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Self Managed Learning in Action – Review

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Title: Self Managed Learning in Action: Putting SML into Practice
Editors: Ian Cunningham, Ben Bennett and Graham Dawes
Publisher: Gower
288 pages.
ISBN: 0 566 08214 4
Price: £55.


The three editors, all directors of the Centre of Self Managed Learning, have divided up the text into four parts-
- Part I places SML in the context of changes in workplace organisations
- Part II provides Case Studies from a variety of different organisations, nine in all ranging from district councils to health care organisations and includes a chapter on experiences in Finland.
- Part III considers specific aspects of self managed learning programmes, namely the use of learning contracts, groups, and the environment of support which SML needs in order to operate effectively.
- Part IV is a short consideration of the reasons for the lack of take up of SML in a more widespread application.

The most useful part of the book is the substantial reference to case studies, and the transparent style in which these have been written, with authors acknowledging failures of projects as well as successes. There is an extensive list of major companies who have used self managed learning

The authors comment on their relative lack of reference to other work in the field: "References in the text are deliberately biased to our own writings as these show precise links to SML practice , and readers can track back if they want to explore specific issues more widely."

As the second part of the title is "Putting SML into Practice", I would have hoped for a more user friendly approach to developing self managed learning initiatives, simple progression through the process, easy checklists and complete draft contracts. The authors suggest that because contracts will differ, there is no possibility of showing a representative one. Instead, the reader is offered a partial dummy contract, and a list of general headings of the issues which need to be addressed.

Elsewhere in the chapter on Strategic Learning Contracts it is suggested that there are five major questions to be answered when you draw up a learning contract
- Where have you been ?
- Where are you now ?
- Where do you want to get to ?
- How will you get there ?
- How will you know when you’ve arrived ?

The text took me part way along the road of being able to set up self managed learning but would have left me not knowing if I had arrived. It is a useful addition to the library of someone intending to start a self managed learning programme, but could not be used in isolation.


Chris Green
Senior Lecturer in Media Management,Manchester Metropolitan University, [email protected]

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