|dc.description.abstract||The objective of this study was to provide an exploratory account of the nature of self-directed learning (SDL) of farming couples. This study investigated some key components of SDL activities, the sharing of SDL between cohabiting partners and the influence of social networks. Allen Tough's 'learning project' criteria were used to identify SDL activities. Adaptations to Tough's method included the use of multiple interviews, interviewing partners together and no pre-coded categories for the analysis. The study utilised the snowball technique to generate a sample of 12 couples from a rural community located in the North Canterbury province of the South Island of New Zealand.
The SDL activities in this study differed in nature to that proposed by Tough and had similarities to previous qualitative studies. Self-directed learning was often a reaction to external circumstances of social and physical environments and was governed by the availability of time and resources. Rather than pre-planning their activities, most partners instinctively engaged in opportunistic informal consultations when socialising, evaluated their activities by reference to changes in their external environment, and often experienced unanticipated insights during or upon completing their activities.
This study also examined the social dimensions of SDL. The SDL activities of cohabiting men and women differed. Each gender focused on different tasks within the relationship as a result of their different backgrounds, cohabiting roles and social networks. This observation led to the term 'learning domain' which accounted for the ownership of SDL activities. The transfer of, and sharing of, ownership of SDL activities between partners appeared to encourage personal insights about each other which helped to maintain the cohabiting relationship. Furthermore, when using social networks, partners had preferences for particular types of learning assistants to assist in implementing and evaluating SDL activities, and these preferences appeared to be associated with gaining and maintaining local acceptance in the community.||en