A new concept of unsupervised learning: directed self-guided learning in the health professions

Acad Med. 2010 Oct;85(10 Suppl):S49-55. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ed4c96.


Background: Among the advantages in using educational technologies in health professions education is the opportunity for trainees to learn on their own time. This flexibility in learning opportunities, however, comes with possible dangers associated with unsupervised learning, such as the potential for developing bad habits and misunderstandings, and for overestimating one's preparedness for practice.

Method: This nonsystematic review reflects on the literatures that speak to the advantages of self-guided learning, explores the metacognition literature to understand what trainees do spontaneously when self-guiding their learning, and reexamines the advantages of supervised learning.

Results: Those literatures are combined in an effort to reorient our questions when considering the concept of self-guided learning.

Conclusions: The authors propose that future research should ask questions that focus on our understanding of trainees' natural propensities while learning in the unsupervised context and on exploring conditions that will maximize the educational benefit of self-guided learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Educational Technology
  • Female
  • Health Occupations / education*
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Professional Competence*
  • Self-Assessment*