Learning in adulthood


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Learning in adulthood

  1. 1. The Learning Process: A Comparison and Contrast of the Learning and Development Models Discussed in Learning in Adulthood, Chapters 11 and 12 Dr. Heather McDaniel Strayer University Online Campus EDU 500, Section 3 Spring Quarter 2006 Dennis McGeehan May 28, 2006
  2. 2. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu Developmental and learning models can be usefully compared and contrasted for comprehension. Behaviorist, cognitive, humanist, social learning and constructivist comprise the learning models. Development models discussed are Knowles’ andragogy, Cross’ CAL model, McCluskey’s theory of margin, Knox’ proficiency theory and Jarvis’ learning process. The models, with expected refinements, address John Dewey’s expectation that “...the primary and chief effect of a better psychology would be found in education”. (Dewey, p.197) Behaviorist and humanist models have external environmental influences on the adult learner as a common factor rather than the internal environmental focus of the cognitive and constructivist models. Social learning serves as a bridge between these distinct learning environments with its accommodation for both internal and external influences. The cognitive approach, for example, leads to “…goal directed approaches and methods of thought that help students to build bridges between what they already know or have experienced and what they are trying to learn” (McKeachie and Svinicki, p.308). Internal focus is defined as an emphasis on the self versus an external focus, which accommodates interaction of the self with others in a learning model. In both models, the actions of the individual learner control the outcomes. Behaviorism, like humanism, emphasizes the effect of learning on the individual that leads to outcomes beneficial to the larger society. Learning is initiated by the individual
  3. 3. 2. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu in Thorndike were behaviors have expected outcomes termed laws. Thorndike’s stimulus-response theory, as expressed by laws, has come to be known as connectionism. In Thorndike’s law of effect, learners attain satisfaction through the ability to gain and retain desired responses. His law of exercise emphasized the need for repetition to achieve significant learning and the law of readiness explains learning will occur when the learner desires it and not before. Conditions lead to knowledge when the individual actively wants to learn and conforms to the vigor and enthusiasm necessary to learn. The outcome of compliance to Thorndike’s laws assures external rewards. Skinner also considers learning initiated by the individual properly responding to operant learning conditions through repetition of desired behavior only. Reinforcement is gained through a process of rewards to encourage repetition of the desired behavior. Knowledge gained by individuals through education will then collectively assure the safety and prosperity of civilization. Humanism follows a similar path of externality with learning first offering the opportunity for individual growth, which then benefits the overall human condition. This external loop is then complete as the individual learner contributes to the benefit of a society in control of its destiny comprised of participants motivated to learn for continuous self-improvement and group progress. The outcome is a learning society with traits recognizable to Lindeman‘s description of intelligence as “….the ability to learn, the capacity to solve problems to utilize knowledge in evolving, continuing accommodations to changing environments“(Lindeman, p. 17). Proponents of the 3
  4. 4. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu humanist model include Abraham Maslow for his contribution with the Hierarchy of Needs and Carl Rogers with his client centered approach to self-development. The assumption made by both the behaviorists and humanists is that the individual wants to learn from the external world and will share the knowledge gained with society. Constructivist and cognitive models differ from behaviorist and humanist in their emphasis on internalization. Applying the scientific process metaphorically, the constructivist and cognitive models gather data externally, likely experientially as addressed by Kant and Dewey, and then analyze it for personal sense making and application. In contrast to the behavioral and humanistic approaches, the adult learner takes an activist role in organizing this data in the pursuit of knowledge. Practitioners of the constructivist approach include Phillips, Kuhn, Kant, Piaget, Dewey, and von Langerfeld. From previous studies I have been introduced to the significant contribution of Anthropologic research to constructivism. The gestalt (totality) based cognitive model shares this approach with constructivism in that the acquisition of knowledge entails internal processes toward its realization. A common euphemism expressed for this realization is the aha or eureka moment as experienced by the learner. Adherents to this model include Ausubel who explores how learning happens opportunistically through synergistic applications of concepts within the learner’s cognitive structure, Gagne, Briggs and Wager who explore their eight types of knowledge as process based, and 4.
  5. 5. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu Piaget who finds learning as maturationally and experientially based. Piaget has also been recognized as a constructivist. The social learning model serves as a bridge between the internalization offered by the constructivist and cognitive models and externalization experienced in the behaviorist and humanist models. This model itself comprises elements of the behaviorist and cognitive approaches. Social learning involves the interaction of the learner with others. Miller and Dollard, early proponents of social learning, expressed the need for learning theory. Bandura expresses the net effect of social learning as self-efficacy that is the learner’s ability to personally assess learning based on competency demonstrated in the larger external environment. Rotter, another social learning proponent, weaves elements of internal and external influences in his theory. Like Rotter, the social learning model has the influence of internal and external environmental factors. Situational control is not expressed as internally or externally based, rather a locus of control involving both environments exists. While these five models offer contrast in environmental influences and control, there are also some similarities. In each model we find the impetus to learn comes from the learner. There is the basis that the learner has the ability to learn and that society offers valued knowledge to be learned. A relative continuum can be expressed for each learning model 5.
  6. 6. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu so that learning also continues to perpetuity. Each model also offers a motivational basis for why we should research adult learning and the learning process. Like the learning models, developmental models offer similarities and differences. Developmental models addressed are Knowles’ andragogy, Cross’ CAL Model, McCuskey’s Theory of Margin, Knox’ Proficiency Theory and Jarvis’ Learning Process. The developmental models are pragmatic in nature and presented from the learner or researcher’s perspective. Paradoxically, Knowles’s andragogy has been considered a learning theory as well as a developmental model. If considered a learning theory, Andragogy shares the characteristic internality of the constructivism and cognitive models; however, this discussion will, as Knowles commentary suggests, treat andragogy as a developmental model rather than a learning theory which is “…situation specific and not unique to adults.” (Merriam and Caffarella, p.275). Developmental models can be distinguished by an individual or societal orientation. Most developmental models, CAL Theory, Theory of Margin and Proficiency Theory, have an external societal focus to adult learning concerned with the measurement of adult program or participant factors. CAL embraces the readiness and self-concept traits of andragogy. Like Hertzberg’s Two Factor Theory, there are two classes of variability, 6.
  7. 7. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu personal and situational. Personal characteristics are a continuum physiological/aging, psychological/developmental and sociocultural/life phases. Situational characteristics include variables unique to each adult learners such as part-time versus full-time matriculation in a program. Cross’ CAL model is structured in a manner that synergies can be identified across or among its characteristics. McCuskey’s theory addresses the life balance of energy needed for the primary obligations of life and work with the personal energy available in order to identify and apply the residual or remaining energy to engage in personal activities such as learning. In his Theory of Margin, the margin can be increased by making changes to the load and/or power factors for learning opportunities. Opportunistically co-operative learning opportunities can also be introduced if incorporated to the adult’s work/life schedule. The Knox Proficiency Theory, like the Margin Theory, addresses conditions of adulthood. Elements of the Proficiency Theory are external with interactivity between the general environment and the individual. The Proficiency Theory is performance based, and therefore can engage in defacto learning assessments only. Information gained from the assessments can be applied to make programmatic changes. Models with this external focus serve as tools for educational management whereby participant needs and program performance can be planned, organized, implemented and assessed. The models are eminently useful for this purpose. 7.
  8. 8. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu Developmental models with an internal or individual focus are andragogy and Learning Process with attention to the needs and accomplishments of the adult learner. In andragogy, intellectual growth stems from the maturity gained experientially. The adult learner’s needs are best served by contextual immediacy, that is studies leading to knowledge that can be applied now to solve problems. As work illustrates, childhood is a time of dependency where problems may or may not be identified; regardless problems are resolved parentally. Dependency affords the leisure of acquiring theoretical knowledge for application to later experience. Adults do not have the luxury of mere problem identification. Problems must be both identified and properly resolved. Adult motivation to learn is driven by the desire to usefully apply experiential data and gain knowledge. Like Andragogy, Jarvis’ Learning Process has an internal or individual focus. Experience gained from external events can be applied in different ways by the receiver; however, the individual adult learner as receiver of the experience may or may not learn. There are nine ways experience can be applied. Three ways, presumption, no consideration and rejection yield no learning. Three other ways, termed nonreflective learning, are preconscious (unconscious internalization), practice and memorization. Non reflective learning is passive in nature and does not lead to the higher thinking of the final three which are contemplation, reflective practice and experimental learning and termed reflective learning. Reflective learning requires active, energized participation by the adult learner and yields the most beneficial results. The Jarvis’ model is unique among 8.
  9. 9. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu the developmental models discussed for its concern with learning. Like Andragogy, the Learning Process recognizes the interplay of its internal focus with greater society. While the various models have similarities and differences, we should expect the study of learning is an evolving field with these models as contributors in our search for paradigms. Bibliography Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems (1927). Reprinted 1991. Athens. Ohio University Press. Lindeman, Eduard C. The Meaning of Adult Education (1926) Reprinted 1989. New York. Harvest House Ltd. Merriam, Sharan B. and Caffarella, Rosemary S.(1999). Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. Second Edition. San Francisco. Jossey-Bass McKeachie, Wilbert J. and Svinicki, Marilla (2006). Teaching Tips. Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company. 9.
  10. 10. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu Literature Review Cornu, Alison Le (2005). Building on Jarvis: Towards a holistic model of the processes of experimental learning. The primary intent of this literature search was with the thoughtful application of the models discussed. Cornu’s commentary contributes to that search with her quest for a holistic model. She commends Jarvis’ for his reflective nature and compliments his exploration of interrelationships; however, she suggests Jarvis’ should offer more internalization in his process. Cornu suggests the model should have a more layered approach in its time orientation. In its current construction, time is represented as a series of unrelated asynchronous events in contrast to her recommended holistic approach. Cornu offers the work of Marton and Booth as a counterpoint to Jarvis’s position on time‘s value. She recommends a revised model of the learning process which reconsiders the factor of time and allows for reflection throughout the process. Fidishun, Dolores Dr. unpublished. Andragogy and Technology: Integrating Adult Learning As We Teach with Technology This study seeks the application of andragogical principles to the use of technology in 10.
  11. 11. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu higher education. The author’s opinion is that institutions should address curriculum design as they also implement the technology. Learning theory needs to be applied to the technology as it is introduced to the learning experience rather than afterward. Dr. Fidishun believes the andragogy model can satisfy the adult learners various needs to apply technology to the learning experience. Learners’ needs as pertinent to technology are the need to know, self-concept, and experience as well as readiness, orientation and motivation to learn. Technology does offer an excellent platform for the adult learner. Through their work experiences, adult students understand the functionality of technology and this basis allows them to engage in self-directed learning of the course content and the technology. Technology in the classroom offers an opportunity for reflective learning for adult students whose experience with the technology may be limited to workplace functions. Furthermore the virtually limitless resources of a web based search offer opportunities for the adult learner to explore the topic assigned. Student readiness to learn encourages the use of technology to identify realistic course scenarios and assignments. The real time basis of the technology permits faster feedback to the learning experience. Technology application can also satisfy the adult student’s motivation to learn as the student’s opportunities for course input, self-discovery, feedback and improved student output. 11.
  12. 12. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu The key elements to this research are the synchronization of the learning experience to the technology and benefits offered by technology to the adult learner. The writer offers a very practical recommendation to assure course content is coordinated with the use of available technology in a manner consistent with the tenets of andragogy. Loertscher, David (2006). Constructivist Learning Design: Key Questions to Teaching to Standards. Loertscher’s constructivist piece complements Dr. Fidishun’s preceding recommendations for the application of technology. Classroom and research facilities offer opportunities for sense making and application and extend the learning experience for adults. The author is dismayed the connection is rarely made since responsibility rarely extends beyond the instructor. Loertscher recommends instructors peruse Understanding by Design, Expanded (2nd edition) for designing learning experiences with the library. Gagnon and Collay in Information Power developed a model for enriched learning experiences that involves creating a situation; dividing the class in working groups; soliciting input from the students on what they expect and want to learn; creating the learning activity; assist the students in developing a learning product; and review the learning experience with its participants. 12
  13. 13. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu Skinner, B.F. (1950). Are Theories of Learning Necessary? Psychological Review, 57, p.193-216. This seminal work by Skinner offered insight. First published in 1950, Skinner identifies three types of learning theory based on physiological changes, mental processes, and the response gained by what he terms the conceptual nervous system. Skinner suggests there is much more research needed about learning. Skinner discusses the nature of operant responses which may be evoked even in the absence of stimulus. Prior to learning, probability prevails. With learning there is a non predictive change in the response pattern. He applies his findings to his research with pigeons which he chose for their greater longevity than rats. From his study, he learns what learning is not reinforced is quickly unlearned by the birds. He expresses an impatience with research with his comment that progress toward understanding learning may be more rapid if it did not test theories, a belief counter to Mr. Kuhn in his constructivist work. Fortunately Dr. Skinner’s illustrious career spanned sufficient time for him to understand the value of theory. Wang, Min-fen ME and Lori L. Bakken, MS PhD. (2004). An Academic Writing Needs Assessment of English-as-a-Second-Language Clinical Investigators 13.
  14. 14. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu This research is patterned to the Knox’ Proficiency Theory in its needs assessment of English as a Second Language students, tutors and instructors at the University of Wisconsin - Madison Department of Medicine and Continuing Education and Vocational Program. A qualitative evaluation was applied to interview the thirteen participants in this study. ESL students were found to have limited experience in writing instruction since their arrival in the US. These students’ research efforts will be severely hampered unless they receive adequate instruction in writing and research methods. Students share the responsibility as they site limited opportunities to take courses to assist them. This response is somewhat duplicitous as there are courses available through the University of Wisconsin and the reason they are not taken is more likely the cost than their availability. Writing problems identified were both structural and mechanical. An expectation that tutoring can accomplish similar results to the serious study of writing is overly optimistic and certainly unrealistic. Mentors and writing instructors available to assist the ESL students cannot meet the students’ expectation of intervention that will teach them grammar, writing and structural skills without fundamental knowledge of writing skills. ESL students will need adequate time and financial resources to become accomplished writers. Needs assessments are recommended by the authors for the ESL students as well as implementation of a writing across the curriculum program. Recommendations offered include a continuous needs assessment to assist tutors and writing instructors, familiarization with the requirements 14.
  15. 15. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu for scholarly research in the US, and the institution of writing groups so that students can assist in the remedial effort. The article offers a practical application of Knox’ theory to a subject of common concern. References Cornu, Alison Le (2005). Building on Jarvis: Towards a holistic model of the processes of experimental learning. Studies in the Education of Adults, 02660830, Autumn 2005, Vol.37, Issue 2. Retrieved May 26, 2006 from the Academic Search Premier Database. Fidishun, Dolores Dr. unpublished. Andragogy and Technology: Integrating Adult Learning As We Teach with Technology. Retrieved May 26, 2006 from the EBSCO Host and Academic Premier research databases. Loertscher, David (2006). Constructivist Learning Design: Key Questions to Teaching to Standards. Teacher Librarian 14811782, Vol. 33, Issue 4, pp. 43-44. April 2006. Retrieved May 25, 2006 from the EBSCO Host database. Skinner, B.F. (1950). Are Theories of Learning Necessary? Psychological Review, 57, p.193-216. Found in Classics in the History of Psychology, an internet resource developed by Christopher D. Green, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 15.
  16. 16. Dennis McGeehan djm@strayer.edu Retrieved May 25, 2006 from the EBSCO Host research database. Wang, Min-fen ME and Lori L. Bakken, MS PhD. (2004). An Academic Writing Needs Assessment of English-as-a-Second-Language Clinical Investigators. The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions, Vol. 24, pp. 181-189. Retrieved May 25, 2006 from the EBSCO Host research database. 16.