Self-directed Education

The Centre for Personalised Education bases it ideas on invitational learning and assessment and is very much aligned with self-managed and self-directed learning. Like most concepts however, this is a pretty elastic idea which can encompass a wide range of situations and contexts. Whilst at the very conservative end a training programme might claim to be self-directed because the learner chooses when to learn, when to progress and when to take an assessment a self-directed education would entail deep agency, control and choice over the ultimate goals and how these will be met on some form of learning pathway. Of course if a learner chooses freely a training programme the element of self direction / management is amplified.

So  use the following in relation to adult education

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. (Knowles, 1975, p. 18)

The Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE) develops the idea as ….

Self-Directed Education (SDE) is education that derives from the self-chosen activities and life experiences of the person becoming educated, whether or not those activities were chosen deliberately for the purpose of education.

Self-Directed Education can include organized classes or lessons, if freely chosen by the learner; but most Self-Directed Education does not occur that way. Most Self-Directed Education comes from everyday life, as people pursue their own interests and learn along the way. The motivating forces include curiosity, playfulness, and sociability—which promote all sorts of endeavors from which people learn. Self-Directed Education necessarily leads different individuals along different paths, though the paths may often overlap, as each person’s interests and goals in life are in some ways unique and in some ways shared by others.

ASDE distinguishes SDE from schooling…

Self-Directed Education can be contrasted to imposed schooling, which is forced upon individuals, regardless of their desire for it, and is motivated by systems of rewards and punishments, as occurs in conventional schools. Imposed schooling is generally aimed at enhancing conformity rather than uniqueness, and it operates by suppressing, rather than nurturing, the natural drives of curiosity, playfulness, and sociability.

CPE would agree wholeheartedly with this.

Self Managed Learning College

A practical example of SDE in action is the Self Managed Learning College in Brighton, UK. Professor Ian Cunningham’s work here is extensive and impressive. He terms it as Person centred Learning 

The Self-Managing learner determines what, where, when, how and why they will learn. Learning is structured and supported but there is no predefined syllabus or curriculum. Our research has shown that this is the most effective way for people to learn. Taking responsibility for one’s own learning and learning to learn are vital skills in a fast-changing world.

Alliance for Self-Direction Education

Alternatives to School

Self Managed Learning College

Readers may also wish to explore self-education… education without the guidance of others:



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