Date of Award

12-2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Sarah Mackenzie

Second Committee Member

George F. Marnik

Third Committee Member

Mary Madden

Additional Committee Members

Paul Knowles

Mary Mahoney-O'Neil

Abstract

Teachers must continually expand their professional knowledge and skills in order keep up with the rapidly changing pace of knowledge and the increasing accessibility of information to students. Since the skills and information individual teachers require for success in the classroom varies depending on the teacher's needs, it is important for educators to understand the range of ways teachers learn in order to maximize individual teacher learning. One avenue for teacher learning is self-directed learning.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to present a detailed description of the experiences of veteran elementary teachers who self-direct their own learning. This study drew on interpretive qualitative methods. Ten participants were interviewed twice using a semi-structured interview protocol. The transcripts were analyzed using constant comparative methods to surface emerging themes.

Cross-case analysis of the participants' profiles surfaced five common characteristics of the self-directed learning experiences including: relevant learning, controlled learning, independent learning, Internet-based learning and in-depth learning. These commonalities are not unique to self-directed learning, and accordingly, can be considered in other learning situations.

The researcher developed two portraits of the self-directed learning process based on the data. The portraits depict two distinct types of self-directed learners: Content-focused and Challenge-focused learners. The findings resulting from the portraits indicate that self-directed learning was a personal process where learners determined why and how they learned. Teacher's drive to learn and grow was not based on material rewards or job promotion; rather, it derived from a self-generated need to know more about content related to a specific subject or a need to be challenged. In addition, the teachers' self-directed learning projects were planned, intentional, and linear. Teachers had a clear purpose for their learning and systematically planned their learning depending on why they self-directed their learning. Previous positive or negative learning experiences appeared to have minimal influence on why teachers chose to self-direct their learning. In addition to contributing to the body of knowledge in the field of teacher learning and self-directed learning, the study's results have implications for practitioners, researchers, and policy makers as they develop ways to effectively support teacher growth.

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