Calls for educational reform emphasize the need for student-centered learning approaches that foster lifelong learning. To be a lifelong learner includes characteristics consistent with those of self-directed learners, such as being curious, motivated, reflective, analytical, persistent, flexible, and independent. Instructor support of students’ self-directed learning (SDL) development relies on understanding and balancing these factors in the classroom. Engineering educators play a critical role in influencing outcomes related to SDL through their design of courses that support students’ transitions from controlled to autonomous learning behaviors. This study will examine a variety of engineering courses and pedagogical approaches. Each will be characterized using instructor course information, recorded observations of instructorstudent and student-student interactions, student and instructor responses to surveys, and focus groups. Finally, the students’ capacity for SDL will be measured using the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire. This approach should provide for rich, contextualized descriptions of what instructors and learners do, how instructors and students relate to each other, and how students view their classrooms. This work-in-progress paper will describe our initial work in this multiyear study.


Mechanical Engineering

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