Instruction in self-directed learning: Its impact on corporate MBA students' attitudes toward learning and development

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Roger Hiemstra


Adult education, Continuing education, Business education

Subject Categories

Curriculum and Instruction


A current trend in corporate employee development is for employees to be responsible for their own learning, often on their own time. They are to maintain their employability through the acquisition of knowledge that is transferable to various functions in the work place. Many corporations are encouraging employees to develop on their own time, rather than on company time. Motivation to develop on one's own time may be related to the extent to which an adult learner is self-directed and to the extent to which self-directedness is encouraged in the design of courses.

This study examined the impact of a four-hour workshop on self-directed learning which included related definitions, examples, and instructional resources. The workshop's instructional goal was to increase self-directed learning readiness by providing participants with practical information about self-directed learning principles and techniques so as to encourage behaviors that indicate employees' willingness to develop on their own time. The study used a quasi-experimental design in which corporate employees, enrolled in a worksite-based evening MBA program, completed a pretest and a posttest of their self-directed learning readiness, and attended training on self-directed learning techniques.

Findings indicated no significant difference between self-directed learning readiness scores of participants who attended a four-hour workshop on self-directed learning principles and techniques and participants who did not attend.

Focus group interviews were conducted following the orientation workshop to identify any associated issues or questions. Corporate employees preferred to attend education and development courses partly on their own time, rather than completely on company time. Another issue was the extent to which corporate tuition assistance policies and development recognition programs address learning accomplishments achieved through self-directed learning.

The study raises the question of whether self-directed learning readiness is a trait or a state. The increased interest of participants in self-directed learning was demonstrated by their many questions about its application in their setting. Such inquiries were viewed as a new curiosity which could lead to increased participation if such efforts were offered partly on company time and partly on the employee's own time.


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