Reconceptualisation of self-directed learning in a Malaysian context
Mohamad Nasri, Nurfaradilla
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The concept of self-directed learning (SDL) has been extensively studied; however, the majority of studies have explored learners’ perspectives on SDL, with less attention paid to investigating SDL from educators’ perspectives. Surprisingly, while assessment and feedback have long been recognized as powerful elements which influence how learners approach their learning, and key research studies have examined how both assessment and feedback can encourage and enhance the development of SDL, this nevertheless remains an area that would benefit from increased attention. Moreover, although there is a growing body of literature investigating the cultural dimension of SDL, most of these studies are limited to examining the formation of SDL among individuals influenced by Western or Confucian cultures, ignoring the existence of other cultural groups. This study, which investigates Malaysian teacher educators’ conceptualisations of SDL, begins to address these gaps. The key research questions which guided the study are: 1) How do teacher educators in Malaysia conceptualise learning? 2) How do teacher educators in Malaysia conceptualise SDL? 3) To what extent do teacher educators in Malaysia perceive themselves as self-directed learners? 4) What kind of learning opportunities do teacher educators in Malaysia create for their learners to foster the development of SDL, and what is the particular role of assessment and feedback in SDL? Twenty Malaysian teacher educators were interviewed to obtain their views on SDL and to identify their pedagogical practices which may foster or hinder the development of SDL approaches among their learners. A constructivist grounded theory approach was used to inform the methodological framework of this study, whilst a hybrid inductive and deductive analysis approach was used to analyse the interview data. The findings of the current study suggest that most assessment and feedback practices are heavily focused on assessments designed by educators and on educator-generated feedback, in which learners are passive recipients. It is argued that these practices have significantly contradicted the primary principle of SDL, which characterises the learner as the key agent of his or her own learning. The findings of this study suggest that a more comprehensive conceptualisation of SDL is required that recognises the fundamental role of both the self and of educators in SDL, and acknowledges the impact of the socio-cultural context on SDL. Informed by the existing SDL literature, and derived from fine-grained analysis of the interview data, the proposed definition of SDL and reconceptualised SDL framework foreground SDL as socially constructed learning where the learner takes control of his or her own learning processes within complex socio cultural contexts. The thesis concludes by recommending that future research (i) explores the central role of assessment and feedback in the context of SDL and (ii) investigates the impact of various cultures on learning, in order to develop a broader and more nuanced understanding of SDL.