Coming from a more traditional schooling background, these past 8 weeks of learning about teaching the adult learner have really opened my eyes. I had several misconceptions coming into the course that have been greeted with research and theory to prove me wrong. I’ve chosen the three most important misconceptions to cover in this presentation along with an understanding of the knowledge that spurred my light bulb or ah-ha moments.
The biggest misconceptions I had fall into three categories: the individual, the group, and the teaching style. I was under the impression that the adult learners were like anyone else. I thought that they as a group were no different from traditional learners. I also believed that because there were no special characteristics to consider, there was no need to alter teaching methods.
My first misconception was about the individual. I had considered all adult learners to be the same. In fact, I had considered all learners to be the same.
When teaching adult learners, educators should help students’ recognize their worldviews (Cox, 2010). When students look introspectively, they begin to understand the events that help to shape their future learning. The theory that ties in most closely with this concept is experiential learning. Experiential learning helps students take the learning and realize its practicality (Goddu, 2012.) While making sure that students learn the material, experiential learning helps students gain valuable skills that will apply to their lives in contexts outside of school. An experiential focus in adult learning is a great way for students in different stages of development, from many diverse backgrounds to gain the knowledge most important to them individually while learning in a group setting. Students learn to value the experiences because those are what help to shape their knowledge. By practicing experiential learning, educators often can encourage self-esteem in their students because the students get what they need from their learning (Goddu, 2012). As an admissions counselor, I am able to use an experiential approach almost daily when working with adult students. By recognizing prior learning experiences and helping the students realize how much they know already, I can tailor the admissions process to meet their individual needs. Though all students go through the same general process, the focus shifts to what interests the student most and what information I can provide to best prepare them for future success. By personalizing the enrollment process, adult students learn to take comfort in the support systems we offer and begin to understand the available resources.
The second of my early misconceptions was that adult learners experienced the same learning environment and shared similar issues as younger learners.
Adults worry largely about time, money, and other obligations, which often rank higher than learning (Merriam et al, 2007). As a group, adult learners need to work hard to prioritize and multitask. To overcome these challenges, adult learners have a crucial need for motivation. Without it, their chances of learning are slim. Whether learning began because of a personal desire or a mandated requirement, adult learners need to master self-directed learning. Self-directed learning encourages learners to take control of what, when, why, and how they’re learning in a self-initiated and natural way (Lohman, 2000). With the motivation necessary to learn on their own, and the belief that they are learning what they choose to learn, adult learners can improve their chances of gaining and retaining the material. When self-directed, students become more likely gain intrinsic motivation to continue pressing onward with their studies (Blaschke, 2012). While even the highest level of motivation is not always enough to retain an adult student, motivation is certainly a protective factor. The learning becomes relevant and often of greater personal value to the student (Valle, Cabanach, Rodriguez, Nuñez, González-Pienda, Solano, & Rosário, 2011). Since motivation plays such a large roll in the learning process, it is important that motivation is recognized early on. In the admissions process, I work with students to uncover what their motivations are for beginning the learning process. Often, their education is something that has always been important to them. In this case, their search for knowledge is self-directed. I help them realize the self-directed learning thus far and work to ensure that their motivations and self-regulation will help them succeed in their learning endeavor. Though not always true, the self-directed and intrinsically motivated learners often finish the learning they were driven to start.
Prior to the light-bulb moments mentioned on the previous slides, I had no reason to believe that adults learned any differently than traditional students. Therefore, it would be unnecessary to change the teaching style.
I have since learned that adults come to learning with a wealth of experiences to share. It is now clear to me why adults learn best in a self-directed, yet interactive way. The focus of adult learning should shift to student engagement from simply their submission to memorizing material. Research shows that adult learners best function in a learning environment based on principles of andragogy instead of pedagogy (Sang, 2010). Andragogy is a series of principles that can guide the methods of teaching adult learners. It plays to the strengths and special needs of adult students by allowing them to take control of their learning, often in a self-directed manner, and ensure that the learning is applicable to the other contexts that the learner participates in (Sang, 2010.) When educators teach using the principles of andragogy, it allows adult learners to put their developmental level and prior experiences to use while personalizing their learning experience in the direction largely of their choice. Students work with teachers as a team and contribute to the learning of the group. Practices that empower students are able to better prepare them for immediate application and improvements outside of the classroom. Andragogy typically garners engagement, as students feel more connected with their learning, and they leave with more, useful knowledge. A great example of andragogy at work in college admissions happens when students are choosing their major and degree plan. Students have choices based on what they feel may get them where they would like to be. While counselors serve as mentors, the decision-making is ultimately left up to the student, empowering them to make future important decisions as well. Once the student enters class, a great way to maintain the feeling of andragogy is for professors to allow for some freedom in assignment topics and discussion. As long as professors are available to facilitate, learners feel more engaged when the details are individualized and relevant to their outside lives.
Adult learners are different. They have unique needs as individuals and a group of learners. Because of these differences, adult learners need a different kind of teaching support to help them gain the knowledge they seek. Experiential learning, self-direction and andragogy are all concepts that tie in closely to successful adult learning. With a greater understanding of these concepts and more importantly of my students, I feel that I will better be able to counsel adult learners and guide them into a successful adult learning experience.
Final presentation - adult learning
Adult LearningMisconceptions and Light-Bulb Moments Michelle Ruppert EDU 643
IntroductionO Individual O All learners vs. Unique adult learnerO Group O Same as traditional vs. Special ChallengesO Teaching Method O Pedagogy vs. Andragogy
o n epti oncMisc A learner = A learner My thoughts were: O All learners are the same O All learners can input information the same way O No consideration about how experiences or worldview may impact learning
TR UTH Worldview Matters O Adults bring experiences to their learning O All adults have different experiencesO EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING O Helps learners use their experiences O Learn skills along with knowledgeO Example O Recognize students’ prior college experiences O Understanding these helps the admissions process run smoother
on nc eptiM isco Adults are regular students My thoughts were: O Adults and more traditional learners are the same O There are no special considerations that need to be made when working with adult students
TR UTH Adults face challengesO Adults students struggle with: O Time & Money O Prioritizing O MotivationO One solution may be SELF-DIRECTED LEARNING O Students strengthen their intrinsic motivation O Focus on their needs and relevant material O Learning becomes personal and applicableO Example O Help students realize their motivation
on nc epti isco Teaching MethodM My thoughts were: O Adult learners benefit from the same teaching strategies as traditional students O There are no changes necessary to better serve adult learners
TRUT H AndragogyO Teaching should be adapted to embrace the experiences and self-direction of adult learnersO Educators should shift into a mentor position to help adults find the knowledge they needO ANDRAGOGY O Helps ensure learning is personalized O Allows learners to take controlO Example O Empower decision making in applicants O Facilitate instead of directing the admissions process
ConclusionO Unique individualsO Group facing specific challenges and in need of motivation to succeedO Require an altered teaching style to meet these needs With understanding comes improvement
ReferencesO Blaschke, L. M. (2012). Heutagogy and Lifelong Learning: A Review of Heutagogical Practice and Self-Determined Learning. [Article]. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 13(1), 56-71.O Cox, T. (2010). Back to the Future: How Adults use the Experience of Yesterday to Create Tomorrow. [Article]. International Journal of Learning, 17(6), 63-69.O Goddu, K. (2012). Meeting the CHALLENGE: Teaching Strategies for Adult Learners. [Article]. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 48(4), 169-173. doi: 10.1080/00228958.2012.734004O Lohman, M. (2000). Environmental inhibitors to informal learning on the workplace: A case study of public school teachers. Adult Education Quarterly, 50(2), 83.O Merriam, S, Caffarella, R., & Baumgartner, L. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.O Sang, C. (2010). Applications of Andragogy in Multi-Disciplined Teaching and Learning. [Article]. MPAEA Journal of Adult Education, 39(2), 25-35.O Valle, A., Cabanach, R., Rodríguez, S., Nuñez, J., González-Pienda, J., Solano, P., & Rosário, P. (2011). A Motivational Perspective on the Self-Regulated Learning in Higher Education. [Article]. Journal of Education Research, 5(3/4), 307-333.