Developing Self-Directed Learners

In this module, faculty learn how to assist students in understanding and taking ownership of their own learning process. Techniques include using cues to guide student learning, presenting and having students develop work plans for completing complex assignments, prompting self-reflection with rubrics or other grading guidelines, and making worked examples available.

To satisfy the module requirements, practicing faculty must apply at least one technique, such as sharing examples of prior students’ work, using an exam wrapper, or having students complete the Critical Incident Questionnaire.

This module is one of five modules under ACUE’s unit on Promoting Higher Order Thinking.

Advising Subject Matter Expert

Stephen Brookfield
John Ireland Endowed Chair
University of St. Thomas, Minnesota

Module References

Abdullah, M. H. (2001). Self-directed learning (ERIC Digest No. D169). Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED459458)

Ackerman, D. S., & Gross, B. L. (2005). My instructor made me do it: Task characteristics of procrastination. Journal of Marketing Education, 27, 5–13.

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., Lovett, M. C., DiPietro, M., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Bowen, J. (2013, August 22). Cognitive wrappers: Using metacognition and reflection to improve learning [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Carey, L. J., Flower, L., Hayes, J., Shriver, K.A., & Haas, C. (1989). Differences in writers’ initial task representations (Technical Report No. 34). Center for the Study of Writing at University of California at Berkeley and Carnegie Mellon University.

Connor, C. (2004). Developing self-directed learners. Retrieved from

Cornell University, Center for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.). What do students already know? Retrieved from

DeLong, M., & Winter, D. (2002). Learning to teaching and teaching to learn mathematics: Resources for professional development. Washington, DC: Mathematical Association of America.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Fayetteville State University. (n.d.). Create engaging assignments and clear assignment sheets. Retrieved from

Harris, C. (2014, June 6). Teaching from the test: Exam wrappers [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Shannon, S. V. (2008). Using metacognitive strategies and learning styles to create self-directed learners. Institute for Learning Styles Research Journal, 1, 14–28.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Walker Center for Teaching and Learning. (n.d.). Classroom assessment strategies. Retrieved from