary school teachers' group, which contained six respondents. A range of important findings was generated from this piece of research. All but one of the interviewees had conducted a learning project in the previous year, and less than one per cent of all the learning projects was undertaken for credit. A significant finding of the research was that every category which included women spent less hours engaged in learning projects.
Unfortunately, Tough does not pursue this line of enquiry, but it is most certainly one which requires further investigation. However, as a refinement upon previous studies, probing questions and prompt sheets were devised to help people recall their learning efforts. Tough believed learning efforts were difficult to recall up to a year after the event and, therefore, extensive probing was required to reveal them. He suggested that few of his previous studies had adequately probed for self-teaching activities. From a methodological point of view Tough regarded this piece of research as a success.
The extent of self-learning projects was much higher than previous studies suggested was the case. However, it was not only the interviewer who was informed about the aims and objectives of the project, but also the interviewee. This final point raises some important questions about Tough's research methodology. Despite the success of the research project in relation to Tough's assessment of his aims and objectives, he did in fact criticise his own methodology. Whilst the sample of adults was distributed across seven groups, Tough, nevertheless, thought that his sampling techniques needed refining.
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The research did not include subjects at the highest level of the occ. His sample also excluded those at the other end of the socio-economic scale, who were unemployed, illiterate or elderly. Interviewers who were involved with the project also felt that respondents were not recalling or revealing all their learning projects.
Tough suggested that recall might be improved by interviewing respondents at intervals of three to four months rather than twelve months. By Tough began to propose future directions on which research effort might be concentrated. In his article. Major Learning Efforts: recent research and future directions, Tough highlighted a wide range of areas which merited further investigation.
There was a call for more emphasis on cross-national research, a theme first brought to the fore in This is a theme to which Tough returned in with the publication of Crucial Questions about the Future. He suggested that more research effort should be concentrated on peer learning groups and self-help groups and how such groups and individuals could be supported by public institutions and government.
Finally, Tough argued that more emphasis should be focused on the way in which adults make intentional changes, for example in jobs and relationships. This final topic was one which Tough followed through and was his last major study of adults' learning projects, published in as Intentional Changes: a fresh approach to helping people change. The contribution Tough made to the study of self-directed learning amongst adults should not be underestimated.
The extent of interest generated is illustrated by the number of subsequent studies undertaken on the topic. A review of some of the most important research findings is the subject of chapter 4. Major reviews of the literature have been undertaken by a number of authors, for example Brookfieid b , Caffarella and O'Donnell a , Brockett and Hiemstra and Candy The intention in this section is not to duplicate the accounts which already exist, but to review three important pieces of research on self-directed learning.
They relate to the first national study on the subject, research with 'under-educated adults', and the 'organiz- ing circumstance' for self-directed learning. The first national investigation of self-initiated learning Most of the previous research on self-directed learning had involved the use of relatively small samples.
Penland perceived this to be a major deficiency. The only other national survey in the area of adult education in the United States had been conducted by Johnstone and Rivera in However, the latter study largely related to institutional adult education. Penland's survey of adults in the United States consisted of a one hour interview.
It is important to note that Penland's interviews utilised the schedule designed by Tough, albeit with a few minor amendments. As we have seen. Tough's methodology was predicated on a rational model of self-directed learning, in which adults plan, choose and decide. Of those only 2. Over three quarters of the sample had planned one or more learning projects on their own account in the year prior to the study November The length of time devoted to learning projects ranged from one hour to more than hours; however, the mean was much lower at During questioning, respondents were asked why they preferred to learn on their own rather than take a course.
These findings led Cross to conclude that incentives to help adults participate in taught classes by reducing transport and other financial barriers have been missing the mark. More appropriate strategies would include the facility for learners to start learning when they wished and to learn at their own pace. Respondents were also asked where they preferred to undertake their learning Table 2.
Table 2 Locations where respondents prefer to undertake their own learning Category Most important Least important Source: Penland 1 1 75 table 2. Whilst, not surprisingly, the majority of respondents preferred to Igarn in the comfort of their own home, a substantial proportion undertook self-directed learning at work.
Individuals who used the mass media as a source of learning, especially television, engaged in far less continuing learning than those who used non-human and human resources. What was also interesting about Peniand's study was the data he collected relating to the use of libraries. Only The data also indicated that the number of organisational memberships held by continuing learners was higher than that of the population as a whole.
Over half of the non-learners were not members of any organisation or group. The results indicated that A human planner was defined as a "significant other person" who helped to fill the gap between the learner's level of knowledge and the skills required to gain access to appropriate resources. Finally, a group planning approach was used by Penland's extensive study of self-initiated learning largely supported Tough's conclusion that there is a considerable amount of learning activity urxlertaken by adults outside formal institutions.
Penland argued that self-planned learning should give a far higher status when he suggests: People should not have to apologise about such activity simply because the culture has taught them that it is not what learning is really supposed to be Penland 1 Rather, he argues that learners should be encouraged and supported by the creation of "shopping-centre access to multi-disciplinary teams of learning consultants and information brokers" Penland The confirmation of self-directed learning within a national sample had the effect of generating even more interest than before in self-directed learning.
Particularly important in subsequent literature was the identifi- cation of self-directed learning within different groups of people, One of these groups was 'hard to reach' adults. Among the findings that emerged from Tough's study was the tendency for people from lower socio-economic groups to engage less in self-directed learning than those in higher social groups.
This aspect of self-directed learning was subsequently challenged by Leean and Sisco in their study of under-educated adults in Vermont. The next section highlights some of their main findings. Self-directed learning among under-educated adults Self-directed learning amongst less educated adults has been the subject of considerable debate see Brockett The intention here is not to review all the relevant literature in this area but to highlight Leean and Sisco's study which has been particularly influential.
Their aim was to focus on adults having less than twelve years formal education. This study was designed to provide a contrast to many earlier pieces of research which used middle-class respondents, who had 27 attained high levels of academic proficiency. The study was conducted in Vermont over a two year period. The project consisted of three phases. The first replicated Tough's interview schedule with a sample of ninety-three adults, randomly selected, who were all living in a rural county in Vermont. The second phase used in-depth interviews with a sub-sample of fourteen subjects selected from the first phase.
The third phase involved data analysis and dissemina- tion of findings. The results from the first phase indicated that nearly everyone had undertaken one learning project. The average number of learning projects conducted was four and the average amount of time spent on each effort was hours. A range of learning projects had been undertaken by respondents. There were, however, no significant differences in the number of learning projects cf those subjects who had less than twelve years education.
This finding led Leean and Sisco to conclude that years of education was a poor predictor of adult learning activity. The second phase of the study built upon the findings of the first stage and probed further into the learning activities carried out by those who had demonstrated self-directed learning.
The sample was also selected on the basis of age, gender and educational background. To this end, a series of seven semi-structured interviews lasting over fifteen hours in total were conducted with fourteen of the original sample. This research design was particularly useful because it introduced a qualitative element into the research which had been absent in many other projects. It was also useful because it introduced a longitudinal element within the research which had previously been neglected.
In total the data collection period in the second phase lasted six months. The project's second stage provided rich and informative descriptions about the self-directed learning activity of the respondents. People commented on how iiuch more they had learned outside the school system. They enjoyed working at their own pace without anyone judging their learning ability. The value of common sense thinking and rational problem solving was expressed by both women and men in the sample.
Gaining access to resources and information was not a major problem for most learners, although some respondents indicated that they were sometimes frustrated by being unable to attain comprehensive and accurate information. Trst because they gave an insight into the self-directed learning activities amongst a group of adults who had previously been neglected.
Second, they introduced qualitative methods to the study of self-directed learning via the case study. At the other extreme, a growing number of researchers have favoured a more quantitative approach. The focus of quantitative studies has been on personality traits and psychological processes which may predispose particular individuals to seif-directed- ness in learning. They also represent a sharp departure from Tough's intensive, semi-structured interview orientation.
The organizing circumstance for seif-directed learning The influence of Tough's methodology on subsequent research on self-directed learning has been incredibly strong. Because of this, there has been a taken-for-granted assumption that adults' self-directed learning efforts are both deliberate and occur in a linear fashion.
Tough went to great pains to indicate that adults were very systematic in both choosing the subject of their learning project and acquiring suitable resources. They found that pre-planning occurred in a small minority of cases and then only in a "vague fashion". Having reached the conclusion that the planning activity did not rest with the individual, an analysis was made of the impact of the environment in which learning took place.
This line of enquiry led to the concept of the "organising circumstance" to be developed. They argued that: The organising circumstance, rather than preplanning by the individual, Is the directing force behind much, perhaps most self-directed learning for this population Spear and Mocker 4. The results of the study highlighted four main ways in which the environment had an impact on individuals' learning activities.
First, they concluded that a change in life circumstances was the impetus or trigger 29 for a learning project or episode. Second, such a change in circum- stance provides few resources or opportunities for learning that are viewed as reasonable and attractive by the learner. Third, the structure, methods, resources and conditions for learning are provided or dictated usually by a particular set of circumstances.
Finally, learning sequences do not necessarily progress in a linear fashion, rather, circumstances created by one episode are used as a stepping stone to the next stage of the process Spear and Mocker Developing the concept of the organising circumstance further. Spear introduced the notion of learning clusters. He argued that information about a particular activity or event could be defined as a learning cluster which is stored until it fits in with other clusters of ideas on the same topic.
Spear concludes: The learner is perhaps in greatest control when the assembling of the clusters begins and decisions are made regarding what knowledge is of most and least importance Spear Further evidence that self-learning projects are not always planned in advance is provided by Berger She found that her twenty subjects did not even make a conscious effort to begin a learning project. Instead, they became involved by talking to family and friends or through a chance event. Berger's subjects did not plan a linear learning route before they began their project but tended to have a trial and error approach.
They changed course and followed additional avenues of enquiry as they progressed. This is a similar finding to that presented by Danis and Tremblay , whose subjects took advantage of learning opportunities as they presented themselves. Clearly more work needs to be done on the actual process of self-directed learning. Most recent evidence suggests it is much more complex than Tough's original conceptualisation would have us believe. His most prominent piece of empirical research was undertaken as his doctoral research at the University of Leicester in Unlike most of the published North American research on self-directed learning, Brookfield described the concept as independent learning.
Brookfield identified three dimensions of independent learning. First, it was the responsibility of the learner to specify intermediate and final learning goals, locate the appropriate resources and measure their own progress. Second, independent learning was conducted without reference to formal adult education. Finally, it was learning which attracted no institutional accreditation or financial support. Brookfield's sample consisted of twenty-five adults aged between 40 and Most of the respondents had left school between 14 and 16 years of age.
The research was located in a small town in the rural West Midlands. In selecting his sample, the main criterion Brookfield used was that all the individuals had to be experts in their chosen field. A wide range of interests was represented. In contrast to the methodology used by Tough and many subsequent studies, Brookfield's research took a qualitative approach. The use of semi-structured interviews allowed interviewees to stress and explain the significance and meaning of their learning activities.
Themes which emerged in earlier interviews were explored in further interviews at a later date. After the interview had been completed, an interview report was compiled which was sub- sequently shown to respondents to verify that it was an accurate account of their learning activity. Once the interview stage of the project had been completed responses were coded into categories which were then illustrated by quotes from the transcripts or interview notes.
Several potentially significant findings came out of Brookfield's work. First, the respondents' learning projects were not measured in hours, but years. The mean length of the 'expert's' learning projects was twenty-two years and the median sixteen years. Second, Brookfield's subjects were much less focused in their learning activities than some of the North American literature would have led us to expect. They spoke of learning projects becoming self-perpetuating with new avenues of enquiry arising continually.
Third, a common feature of all the 'experts' was that they documented their learning activity via the compilation of progress charts, record sheets and diaries. Finally, twenty out of the twenty-five independent learners referred to being members of a society or a club. Of this twenty, twelve respondents belonged to two or more groups and two belonged to ten and fourteen respectively. This finding supports the point made by Penland , that people who are extensive self-directed learners "tend to be members of more interest groups than the rest of the population".
This emphasis on a 'community' of learning with other interested people led Brookfleld to conclude that his "experts' were part of a learning fellowship. One aspect of the self-directed learning process, which has eluded many previous research projects, is the evaluation of their subjects' learning experiences. Brookfield's research is particularly instructive on this point. Objective indices of evaluation mainly related to peer recogni- tion and peer comparison.
They took the form of requests from enthusiasts' journals for contributions; requests for advice from fellow experts; the frequency they were selected as a team member in competitions and tournaments; the invitation to speak at clubs and societies and the elevation to the status of judge. Since Brookfield completed his doctoral thesis he has written extensively and theoretically on self-directed learning see Brookfield , , , , a, b, c.
However he has not subsequently undertaken such an intensive piece of empirical research on the topic. The most extensive piece of quantitative research to date in Britain which touches upon adult self-directed learning was commissioned by NIACE in February Informal study was cited as particularly popular by younger people, especially in the 20 to 24 age range.
Slightly more men than women were identified as studying informally, as were respondents in the higher socio-economic groups. Respondents who had left school at the age of 16 to 17 and those who had left at the age of 18 or over, exhibited little difference on this factor. However, those who left formal education under age 16, reported themselves as studying informally much less frequently than the other two groups. The study also incorporated a geographical variable at the level of the region, within the analysis. The results of the survey suggest that there were differences among regions in the reported activity of studying informally.
Sargant highlights the fact that a higher number of informal leamers were recorded in South West England and East Anglia "where geography makes access to conventional provision difficult" Sargant However, apparently in contradiction the South West also had one of the highest formal adult education participation rates. Likewise, the densely populated South East had a high reported rate of studying informally, even though access to formal adult education provision should have presented few problems. Sargant also claims that "It is also possible that social or cultural ban-iers to formal provision cause some groups, for example ethnic minorities, to choose to learn informally" Saipant The study, however, did not control for ethnic origin.
Another area of questioning in Sargant focused on the amount of time respondents spent per week studying informally. The next category of frequency was informal learning within the workplace. The learning locations which were given a low rating frequency by informal learners vvere learning with an informal group; at a training centre; from family and friends and learning at home through television. In addition to the two research projects outlined above, there have been several other small scale British projects which have focused on independent learning.
Marie Strong's MEd thesis undertaken in was one such project. Her attempt was the first in B'itain to replicate Tough's work on adults' learning projects. Her sample consisted of eighteen further education lecturers. Using Tough's methodology, each 33 Ob of the lecturers was questioned about how many learning projects they had undertaken, for what length of time and what assistance they had been given. From the outset Strong highlighted the difficulties of trying to get subjects to identify any learning in which they had engaged. Because of this initial lack of response, a range of prompt sheets was used.
At the end of the exercise, Strong concludes that her sample exhibited a greater predisposition to self-teaching than Tough's subjects. When respondents were questioned about the assistance they had been given, Strong indicates that they were particularly hesitant about admitting the need for help. The most often cited learning projects within Strong's sample were work related. This finding is comparable with the high incidence of employment related projects highlighted by Penland and Sargant Other topics cited as the focus of learning projects included learning to care for a first baby; learning how to play a new sport or game and finally, learning how to save money through 'do-it-yourself.
A final view of informal learrtiug, which goes some way to answering the issue raised by Withnall that we need more informal learners to tell of their informal learning experiences, is provided by Melville What to do with an empty field at the side of his property prompted Melville to engage actively in a learning project.
His short, sharp and witty article is a record of the stages he undenwent to decide on the field's fate. He argues that to attend a formal class with a teacher is "a long way down the road from the starting point" Melville Chatting to friends and browsing through books in the library involved a minimum of commitment, little money and the syllabus could be constructed as the project evolved. He used four different types of learning resources. The first was the use of printed materials such as books and newspapers. The second resource was what he called 'field studies' which involved collecting together 'market intelligence' about what other people were doing in similar situations.
Third, people were a key resource in the learning process, whether they were friends or experts. Finally, the importance of incidental learning experiences was noted. These were defined as learning experiences which could not be predicted, and included television and radio programmes and generally "bumping into people" who turned out to be useful. Melville concludes that the independent project method of learning was particularly suitable for his learning requirements on that occasion.
Nor did he particularly want the commitment of a formal taught course. He does concede, however, that the learning project method did have its problems. He argues that reading is a one way activity, in effect he could not have a discussion with a book to clarify his ideas. He suggests that information got from friends couid have been prejudiced and that they may have told him what he wanted to hear. There are also problems with consulting experts. Often they did not have the time or inclination to grasp fully what was being aoked of them. Finally, and most crucially, Melville highlights the fact that he had no way of checking whether or not the advice given was correct.
This had important implications for the quality of learning which had taken place.
Dave described the nature of lifelong education as "a compre- hensive concept which includes formal, non-formal and informal learning extended throughout the lifespan". He goes on: it seeks to view education in its totality and includes learning that occurs in the home, school, community and work place, and through mass media and other situations and structures for acquiring and enhancing enlighten- ment.
Learning and living are closely intertwined, each enriching the other. Dave 43 Candy refers to two essential components of lifelor. T education as 'vertical integration' learning opportunities available from cradle to death and 'horizontal integration' learning opportunities available in a wide variety of contexts and settings beyond formal educational institutions. Cropley neatly characterises the latter as 'lifewide education'. Clearly, self-directed learning has an organic connection with both vertical and horizontal integration thus defined.
But is anything being said here? Both lifelong and self-directed learning are broad, diverse, even amorphous and nebulous concepts, that require focusing and bottoming in reality before they become useful. As we have already demonstrated in this publication, the concept of self-directed learning can be approached either as a social phenomenon which has been poorly researched, at least in Britain that may contain threats or opportunities - certainly implications - for the formal provision of continuing education, or as an andragogical goal, a goal in itself, a notion which essentially defines 'real learning'.
In this publication we have concentrated upon the former, upon self-directed learning as a phenomenon and have indicated that there are many unresolved issues and questions outstanding in the North American debate despite the volume of research activity over the past thirty years. Indeed, it seems as if we are dealing with such a complex phenomenon, or set of complex phenomena, that the more research there is, the more lines of enquiry and definition are opened up. In the s, the work moved on, in ways we find attractive, to examine or at least to ask questions about the self-directed learning of adults with limited educational qualifications, women, ethnic minori- ties, older adults and to propose other, less rationalistic and planned, modes of self-directed learning activity.
Is the propensity to self-directed learning a personality characteristic or an environmentally-determined circumstance, or both? Does not the examination of adult self-directed learning have to begin in the lifespace inhabited by the individual at a particular time, as Spear and Mocker have argued, because the form of learning activity - the resources used, people consulted, network joined or class enrolled in - will depend upon what is available, or adjacent to, that lifespace? Not so much r. Indeed, is the notion of 'choosing to learn' inherently necessary io the phenomenon of adult self-directed learning?
There is not a moment of deciding what, or how, or from what or from whom to learn.
adulteducationcontributors [licensed for non-commercial use only] / 17 Allen MacNeil Tough
There is an intentional and progressive pursuit of an activity which we - the observers - may argue cannot proceed without learning. But it may not be labelled as 'learning' by the doer - 'learning' may be restrictively perceived to be what occurs in courses and classrooms; it is not here and now. We hope to offer further empirical exploration of these issues in a forthcoming publication Percy, Burton and Withnall These considerations seem relevant to British debates about lifelong learning, about participation rates in formal continuing education provision and about issues such as quality, evaluation and professional- ism in continuing education.
We do not know much for certain but it seems reasonable to hypothesise from the North American literature that the phenomenon of adult self-directed learning is at least significant in our society. So professional agonising about participation rates and their upward or downward movements, while not unnpf'. Participation in classes, courses and programmes may normally be one of a range of learning options available to adults and it may, because of convenience, immediacy, nature or orientation, be the least attactive of options. Or it may not be a question of options at all.