An Investigation of Big Five and Narrow Personality Traits in Relation to Learner Self-Direction in Undergraduate Students

Jeral Kirwan


Self-direction in learning is a major topic in the field of adult learning. There has been extensive coverage of thetopic by theorists, researchers, and practitioners. However, there have been few studies which look at learnerself-direction specifically as a personality trait. The present study addresses the relationship between learnerself-direction and other personality traits of college students when the traits represented by the five-factor model ofpersonality (Digman, 1990) are differentiated from narrow personality traits. Archival data were used from anundergraduate sample at a large Southeastern U.S. university (sample size = 1981). Correlation and multipleregression analyses were used in examining the unique individual relationship between Big Five and narrowpersonality traits and learner self-direction. Analysis of the data revealed five significant part correlations betweenspecific traits and learner self-direction. The part correlations for Work Drive (.30), Openness (.19), and Optimism(.12) were significantly higher than all other part correlations. Neither Conscientiousness nor Agreeableness hadsignificant part correlations despite having significant zero-order correlations with learner self-direction.Extraversion did not have a significant zero-order correlation with learner self-direction but the part correlation wassignificant. Results were discussed in terms of the predictive relationship between personality variables and learnerself-direction. Study implications, some limitations, and possible directions for future research were noted.

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Copyright (c) 2014 Jeral Kirwan

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Journal of Curriculum and Teaching ISSN 1927-2677 (Print) ISSN 1927-2685 (Online)  Email:

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