self-directed learning, middle school, technology, mobile devices


Today’s students are growing up in a digital world with constant connectivity, instant access to information, and new technological developments at every turn. The feasibility, effectiveness, and possibilities of students leveraging technological tools around them for learning are the subject of continual debate (Becker, 2017; Bowen, 2012; Tamim, Bernard, Borokhovski, Abrami, & Schmid, 2011). In this study, 706 middle school students from 18 classes worked in groups of 2-3 to complete an open-ended engineering design challenge. Students completed design portfolios and constructed prototypes in their groups in response to the design challenge. Classes were divided with some receiving access to mobile devices during the study while others did not. In addition to the quantitative data collected, qualitative interviews were conducted with students and teachers. Findings show that student self-directed learning was positively correlated with access to technology, skill in using technology to perform a variety of tasks, and time spent using technology. Conversely, self-directed learning in students was negatively correlated with student social media use and video-game playing.

Original Publication Citation

Bartholomew, S. R. (2017). Middle School Student Habits, Perceptions, and Self-Directed Learning. International Journal of Self-Directed Learning, 14(2), 27–44.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


International Journal of Self-Directed Learning




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor