banner pbl student.jpg

Self-directed learners determine how they learn content. The self-directed learner "plays an active role in his/her learning process, such as planning, monitoring and evaluating the learning process" (Lee et. al,, 2014, p. 426).

Self-directed learning could be considered a result of experience (prior knowledge), inquisitiveness, contemplation, perceptiveness, and personal experimentation (Lee et al, 2014). In the context of Project Based Learning (PBL), understanding is more than rote memorization or how to enter values into a formula or recall dates in history; it is the ability to use information in a manner contingent upon the situation at hand.

Student roles as a Self-directed Learner

  • Work as a member of a group (collaborate)
  • Meet on a regular basis (as determined by group)
  • Analyze, discuss, and generate questions and learning tasks associated with the learning project
  • Explore, research, and experiment with unknowns
  • Communicate and receive feedback from the group
  • Report results

A student's perspective

Elements of Self-directed Learning

Students understand and grow as a result of (adapted from McComas, 2013):

• Having time to process and reflect on idea
• Challenging present conceptions
• Making generalizations and connections to other phenomena
• Using prior experiences
• Developing big picture concepts

Students gaining this understanding are able to draw inferences, make connections among details, explain findings in their own words, and use this knowledge in new projects. Students will solidify what they already know and transform it into true understanding if that prior knowledge is consonant with the current scientific worldview (McComas, 2013).

Related Pages:

Project-based Learning
PBL and the Teacher-facilitator
PBL and Technology Integration


A students’ perspective of PBL (2009) Buck Institute for Education .
Retrieved from :

Lee, K., Tsai, P. S., Chai, C. S., & Koh, J. H. L. (2014). Students' perceptions of self‐directed learning and collaborative learning with and without technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 30(5), 425-437. Retrieved from;jsessionid=DA27E9AEACE6C356A8FA6CB8D8E1EC24.f03t03

McComas, W. F. (2013). The Language of Science Education : An Expanded Glossary of Key Terms and Concepts in Science Teaching and Learning. [Place of publication not identified]: Sense Publishers. Retrieved from: