Glossary of Key Terms

Self-directed learning

Self-directed learning (SDL) is the way in which students manage their own learning process. Self-directed learning is a collection of emotions, beliefs, attitudinal mindsets, and cognitive or behavioral processes used to manage learning tasks. Building such mindsets and skills can improve students’ academic and career outcomes. In concept, when instructors create inclusive conditions that feature the use of instructional supports targeting self-directed learning, students can achieve in courses better.

Our definition of self-directed learning groups the various processes into three categories: motivation, metacognition, and applied learning skills.

Below we provide a glossary of terms that researchers use to describe SDL competencies.

Terminology related to self-directed learning

Note: this glossary includes two different types of definitions: ones that we have defined according to our project needs and others drawn directly from research. We also include a list of foundational research at the bottom of this page and include hyperlinks as able.

The following citations reflect foundational research informing our project definitions:

Aleven, V., Stahl, E., Schworm, S., Fischer, F., & Wallace, R. (2003). Help seeking and help design in interactive learning environments. Review of educational research, 73(3), 277-320.

Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc., New York, NY.

Newman, R. S. (1994). Adaptive help seeking: A strategy of self-regulated learning, in D. H. Schunk & B. J. Zimmerman (Eds.) Self-regulation of learning and performance: Issues and educational applications, 283-301.

Strayhorn, T. L. (2012). College students’ sense of belonging: A key to educational success for all students. New York, NY: Routledge.

Zimmerman, B. J. (2002). Becoming a self-regulated learner: An overview. Theory into practice, 41(2), 64-70.