At the 33rd International Self-Directed Learning Symposium in 2019, attendees requested that the ISSDL (through its board) develop a definition of SDL thereby helping scholars to differentiate what is and is not SDL-related practice, research, and theory. Thus, Naomi Boyer and Kelly McCarthy led a session titled Defining SDL: The Process at the 2020 symposium.
Fueled by presymposium input in response to a September 11, 2019, blog request and survey, Naomi and Kelly challenged attendees to work in groups and offer definitions consistent with this input with iterative feedback, discussion, revisions, and voting that transpired over 3 days. At the end of this process, two definitions received a preponderance of the votes—one was created by attendees whereas the other was the 1975 definition by Malcolm Knowles—that were then considered at the symposium’s board meeting. Taking part in this spirited board discussion was Naomi Boyer, Ralph Brockett, Lucy Guglielmino, Roger Hiemstra, Lila Holt, Kelly McCarthy, Elsa Mentz, Shelley Payne, and Michael Ponton.
The board decided to revise the attendee version slightly and voted to adopt the following as the ISSDL 2020 definition:
Self-directed learning is an intentional learning process that is created and evaluated by the learner.
The board then voted to place both its 2020 definition as well as the 1975 Knowles’ definition on its website thereby offering all visitors a better sense of SDL.