Self-directed learning in health professions education

M. Hassan Murad, Prathibha Varkey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Introduction: Self-directed learning has been recommended as a promising methodology for lifelong learning in medicine. However, the concept of self-directed learning continues to be elusive, with students and educators finding difficulty in defining it and agreeing on its worth. Methods: In this paper we review the literature of self-directed learning in health professions education and present a framework based on Malcolm Knowles' key components of self-directed learning. Results: The key components of self-directed learning are: the educator as a facilitator, identification of learning needs, development of learning objectives, identification of appropriate resources, implementation of the process, commitment to a learning contract and evaluation of learning. Several but not all of these components are often described in the published literature. Conclusion: Although the presented framework provides some consistency for educators interested in applying SDL methods, future studies are needed to standardise self-directed learning curricula and to determine the effectiveness of these components on educational outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)580-590
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of the Academy of Medicine Singapore
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Independent study
  • Medical education
  • Self-assessment
  • Self-directed learning
  • Self-education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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