Read an Excerpt
A Mini Course in Training DesignA Simple Approach to a Not-So-Simple Subject
By William A. Welch Sr.
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 William A. Welch Sr., EdD.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHEORY AND PRACTICES IN ADULT LEARNING
It is important and appropriate to begin our brief journey into the development of learning activities by exploring some of the basic fundamentals of adult learning. It is, after all, the adult population that we are primarily concerned about in this book. Additionally, "for the first time in our society, adults outnumber youths, there are more older adults, the population is better educated than ever before, and there is more cultural and ethnic diversity" (Merriam, Caffarella, & Baumgartner, 2007, p. 7). This change provides many opportunities and challenges. It provides opportunities to serve a vast market and challenges to design and deliver learning experiences to a complex mixture of clients whose needs are equally as diverse as they themselves are.
For decades, whenever the subject of adult learning has surfaced, one name immediately comes to mind: Malcolm Knowles. Synonymous with that name is the term andragogy. There is no single theory that explains all adult learning, although there have been and continues to be considerable effort directed toward that end. Knowles (1984; 1992; 1998) presented his concept of andragogy offering a difference between the learning styles and needs of children and adults. He describes the two approaches, pedagogy and andragogy, which in my view have also been misinterpreted as a dichotomy, an either/or approach to teaching, facilitating learning for children and adults. The word itself comes from the Greek words paid, meaning "child," and agogus, meaning "leader of," literally translated together meaning the art and science of teaching children (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998).
In the pedagogy approach the teacher decides what the learner needs to know and proceeds to develop and deliver the instruction designed to relieve the knowledge or skill deficiency. It is assumed that children have little if any experience that the teacher needs to consider in the teaching process. The assumption that the learner has little relevant knowledge of the subject being taught or any particularly relevant life experience that needs to be considered would create a real dilemma for anyone teaching adults. "To adults, their experience is who they are. In any situation in which adults' experience is ignored or devalued, they perceive this as not rejecting just their experience, but rejecting them as persons" (Knowles et al., p. 58). Horton and Freire (1990) insist that "you can't say you respect people and not respect their experiences" (p. 178).
After a brief review of the foregoing we come easily to the conclusion that there are situations in which adults need a pedagogical approach and children an andragogical approach. It is more about what the learner knows, his or her experience and or training in a given area, that controls the decision as to which approach is more suitable.
The andragogical approach does in fact take into account the experiences of the learner. It makes several assumptions about the learner, among them that they "have a self-concept of being responsible for their own decisions, for their own lives" (Knowles, et al., 1998, p. 65). Knowles offers additionally the following assumptions on which the andragogical model is based:
* Adults need to know why they need to know a particular thing or have a particular skill before they move to learn it.
* They become ready to learn in order to cope with real-life situations. Readiness, Knowles points out, is associated with moving from one developmental stage to another.
* They are life-centered in their orientation to learning in contrast with their youthful counterparts, who are more subject-centered oriented.
* Adults are motivated more by internal pressures, such as job satisfaction, self-esteem, and quality of life, than by external motivators, such as better jobs, promotions, or higher salaries.
It must be said at the outset that Knowles's assumptions have been seriously questioned by many, among them Brookfield (1996), Merriman, Mott, & Lee (1996), Hanson (1996), and Merriam, Cafferella, & Baumgartner (2007). In fact Brookfield questions whether andragogy is a theory at all. Perhaps the last word should be that of Knowles himself when he stated that he "prefers to think of [andragogy] as a model of assumptions about learning or a conceptual framework that serves as a basis for an emergent theory" (Knowles, 1989, p. 112).
One difficulty for some in using the andragogy/pedagogy continuum is where to place a particular adult on the continuum. After all, we know that most adults do not develop in all aspects at the same pace and thus may be quite self-directed about one set of responsibilities and far less self-directed in another. Additionally there are probably wide variations among the self-directedness of all of them. What tools can be utilized to make decisions as to the different levels of knowledge, experience, and motivation the learner brings to the session?
The SLII (Blanchard, Zigarmi & Zigarmi) model, for example, has two extremes and two points in between. The points regarding the development levels of the learner/follower are clearly identified at each level, which helps in deciding the needs of the learner as well as how to facilitate the learning experience. It provides a clear process by which persons may be led from incompetence to competence or from one level of competence to another by having solid cues as to when direction and/ or support is needed and at what levels of intensity. It would be safe to assume that participants come to a learning session at differing levels of competence and motivation to learn and therefore are at different points on the andragogy/pedagogy continuum. The facilitator must then identify where the participants are and deal with them accordingly. The objective would be to assist them toward becoming self-directed human beings.
Adult Educators and Definitions of Adult Education
Included in the writer's concept of adult educator are those who teach adults in educational institutions, religious leaders, facilitators/ trainers, supervisors, managers, or anyone who has as a job or volunteer responsibility for teaching adults. They are included because I believe that understanding basic fundamentals of adult learning is an indispensable part of the competency required for the work they must do. I believe also that it is important that we have a definition of adult education that we can ascribe to. I have accepted the view from Brookfield "as a dialogue among equals, an endeavor in cooperative learning" (1995, p. 208). I accept as well the position of Linderman, who gave the following definition of adult education: "A cooperative venture in nonauthoritarian, informal learning, the chief purpose of which is to discover the meaning of experience; a quest of the mind which digs down to the roots of the preconceptions which formulate our conduct" (Linderman, 1925, p. 3). He further insists that education "begins not with subject matter but with the situations and experiences which mold adult life ... a method whereby the experiences and ideologies of adults are freed from traditional bonds" (p. 33).
Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) provide what they term the main goals of adult learning: 1) to enhance the abilities of adult learners to be self-directed in their learning, 2) to foster transformational learning as central to self-directed learning, and 3) to promote emancipatory learning and social action as an integral part of self-directed learning.
Critical Reflection and Transformation Learning
Brookfield's (1995) position would appear be a precursor to Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner (2007) and to flow directly from and directly support Linderman, whose words were written in the first quarter of the last century of the last millennium. "Teachers have a choice either to work in ways that legitimize and reinforce the status quo or in ways that liberate and transform the possibilities people see in their lives" (Brookfield, 1995, p. 209). Brookfield is one of the preeminent contributors to the adult learning theory of transformation learning and critical reflection, particularly in teaching. Critical reflection is "a critique of the presuppositions on which our beliefs have been built" (Mezirow, 1990, p. 1). Reflection becomes critical when it has two distinctive purposes: first, to understand how considerations of power undergird, frame, and distort the workplace processes and interactions; and second, to question assumptions and practices that seem to make our working lives easier but actually work against our long-term best interest (Mezirow, 1990).
Mezirow (2000) defines learning as "the process of using a prior interpretation to construe a new or revised interpretation of the meaning of one's experience in order to guide future actions" (p. 5). We then have as our charge the responsibility of creating the opportunities for persons to revisit experiences, honestly question their present views, feelings, and assumptions about them, and conclude whether or not they still see them in the same light. So learning becomes a series of reinterpretations of our experiences. Such reinterpretations may well change how we see the world around us. This is what Cranton (1996) terms "the process of emancipatory learning—becoming free from forces that have limited our options, forces that have been taken for granted or as seen beyond our control" (p. 2). Transformative learning occurs when an individual has reflected on assumptions or expectations about what will occur, has found these assumptions to be faulty, and has revised them. They have transformed their way of viewing a particular premise (Cranton, 1996; Mezirow, 1990).
In the workplace, we are constantly attempting to transform how persons not only perform but how they feel about work, processes, coworkers, and so on. Religious leaders have, among others, the tasks of changing how individuals see themselves and their concept of humankind in their relationship to God. The whole issue of diversity, from persons with challenging conditions to people who are racially different, requires us to seek changes in the way some see and behave toward others that are different. We are all involved in some kind of effort directed at some kind of transformation.
Much of how we see the world is greatly influenced by our meaning perspectives, which are primarily "uncritically acquired in childhood through the process of socialization, often in the context of an emotionally charged relationship with parents, teachers, or other mentors" (Mezirow, 1990, p. 3). Adulthood is the time for reassessing the assumptions of our formative years that have resulted in distorted views. We can help persons transform their meaning schemes through helping them reflect upon anomalies. As referenced before, these reinterpretations cover the gamut of our experiences. We learn to the extent that we are able to reflect upon our assumptions and behaviors and make determinations as to their fitness for us at a given moment. How we supervise subordinates, specific initiatives we have taken with them, or reactions we have had to them have all been subjected to our critical review from time to time and have sometimes resulted in our becoming better at supervising/leading people. Becoming skilled at helping others take better advantage of this method will help them learn more powerfully from their experiences throughout life.
On Becoming a Motivational Facilitator
Much is said about motivation in facilitating adult learning. How can I become a more motivating presenter? This question is continually raised. Motivation is an internal drive. I am of the view that while we cannot motivate persons, we may create an environment that is conducive for persons to act on their motivational tensions. We may also help create a realistic expectancy that making the necessary effort to achieve the outcome that they are motivated to seek is in fact a realistic one, thus making it more probable that the effort will be made.
Wlodkowski (1985) offers five critical assumptions for helping adults want to learn. In his first assumption he states that "people are always motivated" (p. 12). When we dismiss persons as not being motivated, he would insist that "it is more accurate to say, 'This learner is not motivated to learn with me'" (p. 12). We then are left with the problem of identifying the why of that condition and finding ways to overcome it. Wlodkowski further offers four of what he terms cornerstones on which he suggests our efforts to become a motivating instructor/teacher/facilitator can rest: expertise, empathy, enthusiasm, and clarity. He offers these as skills to be developed, not as traits or abstractions. He insists that they can be learned as other skills are learned.
We certainly will not find any arguments against anyone being prepared, being thoroughly knowledgeable in their chosen fields. It also follows that it is this perception on the part of the learners of the instructor's competence that encourages them to at least pay attention, which allows the instructor to further engage them toward acting on their motivational tensions. It is important for us to critically evaluate how we demonstrate our expertise. If we have a presentation style that belies our level of knowledge or skill in a given area, we will not be perceived as having any.
Certainly anyone working with adults needs to be understanding of the kinds of dilemmas, feelings, frustrations, issues, and fears many of the adult learners bring with them to the learning environment. How do we construct learning modules and develop presentation plans without this ability? How can we be sensitive to the various undercurrents so common in the learning environment? How do we become alert to the learner's needs? Without understanding their needs, we will not understand their reactions to what we present.
Schwarz (2002) offers a very important distinction regarding the conception of empathy/compassion. He asserts that compassion "is sometimes mistakenly thought of as having pity for others. Pity leads you to help protect others such that in the long run it is not helpful and leaves people less protected" (p. 88). Swartz goes on to say the best help is that which "enables you to have empathy for others and yourself while holding yourself and others accountable for action rather than unilaterally protecting others or yourself" (p. 88).
Wlodkowski (1985) points out that "adult needs and expectations for what they are taught will powerfully influence how they motivationally respond to what they are taught" (p. 23) The more their needs and expectations are met by what and how they learn, the more they will be motivated to learn. Conversely, the more often their needs and expectations are not met, the lesser the chances that they will be motivated to learn. Our group and individual management capabilities will be seriously deficient without strong empathic skills particularly of the type that Schwarz (2002) mentions in the preceding paragraph.
If you have ever heard or seen a truly great speaker or tuned in to one of the more popular evangelists, what comes across immediately is their enthusiasm for whatever they happen to be advocating. What comes through equally as strongly is the tremendous response they receive from their audiences. People are "up," interested, asking for more. Enthusiasm increases believability, signals a sense of commitment on the part of the facilitator, and enhances learner motivation. It causes people to pay attention, to listen. Once they begin to listen, most of the battle is won. Once they begin to feel it so is the war.
Excerpted from A Mini Course in Training Design by William A. Welch Sr. Copyright © 2011 by William A. Welch Sr., EdD.. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.