Archive for the 'Adult Learning – the Journey' Category

Reflection, Dialog, and Supportive Environment Key to Adult and Organizational Learning

A digital story reflecting on my experience of the VCU MEd Adult Learning Program 




I enjoyed the story of Rita’s journey in her search for meaning. It’s interesting to consider what is involved in the transformational process. Clearly, there was something that was driving Rita from within. A wish, dream, hope, or maybe a vision of something different – perhaps something unseen, just over the horizon.  This dream or hope pushed her out into unknown waters where she sometimes floundered. However, through her experience, perseverance, reflection and perhaps intuition, insight, and latent talent her perspective shifted, in a gradual manner. I also felt that her tutor also was a guiding force and was sensitive about how much power and influence he exerted in his teacher-student relationship with Rita.

One question that came up in class that has struck me was something like, “could it be necessary that we hurt someone in order for them to learn.” This seems to be such a delicate point. It’s clear that there may be things that I do as a person or in the role of a teacher, facilitator (?) that another may feel challenged by, but I think it’s important to understand what my intentions are. If my intentions are to simply cause hurt or pain as some sort of retribution or reaction, then I would have to question whatever those actions are. However, if through my actions another may have to confront some issues that are challenging them or both of us, and my intention and attitude is helpful and respectful, then I would consider this process more closely.

And, by the way, you could call this my theory-in-use (?), but in my actual practice I’m certain I wouldn’t be able to stick to these ideals at all times. However, having a goal, direction, or foundational principles can be helpful in those split second moments when I’m aware that I have a choice of what to do next and am searching for some kind of reference points to guide me. So, it’s helpful we can think through some of this stuff before hand. When the issues come up, then I guess it’s around the experiential learning cycle or spiral I go, how many times before i really do it differently, I don’t know…!

Learning in construction

Last weekend I had the chance to conduct a workshop for a nonprofit group. It was a three day event for a small group new in a volunteer leadership role within the organization. They all started in their new roles last spring and the training program wasn’t able to happen until now due to schedules, summer, etc. I’m now actually glad that it didn’t take place earlier when they were all totally brand new in their jobs. Since they’ve been working with their new roles for 5-6 months, they brought some experience into the weekend which I found extremely valuable. It also seemed to me that everything was much more relevant for them as they could, for the most part, see how it immediately applies to there different duties.

I found it the workshop interesting for me as It was an opportunity to put some of the learning theories we’ve been studying into practice. From my perspective, it seemed that many of the assumptions of Andragogy applied, actually all of them, as far as I could see. The group was interested, involved to a large degree and self-directed to an extent for some topics, although for some things they really wanted expert advice. I could also see a mix in the degree the different learners were dependent or moving towards self-directedness. This even seemed to vary for different learning topics.

There was an interesting exchange that took place near the beginning of the workshop. After one or two activities that were intended to help the learners connect to each other and share their purpose for attending, one of the participants asked when we were going to get ‘into the material.’ He said he was concerned about the limited time and he wanted to be sure to cover the material. He thought the activities were nice but didn’t see their relevance. I had the sense he had attended many lectures as a part of his learning and this was how he expected to learn in this context.

So, I suggested that I could just put up slide after slide for 3 days, but I was afraid that although the group would see the content, they might not digest it and connect it with their work. It might just go through one ear and out the other. I suggested to him that my approach was one where the group would connect with the material through, relate it to their own experiences, and maybe in this way have a deeper learning, at least with some of the key concepts.

At the end of the workshop, the same person seemed quite happy with the approaches of connecting his  own experiences and prior knowledge with the topic at hand. He even seemed like he was going to take back some of the exercises that we did and do them with groups he was working with.

Although i was a bit anxious in the early part of the workshop because I was experimenting a bit with some new approaches and flying a bit by the seat of my pants…, I felt happy at the end because it seemed like the participants gained a deeper insight into their roles and it seemed that they appreciated the methods as they felt engaged with the material. I would say that much of my approach was constructivist in nature, although there were definitely times when the group wanted direction, but this seemed to be their choice at that time. I also could see that when they constructed their own knowledge, it seemed to have a deeper impact on them.

How much any of this will stay with them is another matter that only time will tell… I too had some learning being constructed throughout the weekend… and time will tell how much that sinks in too!

Win-Win and attitude

Win – Win ??

I was struck last week how quickly the team debate went towards one side trying to convince the other that their side side was in the ‘right’. I guess that’s what a debate is. It seemed to begin to become more competitive and, for me, I noticed my openness to learning started to shift. As long as we were exploring each others ideas, I found myself more open. But when I found myself moving towards convincing the other one with the purpose of winning the argument, I noticed that I started to become less open to what the other team was actually saying. It makes me think of how this could be done so there is a win-win attitude, where their is a genuine curiosity in each others interests.

Dependency and Self-Directedness

A bell went off when we were going over Tough’s chart of the learner moving from dependency to self-directness and the teacher moving from the authority to guide to facilitator and then delegator. When we talked about the teacher meeting the learner wherever they were, that clicked. I guess I have a bit of a resistance to the approach of the teacher being the authority and “pouring knowledge into the head” of the learner. I have felt that this doesn’t respect the potential for the learner to learn for themselves. Maybe because I’ve found that people who aren’t connected to the subject don’t seem to have such deep learning. I’ve seen the rote learning go in one ear and out the other.

Maybe more significant for me is the attitude of the teacher/facilitator, no matter the method. If the attitude is one of prizing, accepting and trusting, then even a role as more of an expert of authority on a subject may be effective for the learner, if that’s where they are. But then what about someone who doesn’t want to learn at all – who is just there because they have to be… That’s another subject… How to catch their interest, strike their curiosity to learn…??

So, here is that curiosity word again… how to cultivate that fine grape?

this is a test, i just wanted to try and insert an image into the blog and see if it works. I’m not sure how relevant the image is…


Regarding the question of gender, what I find interesting is that the feminine qualities that might have been ignored in the past by most of studies and theorists, often considered to be a weakness or lower value, have now a chance to get some airtime. I’m thinking mostly of care, connection, relationship, empathy, etc. And there are viewpoints that recognize more of these qualities can impact in a positive way the business world which has so often been framed through the masculine perspective.

I can’t help but think that if relationship and care were more of a priority, whether there would such a mess with the banking/credit world. Surely, there are many factors that have contributed the present situation. But I wonder if there were an attitude of genuine interest and care prevailing in the marketplace there may have been more mutual understanding that the ice was a bit too thin for all.

Not to say to swing the pendulum totally away from reason, but rather to find some balance. It seems things are out of balance and we are more disconnected. Perhaps connected aspects of women’s ways of knowing will find more respect and place in the consciousness at large. To me it seems like this is not an issue of male/female in the physical sense, because you can find female bodies with less of the caring and relationship attitude as well as male bodies with more of it. It might be more of harmonizing the masculine and feminine energies that each of us have within us.

hmmm…. that sounds like quite a task. where do we start? dialogue? meditation?

Finding a voice

I’ve been thinking about the idea of ‘finding a voice’ as a part of learning. It’s mentioned a few places in our readings and also has been mentioned in class and I must say it’s taken a bit to get a sense of what this means. I can see how the voice has various stages or ways of being as we can find in Women’s Ways of Knowing. However, I’ve been trying to see how this can fit in other contexts of learning.

This week I had an opportunity to have another perspective. I substituted for 2 days in a 6th grade English class and part of the assignments were for the class to journal. One set of classes had clear instructions, but another didn’t and they said their teacher hadn’t covered this yet. I tried to get some more direction how to handle this, but nothing was available. So, I winged it! They were reading the Greek story of Ulysses (quite adventurous, you could say, among other things) and so I just asked them to write about something that happened over the summer – something interesting or adventurous.

A couple of the kids were a little stuck and couldn’t think of anything. One said she got lost in the woods while playing with her brother, so I suggested she reflect on how that happened and how she felt when she thought she was lost and then how she felt when she found her brother, etc… Another said he went to see his grandparents in New York and while there, he went to a Yankees game. So, I suggested he write about what it was like for him to go to the Yankees game.

As the classes went along with their journaling and I occasionally checked on them, I began to get a deeper sense of the concept of finding a voice. What a great way for each child to begin to reflect on something that was significant to them! Perhaps they’ll see it in a different light. Perhaps they’ll find a deeper meaning in something that they experienced. Surely, each one will respond differently to the process.

I know it’s a process to become more clear and authentic about what’s going on within our own selves. Know Thyself, so it is! I got a nice charge off considering that such an activity could start them on their way to knowing themselves.

Does learning transfer

I found the article about situated learning facinating. It connects for me that we often learn something related to social settings a tools involved. It’s interesting that with the copier technician story that the people in charge of training weren’t able to see the value of the technician’s experience and integrate that into some kind of knowledge base or resource. Of course, perhaps that’s happened by now.

I’ve seen the situation where there is a manual and guidelines to follow, but then many many situations/scenarios don’t fit in any of the prescriptions or scenarios in the manual. So, often there is another way to try and resolve the problem/situation, etc and this is rarely documented or may not even be encouraged. Yet, the people do find some way to go forward to the best of their ability and with their best judgment (which may include suggestions from friends, colleagues, etc.).

I also found interesting the other case studies – the milk cases and math in the grocery store. There seems to be the idea that learning doesn’t transfer and some evidence given. I find it interesting that the way they tested if learning transfered was to compare the math they learned in situ on the job to a sit down written math test. To me that doesn’t necessarily test if learning transfers. I would like to see a test where there was a different scenario, or different tools, to see if with different tools and a different situation (that was clearly not connected to their original learning situation) there might be some transfer. Maybe such learning is tacit rather than being congitive and in another scenario, with different tools, it might come out.

Such scenarios seem to fit well with the idea of action learning/action research, or what little I know of it anyway. As I understand it action learning/research is set up so that you bring together people who have issues, experiences, etc and the group facilitates deepening the knowledge or perhaps even helping to resolve some of the issues at hand.

It will be interesting to look at my ‘espoused theory’ and my ‘theory-in-use’. bookmarks