Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Debra Beebe


Experiential learning in adult education is on the rise. A small private college in the southeast United States initiated a program that required 3 experiential learning projects to be completed in addition to coursework. The problem was that less than 8% of students had independently developed their first project. Instead, they completed a project proposed by faculty. This situation resulted in student dependency on faculty rather than promoting self-directed learning. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding about how to help students develop independent projects for the self-directed learning program. Experiential and self-directed learning theories formed the conceptual framework. The guiding question focused on how a select group of students described their ability to conduct a self-directed learning project. For this case study, individual interviews and documents were collected from 7 participants in the self-directed learning program. Analysis of the data by coding individual units of meaning revealed these 5 themes, which formed the basis of the findings: characteristics, self-motivation, lack of assistance received, personal gain, and advice for others. The commonly held major theme was personal gain. The second theme, goal setting, was discrepant. These were the major findings, which formed the basis for a proposed professional development training program for faculty facilitating the self-directed learning program. The implication for social change include emphasizing the importance of self-directed learning, supporting faculty for self-directed learning, and promoting lifelong learning. As a result of participating in this training, faculty will be better able to mentor students in the self-directed learning program.

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