Preface This handbook has been developed to provide new instructors with an overview of adult education and an introduction to strategies, processes, and methods for providing effective instruction. This handbook is not designed to be comprehensive – rather, it is designed to be an initial orientation and a basis for further discussion and exploration.
Completion of the investigative activities within this handbook will give new instructors the opportunity to learn and reflect about relevant instructional issues that they may be facing in the classroom. Additional support, training, and technical assistance will be provided through the local adult education program.
No one can be the best at everything But when all of us combine our talent We can be the best at virtually anything! --Don Ward
Acknowledgements Credit and gratitude go to the: Indiana State Adult Education Program
West Virginia State Adult Education Program for their willingness to share excerpts from their teacher handbooks and materials for this publication.
A Comparison of Assumptions and Processes of Pedagogy Versus 39
A. Investigative Assignment Activity Sheet 40
B. Educational Functioning Levels 43
C. Self Assessment 51
D. Learning Styles Inventory 53
E. Learning Needs Screening Instrument 56
F. Adult Learning Plan 61
G. Considerations for Setting NRS Goals 63
Introduction Welcome! This informative handbook is designed to introduce you to the field of adult education and your role as a valued instructor. As you read through this handbook, you will play the role of an investigative reporter, completing important assignments that will allow you to better understand the policies and procedures in your local program.
The investigative assignments, indicated by this graphic, are located throughout the handbook. In addition, an activity sheet containing a complete listing of the assignments is located in Appendix A. You will want to write your responses on this activity sheet.
While this handbook will provide an overview of critical information to help you get started as an adult education instructor, it is not intended to give you all of the skills and knowledge you will need in your new role. Your local program will provide follow-up support and training to get you fully acquainted with local policies and procedures specific to your community.
Adult education has changed drastically since the first Moonlight School was established in 1911. Men who were going off to war wanted to learn to read and write so they could send letters back home. It was called a “moonlight school” because classes were held on nights when the moon cast enough light for students to see the footpaths and wagon trails that they often followed for miles to reach the school.
With the passage of the Manpower Act of the 1960’s, funding was provided to train unemployed adults and make them marketable. This is what opened the door for the adult education programs we know today. So let’s begin our investigation to find out more about the field of adult education and the adult learners whom we serve.
The Adult Learner There are several aspects of adult learning that set it apart from traditional K-12 education that warrant discussion. Malcolm Knowles, considered a pioneer in the field of adult education, popularized the term “androgogical” (learner centered) as it made sense to have a term that would enable discussion of the growing body of knowledge about adult learners parallel with the “pedagogical” (instructor centered) methods of childhood learning.
A Adults are highly pragmatic learners and need to see the practicality of what they learn and be able to apply that learning to their own lives. Wonacott, 2001 ccording to the American Council on Education (2003), each year more than 860,000 adults take the General Educational Development (GED) Test worldwide, and adult education has become an established field of practice and study. Defining the adult learner provides some challenges because a “one-size fits all” definition is not only unavailable but also impractical as the term is culturally and historically relevant (Wlodowski, 1999). Ambiguity exists in our society as to when an individual is officially an adult. According to Malcolm Knowles (1989), one criterion to determine adulthood is the extent to which an individual perceives himself or herself to be essentially responsible for his or her own behavior. At that point, individuals develop a deep psychological need for others to perceive them as being capable for taking responsibility for themselves. They resent and resist situations in which they feel others are imposing their will on them (Knowles, 1999).
Adults are highly pragmatic learners and need to see the practicality of what they learn and be able to apply that learning to their own lives (Wonacott, 2001). More specifically, adult education students often need to understand the reason for acquiring knowledge and skills they see as academic as they attempt to assess themselves and their own skills realistically. Steven Lieb (1991) lends further support to these findings as he states four principles of adult learning:
• Adults are autonomous and self-directed.
• Adults have a foundation of life experiences.
• Adults are relevancy-oriented.
• Adults are practical.
The National Center for Research in Vocational Education at Ohio State University offers further
descriptors. Their findings indicate that not only are adults more often intrinsically motivated, their readiness to learn is linked to needs related to their roles as workers, parents, and community members. Additionally, they found that adults learn best when they see the outcome of the learning process as valuable (Cave & LaMaster, 1998).
There is consensus among researchers about the role of intrinsic motivation in adult learning. One study found that while adults are responsive to some extrinsic motivators (such as better jobs or salary increases), the more potent motivators are intrinsic motivators (increased self-confidence, self-efficacy, job satisfaction) (Knowles, 1989). Adult learners’ intrinsic goals for success motivate them to engage in certain activities and move them in particular directions toward the attainment of those goals. In yet another study, researchers identified a similar set of concerns and concluded that among the most important factors that motivate adult literacy learners are the quest for self-esteem, competency, and the enhancement of general knowledge (Demetrion, 1997).
There exists some incompatibility between theories of adult learning and expectations of students who return to the classroom as adults. Adult education researchers have noted that attitudes toward learning in formal institutions may be formed early in development, and there may very well be some direct connection between these early years and non-participation (in formal education) in adult years (Quigley, 1992).
It should come as no surprise that adult students, as products of an educational system that has
traditionally placed responsibility for the learning process on the instructor, who do venture back into the classroom are initially likely to expect to be passive recipients of knowledge. Since research has shown that this is not the most effective environment for adult learning, students will need to adopt different methods (Wlodkowski, 1999). Moving from a dependent student role towards a role as an independent and engaged learner is the adult student’s first step in taking responsibility for his or her education (Howell, 2001). It follows, then, that the teaching of adults should be approached as different from teaching children and adolescents (Imel, 1989). Most of the literature on adult education seems to agree.
There are several important aspects of learner-oriented education that merit note. First of all, effective approaches to helping adults learn include contributions from the student and their involvement in what is being taught and how it is being taught (Howell, 2001). Knowles suggests establishing a classroom climate to help adult students to feel accepted, respected, and supported so that “a spirit of mutuality between the instructor and student as joint enquirers can take place.”
There are several approaches through which instructors can facilitate learner-centered classrooms:
• Create a physical and social climate of respect.
• Encourage collaborative modes of learning.
• Include and build on the student’s experiences in the learning process.
• Foster critically reflective thinking.
• Include learning, which involves examination of issues and concerns, transforms content into problem situations, and necessitates analysis and development of solutions.