Research Design and Methodology
The concept of self-directed learning (SDL) is not unexplored, Tough (1967) approached it from the related area of learning projects, and Knowles (1975) associated it with adult learning in a group setting. Self-directed learning has been conceptualized in various ways by Brockett (1985; Brockett & Hiemstra, 1991), Brookfield (1984, 1988), Long (1987, 1989a), and Jarvis (1990). The construct of self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) has been operationalized with the development of the Guglielmino (1977) Self Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS).
The origins of self-directed learning readiness primarily have been associated with micro-environments with various investigators seeking to determine how SDL develops. The importance of school and familial environs have been explored (Cloud, 1992; Eisenman, 1988; Long, Redding & Eisenman, 1992, 1993, 1994; Stubblefield, 1992). Yet, important questions remain to be answered.
Research suggests that the development of SDL may have a macro-social component. Massey (1979) suggests that values formed and locked in as a result of childhood experiences may provide the motivation to be a life-long SDL. Schooler (1990) calls attention to the notion that self-directedness is an adaptive behavior associated with cultures that respond successfully to change. The most successful cultures are those that value individualism, according to Schooler (1990), Jarvis (1986), Candy (1991), and Clark and Wilson (1991) who each associate the concept of self-directedness with individualism and American culture.
Based on an exploratory pilot study of highly self-directed learners (American amateur radio operators), Redding (1991) observed that many of the respondents reported similar experiences that led to a life time of SDL. These experiences appeared to have a common component of being associated with technical or social changes that effect the larger macro-society. Therefore, this study is designed to explore the relationship between the development of individual self-directed learning readiness and events in the larger macro-society, following Massey (1979) by collecting demographic and biographical information from a group of amateur radio operators' questionnaire responses and an associated SDLRS instrument.
This research was based on the following assumptions:
1. Amateur radio operator responses to the questionnaire and SDLRS were candid and truthful.
2. Holding an Amateur Radio Operator's license is evidence of self-directed learning.
3. The SDLRS is a valid and reliable measure of self-directed learning readiness.
4. The macro-social developmental component can be observed and classified.
Limitations that may affect the interpretation of the results are listed below:
1. The results may not be generalizable beyond the study.
2. Macro-social components may mask the impact of the meso and micro-social aspects of self-directed learning development and vice-versa.
A multi-step process was followed to identify whether historical events affect self directed learning readiness. This research used material developed and used in the pilot study (Redding, 1990), and extends that study to address the central research question.
Step 1: A one page demographic questionnaire was used to collect the following information: (a) demographic variables (age, sex, race), (b) educational level in number of years completed, (c) information associated with their amateur radio license (class of license and date awarded), (d) study habits, (e) reason for becoming a ham, (f) level of family support for the hobbies, (g) other family members licensed, (h) location of the station, (I) other hobbies, and (j) occupational information. In addition to the questionnaire each respondent completed a SDLRS-A instrument. Those who scored below the first quartile point and beyond the third quartile point were contacted for a follow-up interview.
Step 2: A quantitative analysis of SDLRS-A was completed to identify individual Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale scores.
Step 3: Twenty respondents each, who scored within the first and fourth quartile were selected for follow-up interviews. An open ended question was used to determine if the respondents selected had a single identifiable experience in their youth which influenced their ultimate entry into the amateur radio hobby.
Step 4: The Federal Communications Commission Amateur Radio Licensee data base was queried to determine the number of amateur radio operators licensed by birth year. From this information a histogram of licensees by birth year was constructed.
Step 5: A comparison of the national amateur radio population by birth year was constructed and compared against a normal distribution to determine if an abnormally high or low number of amateur radio operators entered the hobby from any particular period of time. Birth years producing higher or lower than expected numbers of amateur radio operators were identified.
Step 6: Major conspicuous events in American history that correlate with abnormally high or low numbers of new amateur radio operators by birth year were identified.
Step 7: Responses collected in Step 3 were compared to the data developed in Step 6 to identify correlations and patterns.
Amateur radio operators of the United States were the subjects for this study. The sample was collected from on-the-air contacts, amateur radio clubs, and participants in amateur radio activities. This sampling method, while a sample of opportunity, ensured that all participants in the study were individuals who were active amateur radio operators.
The Guglielmino Self-Directed Learning Readiness Scale (SDLRS), which has been previously validated (Finestone, 1984; Guglielmino, 1977, 1992; McCune & Guglielmino, 1991) was administered to selected subjects. At the time the subjects complete the SDLRS, they also responded to a questionnaire that obtained information about their age, educational level, progress through amateur license structure, study and learning habits, reason for becoming a ham, family support of their hobby activities, amateur radio activities, other hobbies, and careers.
Eleven research questions, as listed below, were addressed:
1. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and being an amateur radio operator?
2. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and sex?
3. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and age?
4. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and educational level?
5. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and class of amateur radio license?
6. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and one's self assessment of whether one prefers to study alone or in a group?
7. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and one's self assessment of whether one is a self-directed learner?
8. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and the number of amateur radio operators in a family?
9. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and number of hobbies ?
10. What kind of an association exists between SDLRS and the occupation?
11. What kind of an association exists between historical events and the development of SDLR?
Descriptive statistical analysis was used to examine the group. Effect size was computed to compare amateur radio operator SDLRS scores with the general population. Correlations were computed to explore the association between SDLRS scores and other variables. Histograms with a normal distribution were prepared to inspect conspicuous periods during which higher or lower than expected numbers of amateur operators were born. The respondents were organized and segmented using the first and fourth quartile. Qualitative analysis was used to gather responses from amateur radio operators in the first and fourth quartile concerning events which may have influenced their participation in Amateur Radio Service. The x2 and regression statistics were used to analyze the scores of individuals within these groups. This permitted the comparison of low score (before the first quartile) and high score (within the fourth quartile) respondents. Low and High score respondents were matched by birth year to conspicuous events that occurred during the periods when they were eight to twelve years of age.
Responses were analyzed by the following statistical procedures: Effect Size, ANOVA, correlation coefficients, mean, median, mode, standard deviation, range, standard error, skewness, and number of valid and missing observations.