Adult learner self-directedness in open distance and e learning higher education

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ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS IN OPEN DISTANCE AND E-LEARNING HIGHER EDUCATION

In Chapter 3, the third and fourth literature research aims are addressed. Adult learner self-directedness is conceptualised in the open distance and e-learning higher education (ODeLHE) context and the implications of measuring adult learner academic self-directedness for human resource development (HRD) in business and for ODeLHE teaching practices are highlighted. In addition, the psychometric properties of the ALSDS (Botha, 2014), namely the strategic utilisation of officially provided resources, engaged academic activity, success orientation for ODeL and academically motivated behaviour, are comprehensively discussed. Existing gaps in the research are highlighted, the variables influencing adult learner self-directedness in an ODeLHE context (both in the tertiary education and workplace-learning context) are explored and the implications for HRD and ODeL teaching practice are described.
More and more universities in the 21st century are using ODeL in order to increase access to higher education (Chawinga & Zozie, 2016). As education is described as a vital component of human advancement, Africa hopes to increase its global competitiveness through increasing access to quality higher education (Onyenemezu, 2012). In the South African and the wider African higher education landscape, ODeL seems to be the most viable option to address the increasing demand for quality higher education, in spite of the technological difficulties faced by many African countries, as described in Chapter 2 (Van Antwerpen, 2015).
Reported research indicates that adult student self-directedness influences online learning behaviours, specifically in terms of engaging in voluntary interaction and help-seeking behaviours in the online context (Lin, et al., 2016). In addition, students who possess higher levels of self-directedness are more likely to adapt their learning behaviours to the learning context (Lin et al., 2016). Furthermore, tertiary institutions are expected to prepare their alumni for a life of continuous learning. Some scholars believe that the characteristics related to self-directed learning are crucial to effective professional practice (Bernhardsson, Vallo Hult, & Gellerstedt, 2017). As discussed in Chapter 2, South Africa and Africa in particular face both technological and socio-biographic challenges in the advancement of human growth (Asongu & Nwachukwu, 2016). Universities and the education they provide are seen as one of the vehicles to advance society at large (Bunney, Sharplin, Howitt, 2015). Given the existing paucity of research on adult learning self-directedness in the African ODeLHE context, a study investigating the properties of an adult learner self-directedness scale could make a significant contribution to the existing body of knowledge on self-directedness in adult learners.

ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS: CONCEPTUALISATION

According to Knowles (1975; Firat, et al., 2016; McCray, 2016), adult learner self-directedness is the individual capacity to autonomously manage one’s learning experience, from conception through implementation, and ending with evaluation of the learning experience, which should then lead to possible adaptations in learning behaviour. Knowles (1975; Blashke, 2012; Firat, et al., 2016) indicates that self-directedness consists of internal states and observable behaviours). Self-determination (not self-directedness) is described in terms of autonomous decisions about motivated behaviour (Benita, Roth, & Deci, 2013; Deci, Olafsen, & Ryan, 2017; Liu, Ye, & Yeung, 2015; Olafsen, Niemiec, Halvari, Deci, & Williams, 2017).
Individuals choose self-determined or independent behaviours, while controlled behaviours are in some way compulsory for the person. The important distinction here is that, although a specific behaviour may not be overtly compulsory, the learners may be aware that there is a form of coercion in the transaction. For example, allowing a student to choose between two options for a mandatory assessment may create a situation where the adult learner experiences the imposition of the assessment as mandatory even though a choice can be made between two options (Benita, et al., 2013; Deci, et al., 2017, 1994; Liu, et al., 2015; Olafsen, et al., 2017). Only if the student can choose not to participate at all in that assessment, without any detrimental effects, can the option to submit a completed assignment be experienced as an independent decision (Benita, et al., 2013; Deci, et al., 2017; Liu, et al., 2015; Olafsen, et al., 2017). When a student independently chooses to complete the assessment, internal control or reasoning mechanisms drive the student’s behaviours.
Initially, Deci and Ryan (1994) believed that self-determined actions were closely associated with intrinsic motivation, but later research indicated that extrinsically motivated behaviours can be perceived as self-determined if they are ‘internalised’ and ‘integrated’ (Liu, et al., 2015; Olafsen et al., 2017). Internalisation is the adoption of external controls of behaviour as self-controls, while integration flows from internalisation and is the assimilation of incorporated (internalised) self-regulation into the individual’s self-perception (Deci, et al., 2017; Liu, et al., 2015; Olafsen, et al., 2017). Deci and Ryan (1994; Liu, et al., 2015; Olafsen, et al., 2017) consequently describe self-directedness in terms of autonomous decision making and self-regulatory control of deliberate actions similar to Knowles’s internal states and observable behaviours.
The theory of transformative learning takes a diverse perspective, focusing on how questioning universally accepted ‘truths’ can develop the capacity for autonomous thinking in adult learners (Baran, Coreia, & Thompson, 2011; Biniecki & Conceição, 2015; McCray, 2016; Mezirow, 1997, 2000). In fact, according to Mezirow (1997, 2000), transformative learning is the essence of adult education. Adults as autonomous empowered individuals are able to control their own lives, free to make their own decisions and emancipated from the limiting societal conventions that guide their thinking (Baran, Correia & Thompson, 2011; Biniecki & Conceição, 2015; McCray, 2016). The theory of transformative learning is based on the premise that adults must first realise and accept that they are autonomous beings capable of making independent decisions, reflecting on their experiences and their learning and to defend an argument or decision rationally (McCray, 2016; Mezirow, 1997, 2000). For Mezirow (1997, also see McCray, 2016), the realisation and acceptance of autonomy come before the actions or behaviour of self-direction. In this regard, Mezirow (2000) differs from Knowles (1975), who believed that self-directedness could exist on a continuum and would develop throughout an individual’s lifetime.
Guglielmino (1977) echoes Knowles’s (1975) description of self-directedness. Guglielmino (1977) and Mello (2016) describe student self-directedness as a learning process actively managed by the learner who plans, implements and evaluates individual learning endeavours. Garrison (1997) and Rana, Ardichvili, and Polesello (2016) define self-directed students as those who are self-motivated, self-managing and self-monitoring. Students who are motivated will be willing to engage in a learning task; once engaged, they will actively manage and control their learning. Only students who display all three behaviours can grow into self-directedness (Garrison, 1997; Rana, et al., 2016). Garrison (1997) consequently views self-directed learning as an amalgamation of all three facets described, contrary to Knowles (1975), who believes that adult learner self-directedness exists on a continuum and is related to age.
On the other hand, Grow (1991) and Rana, et al. (2016) describe students as moving through four phases in their learning, and indicate that the learning facilitator or academic lecturer could actively influence the student’s progress through the phases towards self-directed learning. Grow (1991) contends that students start out their learning journey as dependent learners, move towards interested and then involved learners, depending on how the learning experienced is managed by the facilitator, and lastly become self-directed learners. According to Grow (1991) and Rana, et al. (2016), student self-directedness is therefore mostly within the sphere of control of the facilitator.
Candy (1991) and Gu (2016) believe that self-directedness in learning involves the individual capacity to see oneself as an autonomous person (a personal disposition, not a behavioural trait), the willingness to manage one’s learning, the capacity to personally control one’s learning behaviours and actions, and lastly the independent pursuit of personal learning goals (autodidaxy). For Candy (1991), learner self-directedness includes both personal dispositions and observable behaviours, and, like both Mezirow (2000) and Cassidy (2012), the realisation and acceptance of one’s autonomy is seen as the linchpin of self-directedness (see Gu, 2016; Rana, et al., 2016). According to Zimmerman (2002), Van Wyk (2017) and Zhao & Zeng (2014), self-directed students are proactive, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, reflect on their own learning and can utilise relevant learning strategies to achieve personally determined goals.
Cassidy (2011) and (Gu, 2016) explain that adult self-directed learners view themselves as active agents in their own learning who can positively affect their academic success by dynamically practising their own learning strategies. Cassidy (2011), just like Mezirow (2000) and Candy (1991), consequently believes that the conviction of autonomy precedes the observable behaviour of self-directedness in learning. In a similar vein, Bowen (2011) and Van Wyk (2017) describe self-directed learners as those who have grown into self-directedness through learner autonomy, and as a result have the capacity to make independent decisions, solve problems in other than academic contexts, and have developed an awareness of their responsibility to the broader community.

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CHAPTER 1: SCIENTIFIC ORIENTATION OF THE RESEARCH 
1.1 Background and motivation of the study
1.2 RESEARCH PROBLEM
1.3 STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE
1.4 PARADIGM PERSPECTIVE OF THE RESEARCH
1.5 MARKET OF INTELLECTUAL RESOURCES
1.6 CENTRAL HYPOTHESIS
1.7 THEORETICAL ASSUMPTIONS
1.8 METHODOLOGICAL ASSUMPTIONS
1.9 RESEARCH DESIGN
1.10 RESEARCH PROCESS
CHAPTER 2: META-THEORETICAL CONTEXT: ADULT LEARNING AND ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS IN THE CONTEMPORARY BUSINESS WORLD
2.1 THE CONTEMPORARY BUSINESS WORLD
2.2 THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY
2.3 HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT IN THE ORGANISATIONAL CONTEXT
2.4 ADULT LEARNING IN THE CONTEMPORARY BUSINESS CONTEXT
2.5 EVALUATION AND SYNTHESIS
2.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 3: ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS IN OPEN DISTANCE AND E LEARNING HIGHER EDUCATION 
3.1 ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS: CONCEPTUALISATION
3.2 THEORETICAL MODEL: ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS SCALE
3.3 IMPLICATIONS FOR HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT AND OPEN DISTANCE E LEARNING TEACHING PRACTICE
3.4 INTEGRATION AND CORE CONCLUSIONS
3.5 EVALUATION AND SYNTHESIS
3.6 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 4 RESEARCH METHOD
4. 1 DETERMINATION AND DESCRIPTION OF THE SAMPLE
4.2 CHOOSING AND MOTIVATING THE MEASURING INSTRUMENT
4.3 ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE PSYCHOMETRIC BATTERY
4.4 CAPTURING OF CRITERION DATA
4.5 FORMULATION OF THE RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
4.6 STATISTICAL PROCESSING OF THE DATA (TESTING THE RESEARCH HYPOTHESES)
4.7 STATISTICAL SIGNIFICANCE LEVEL
4. 8 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 5 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 
5.1 ASSESSING THE PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES OF THE ALSDS
5.2 UNIDIMENSIONALITY AND RELIABILITY OF THE ALSDS
5.3 RASCH RATING SCALE FUNCTIONALITY
5.4 RASCH DIFFERENTIAL ITEM FUNCTIONING
5.5 MULTIGROUP STRUCTURAL EQUIVALENCE
5.6 TESTS FOR MEAN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GENDER, RACE AND AGE GROUPS
5.7 SOCIO-DEMOGRAPHIC VARIABLES AS PREDICTORS OF ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS IN ODELHE
5.8 DISCUSSION OF RESULTS
5.9 CHAPTER SUMMARY
CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSIONS, LIMITATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 
6.1 CONCLUSIONS
6.2 LIMITATIONS
6.3 RECOMMENDATIONS
6.4 EVALUATION OF THE STUDY
6.5 CHAPTER SUMMARY
REFERENCES

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ASSESSING THE PSYCHOMETRIC PROPERTIES OF THE ADULT LEARNER SELF-DIRECTEDNESS SCALE

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