A systematic review of Self-Directed Learning: empirical evidence from STEM teaching and learning



Amid the burgeoning interest in self-directed learning (SDL) and its implications, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching and learning (STEM-TL), our systematic review meticulously examined 50 articles. Extracting data from the Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus databases spanning the recent five years, the review canvassed a diverse set of parameters encompassing study characteristics, methodological approaches, underlying learning theories, strategic pedagogies, technological integrations, perceptible impacts, encountered challenges, and potential research trajectories concerning SDL within STEM-TL. The accumulated evidence testifies to SDL's multifaceted application within STEM-TL, underpinning its salience in equipping students with quintessential 21st-century competencies. Notably, while a vast swathe of the literature accentuates the positive outcomes of SDL, a limited subset critically evaluates potential pitfalls, encompassing premature SDL induction, potential erosion of student ethics, unchecked technological advancement, and the ambiguity of prospective educational landscapes. This review, therefore, serves as a synthesized repository, offering invaluable insights to inform and shape pedagogical frameworks and curricula in STEM-TL for educators, institutional policymakers, and other stakeholders.


Self-directed learning (SDL), STEM teaching and learning (STEM-TL) systematic literature review

Full Text:



Abdullah, J., Mohd-Isa, W. N., & Samsudin, M. A. (2019). Virtual reality to improve group work skill and self-directed learning in problem-based learning narratives. Virtual Reality, 23(4), 461-471.

Adinda, D., & Mohib, N. (2020). Teaching and instructional design approaches to enhance student's self-directed learning in blended learning environments. Electronic Journal of E-Learning, 18(2), 162-174.

Al Mamun, M. A., Lawrie, G., & Wright, T. (2020). Instructional design of scaffolded online learning modules for self-directed and inquiry-based learning environments. Computers & Education, 144, Article 103695. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.103695

Albarracin, D., & Johnson, B. T. (2019). The handbook of attitudes: Basic principles (Second ed.). Routledge.

Alotaibi, K., & Alanazi, S. (2021). The influences of conceptions of mathematics and self-directed learning skills on university students' achievement in mathematics. European Journal of Education, 56(1), 117-132.

Alwadaeen, N. B., & Piller, B. (2022). Enhancing self-directed learning readiness at elementary level; a study from American schools. Journal of Curriculum and Teaching, 11(4), 24-38.

Arztmann, M., Hornstra, L., Jeuring, J., & Kester, L. (2023). Effects of games in STEM education: a meta-analysis on the moderating role of student background characteristics. Studies in Science Education, 59(1), 109-145.

Aydin Gunbatar, S., Ekiz Kiran, B., Boz, Y., & Roehrig, G. H. (2022). A closer examination of the STEM characteristics of the STEM activities published in NSTA journals. Research in Science & Technological Education, 1-26. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2022.2121692.

Birtwistle, T., Brown, C., & Wagenaar, R. (2016). A long way to go. A study on the implementation of the learning-outcomes based approach in the EU. Higher Education, 3(2), 429-463.

Bishara, S. (2021). The cultivation of self-directed learning in teaching mathematics [Article]. World Journal on Educational Technology: Current Issues, 13(1), 82-95.

Boyer, S. L., Edmondson, D. R., Artis, A. B., & Fleming, D. (2014). Self-directed learning: A tool for lifelong learning. Journal of Marketing Education, 36(1), 20-32.

Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Belknap Press of Harvard University.

Budiastra, A. A. K., Wicaksono, I., & Sanjaya, I. G. M. (2020). The new generation self-directed teaching materials of natural science in elementary schools validity tests. International Journal of Instruction, 13(4), 763-780.

Chen, C.-H., Chen, K.-Z., & Tsai, H.-F. (2022). Did self-directed learning curriculum guidelines change Taiwanese high-school students’ self-directed learning readiness? The Asia-Pacific Education Researcher, 31(4), 409-426.

Cheong, P. H., Shuter, R., & Suwinyattichaiporn, T. (2016). Managing student digital distractions and hyperconnectivity: Communication strategies and challenges for professorial authority. Communication Education, 65(3), 272-289.

Dinsmore, D. L., & Fryer, L. K. (2019). Developing learners’ cognitive strategies and the motivation to use them: Rethinking education policy. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 6(2), 107-114.

Dolmans, D. H. J. M., Loyens, S. M. M., Marcq, H., & Gijbels, D. (2015). Deep and surface learning in problem-based learning: A review of the literature. Advances in Health Sciences Education, 21(5), 1087-1112.

Donald, J. G. (1985). Intellectual skills in higher education. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 15(1), 52-68.

Downe-Wamboldt, B. (1992). Content analysis: method, applications, and issues. Health Care Women International, 13(3), 313-321.

Elo, S., & Kyngas, H. (2008). The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), 107-115.

Erlina, N., Prayekti, & Wicaksono, I. (2022). Atomic Physics teaching materials in blended learning to improve self-directed learning skills in distance education. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education, 23(4), Article 2. https://www.scopus.com/inward/record.uri?eid=2-s2.0-85140038234&partnerID=40&m d5=2a62d6a91c9c91d8a09502801fe56fce.

Fraenkel, J., Wallen, N., & Hyun, H. (2011). How to design and evaluate research in education. McGraw-Hill.

Geng, S., Law, K. M. Y., & Niu, B. (2019). Investigating self-directed learning and technology readiness in blending learning environment. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 16, Article 17. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-019-0147-0.

Gerard, L., Bradford, A., & Linn, M. C. (2022). Supporting teachers to customize curriculum for self-directed learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 31(5), 660-679.

Gozzard, D. R., & Zadnik, M. G. (2021). Contribution of self-directed, naked-eye observations to students' conceptual understanding and attitudes towards astronomy. Physical Review Physics Education Research, 17(1), 010134. https://journals.aps.org/prper/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.17.010134.

Haggarty, L. (1996). What is ... content analysis? Medical Teacher, 18(2), 99-101.

Heo, J., & Han, S. (2017). Effects of motivation, academic stress and age in predicting self-directed learning readiness (SDLR): Focused on online college students. Education and Information Technologies, 23(1), 61-71.

Higgins, N. L., Frankland, S., & Rathner, J. A. (2021). Self-regulated learning in undergraduate science. International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 29(1), 58-70.

Jeong, K.-O. (2022). Facilitating sustainable self-directed learning experience with the use of mobile-assisted language learning. Sustainability, 14(5), 13, 2894. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052894.

Jin, X. Q., Jiang, Q., Xiong, W. Y., Pan, X. Z., & Zhao, W. (2022). Using the online self-directed learning environment to promote creativity performance for university students. Educational Technology & Society, 25(2), 130-147.

Kayacan, K., & Ektem, I. S. (2019). The effects of biology laboratory practices supported with self-regulated learning strategies on students' self-directed learning readiness and their attitudes towards science experiments. European Journal of Educational Research, 8(1), 313-323.

Khodaei, S., Hasanvand, S., Gholami, M., Mokhayeri, Y., & Amini, M. (2022). The effect of the online flipped classroom on self-directed learning readiness and metacognitive awareness in nursing students during the COVID-19 pandemic. BMC Nursing, 21, 22. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12912-022-00804-6

Kim, R., Olfman, L., Ryan, T., & Eryilmaz, E. (2014). Leveraging a personalized system to improve self-directed learning in online educational environments. Computers and Education, 70, 150-160.

Kırıkkaya, E. B., & Yıldırım, İ. (2021). Investigating the effect of using Web 2.0 Tools on 7th-grade students’ academic achievements in Science and self-directed learning with technology. Journal of Turkish Science Education, 18(3), 439-460.

Knowles, M. S. (1975). Self-directed learning: A guide for learners and teachers. Association Press.

Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Sage Publications.

Labonte, C., & Smith, V. R. (2022). Learning through technology in middle school classrooms: Students' perceptions of their self-directed and collaborative learning with and without technology. Education and Information Technologies, 27(5), 6317-6332.

Lin, T.-J., Lin, T.-C., Potvin, P., & Tsai, C.-C. (2018). Research trends in science education from 2013 to 2017: A systematic content analysis of publications in selected journals. International Journal of Science Education, 41(3), 367-387.

Lin, X. F., Tang, D., Lin, X., Liang, Z. M., & Tsai, C. C. (2019). An exploration of primary school students’ perceived learning practices and associated self-efficacies regarding mobile-assisted seamless science learning. International Journal of Science Education, 41(18), 2675-2695.

Liu, A., Shapiro, C., Gregg, J., Levis-Fitzgerald, M., Sanders O'Leary, E., & Kennison, R. L. (2022). Scaling up a life sciences college career exploration course to foster STEM confidence and career self-efficacy. Research in Science & Technological Education, 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2022.2083599.

Marra, R. M., Hacker, D. J., & Plumb, C. (2022). Metacognition and the development of self‐directed learning in a problem‐based engineering curriculum. Journal of Engineering Education, 111(1), 137-161.

Melton, J. W., Ali Saiful, J., & Pat Shein, P. (2022). Interdisciplinary STEM program on authentic aerosol science research and students’ systems thinking approach in problem-solving. International Journal of Science Education, 44(9), 1419-1439.

Morris, T. H. (2019). Self-directed learning: A fundamental competence in a rapidly changing world. International Review of Education, 65(4), 633-653.

Newman, E., & Farren, M. (2018). Transforming self-driven learning using action research. Journal of Work-Applied Management, 10(1), 4-18.

Onah, D. F. O., Pang, E. L. L., Sinclair, J. E., & Uhomoibhi, J. (2021). An innovative MOOC platform: the implications of self-directed learning abilities to improve motivation in learning and to support self-regulation. International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 38(3), 283-298.

Page, M. J., McKenzie, J. E., Bossuyt, P. M., Boutron, I., Hoffmann, T. C., Mulrow, C. D., Shamseer, L., Tetzlaff, J. M., Akl, E. A., Brennan, S. E., Chou, R., Glanville, J., Grimshaw, J. M., Hrobjartsson, A., Lalu, M. M., Li, T., Loder, E. W., Mayo-Wilson, E., McDonald, S., . . . Moher, D. (2021). The PRISMA 2020 statement: An updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews. BMJ, 372, n71. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n71.

Palaniappan, K., & Noor, N. M. (2022). Gamification strategy to support self-directed learning in an online learning environment. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 17(3), 104-116.

Pollard, V., Hains-Wesson, R., & Young, K. (2018). Creative teaching in STEM. Teaching in Higher Education, 23(2), 178-193.

Prasetio, H., Rosidin, U., & Suyatna, A. (2019). The impact of android based assessment for learning system toward students self-directed learning ability on thermodynamic matter. Journal of Science Education, 20(2), 16-19.

Rancourt, A. M. (2012). Assessing academic/intellectual skills in Keene State College's integrative studies program. The Journal of Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness, 2(2), 211-262.

Schweder, S., & Raufelder, D. (2019). Positive emotions, learning behavior and teacher support in self‐directed learning during adolescence: Do age and gender matter? Journal of Adolescence, 73(1), 73-84.

Schweder, S., & Raufelder, D. (2022). Adolescents' expectancy-value profiles in school context: The impact of self-directed learning intervals. Journal of Adolescence, 94(4), 569-586.

Scott, P. H., Veitch, N. J., Gadegaard, H., Mughal, M., Norman, G., & Welsh, M. (2018). Enhancing theoretical understanding of a practical biology course using active and self-directed learning strategies. Journal of Biological Education, 52(2), 184-195.

Stemler, S. E. (2015). Content Analysis. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Sukardjo, M., & Salam, M. (2020). Effect of concept attainment models and self-directed learning (SDL) on mathematics learning outcomes. International Journal of Instruction, 13(3), 275-292.

Toh, W., & Kirschner, D. (2020). Self-directed learning in video games, affordances and pedagogical implications for teaching and learning. Computers & Education, 154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2020.103912.

Weber, R. P. (1990). Basic Content Analysis: Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences. Sage Publications, Inc.

Wright, K., & Waxman, H. C. (2022). A multilevel analysis of malleable school and teacher factors contributing to middle grades’ teachers use of effective STEM practices. Educational Studies, 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2021.2023474.

Zainuddin, Z., Haruna, H., Li, X., Zhang, Y., & Chu, S. K. W. (2019). A systematic review of flipped classroom empirical evidence from different fields: What are the gaps and future trends? On the Horizon, 27(2), 72-86.

Zhu, M. N., & Doo, M. Y. (2022). The relationship among motivation, self-monitoring, self-management, and learning strategies of MOOC learners. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 34(2), 321-342.

Ziegler, E., Edelsbrunner, P. A., & Stern, E. (2021). The benefit of combining teacher-direction with contrasted presentation of algebra principles. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 36(1), 187-218.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.26220/rev.4501

View Counter: Abstract | 320 | times, and PDF | 97 | times

Re S M ICT E | ISSN: 1792-3999 (electronic), 1791-261X (print) | Laboratory of Didactics of Sciences, Mathematics and ICT, Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood Education - University of Patras.

Pasithee | Library & Information Center | University of Patras