Skip to main content
Engineering Students' Conceptions of Self-Directed Learning
  • Jonathan Stolk, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • John B. Geddes, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Mark Somerville, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
  • Robert Martello, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Document Type
Publication Date

Researchers have developed numerous theories and developmental models to describe self directed learning, lifelong learning, and self-regulated learning. The literature includes a large body of research that illustrates the cognitive, metacognitive, motivational, affective, and behavioral attributes of self-directed learners; the influences of social and physical environment on self-directed learning development; and the roles of self-perceptions, causal orientations,learning conceptions, and demographics in determining certain self-directed learning responses. But how do undergraduate engineering students characterize and critique self-directed learning? This paper evaluates the responses of engineering students to questions regarding the definition of self-direction and the primary positive or negative factors contributing to their self-directed learning experiences. We find that undergraduate students at all levels are able to identify positive and challenging aspects of self-directed environments, and the emergent themes from the qualitative student responses map well onto theoretical frameworks for self-direction and self-regulation. Results are discussed in terms of pedagogical issues to consider when designing curricular experiences aimed at development of self-directed learning competency.


© 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. This article was published in Proceedings of 2008 ASEE Annual meeting Presentation and Publication, no. 1596 and may be found here.

Citation Information
Jonathan Stolk, John B. Geddes, Mark Somerville and Robert Martello. "Engineering Students' Conceptions of Self-Directed Learning" (2008)
Available at: