Archive for the 'Instructional Strategies for Adults' 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 



Distance learning – gathering speed

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 11

My concept of distance learning took a new direction from our class discussion last week. What really struck me was the pressure that appears to be mounting from multiple directions that is leading to an inevitable increase in online learning as significant role in higher ed. I could see that things have been moving in that direction but to hear more vividly of the financial and physical resource limitations of higher ed institutions was a bit of a revelation. A significant part of the reasons for moving towards more online learning are simply economic. There are more people in need, less money, and limited physical classroom space at most institutions.

Online Learning highspeed train [digitally modified], AP Photo/Amtrak

The other key point that came through for me was the question of how reduce the potential isolation that can occur in distance learning. One of the main ways is to create learning communities and, if possible, a learning cohort. I can see this could be very valuable and if the opportunities are provided, technically and in a course design, as well as encouraged by the instructor/teacher, the opportunity to hear different perspectives and dialogue might even be greater than in the classroom. One thing about the classroom, only one voice can realistically be heard at a time. And if someone doesn’t speak up in class, then it’s quite unlikely to ever hear that person’s viewpoint.

Whereas, online, multiple perspectives can be shared through blogs, forums, chats, and probably some other ways that I don’t even know about. I haven’t ever taken a higher ed online course or even a hybrid course. Many of my Adult Learning courses use or encourage the use blogs, wikis for collaborative work and other tools for planning. However, besides commenting on a classmate’s blog, we haven’t used a whole class forum as of yet. That might be too much. We do have the options to read each others’ pages in a wiki or blogs.

Overall, I guess I see the online train coming down the track much clearer now. Before this class, I think I could hear a distant whistle and catch glimpses of it; but this week the train broke through some fog, its rumble and is growing louder, and the sun reflecting from its glittering chassis is shimmering in the narrowing distance…

Am I nimble enough to step aboard and catch this ride? I guess I can learn to ride this train. I suppose it will be different than learning to ride my first bicycle. There will probably be many interactive features to pick up along the way. Perhaps I’ll meet new co-travelers from afar with interesting stories of their journey…

Hands on and Learning in Groups

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 10

Hands on Learning

The team presentations for this week were ‘Hands on Learning’ and our team’s presentation of ‘Effective Learning in Groups’. The hands on learning was interesting to look at from a learning strategy perspective. It seems clear that for certain types of learning, there is no substitute for just doing it. I can learn a certain amount about something without engaging in some direct or active way, but until I actually put it into practice somehow it’s all some kind of theory in the clouds – remaining an abstract concept. However, when I do something practically, I find I have a whole new level of understanding about and some kind of intimacy with the topic.

I’ve never had to use a Heimlich Maneuver on anyone, nor been in a situation where someone needed it. However, actually doing the maneuver and participating and observing others in my group do it, definitely brought up a sense within me that I could do this, if it were needed. It also helped to listen to my group tell about situations where they performed the Heimlich and for one team member they had it done on them when they were a child choking.

One thing I think could have helped to deepen the learning would have been to have a small group and then large group discussion about what we learned after practicing. As it was we practiced the maneuver and had an evaluation of our maneuver and also participated in observing and evaluating others, but then we just stopped.  I think there was some discussion as a whole group, but it seemed more cursory. But, perhaps that’s my bias or interest in meaningful learning which requires building connections with prior learning and reflecting, discussing and integrating new learning…

Effective Learning in Groups

It seemed like our team’s presentation went smoothly. After all the discussion, dialogue, sorting, and planning it mostly went off OK. I noticed that when I presented the slides about the different types of learning in groups, the roles of teachers, and aspects of meaningful learning, the class was mostly quite. I can’t say they weren’t engaged. They did seem quite attentive. However, it was just such a shift from the very engaged civilized ruckus that was occurred when the class shared in groups their prior experiences of learning in groups.

It was also a really good approach that the groups had to come up with one response for the whole group on the 2nd group activity. I know there were differing views on this subject and quite lively discussion took place and through that different perspectives were aired. And although each group picked one response, I’m not sure that this was the result of a changed perspective or viewpoint. I think in some cases it was simply a compromise that one or more members of the group made. However, I can see that the need for the group to pick one response did stimulate intense, genuine discussion as far as I could see. Maybe the new or alternate viewpoints on the subject will percolate for a while and result in a perspective transformation over time…

Concept Maps and Clickers

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 9

The team presentations on concept mapping and clickers or the audience response system were both quite interesting for me. I have used concept mapping or mind mapping in the past and do use it for organizing my thoughts about a project or a paper. I’ve done it by hand writing on a blank sheet of paper and I also have a software program called MindManager (it’s not free, but there are educational and nonprofit rates) that can be used to create mind maps in a graphical form. We also did concept mapping in the Org Learning and Culture class as group. This was done via a software application that we projected.

One of the interesting things for me about the concept map presentation was the idea of including images and drawings as a way to depict a concept. I really liked the video that showed the class working on a concept map on a whiteboard. This seemed to really engage the students and also give many people who may not even usually speak out a chance to participate. Personally, I liked this better than using software to create a class concept map. The software limits the actual input to one contribution at a time and only one person who actually can place a concept. And yet, creating an electronic version of a concept map allows the class to go back to it, revise it, and continue building on it. (This was a valuable experience in my Org Learning and Culture class.)

I also liked the idea of adding images or drawings when creating a map to represent ideas rather than only words. This seems to work more easily when doing a concept map by hand (although I know it can also be done electronically). It can be a help because an image immediately conveys a concept. Using images or drawings would be new for me since the recording of most of my thinking is usually done it words. I do think it would be interesting to explore this approach.

I think that a using a concept map for creating a shared vision and meaning of a relevant topic such as a reading, could really bring about dialogue and discussion. Through this learners share their meaning and also hear other perspectives. It also then gives the chance for the teacher or facilitator to add, correct, or expand on important points. I liked when we worked as a small group in the activity creating our concept map of summer vacation. I know there were things I hadn’t thought of that others in the group did think of and also I think some ideas sparked other ideas.

What most struck me about the clicker or ARS presentation was that I found myself more engaged than I thought I would be by participating using the ARS. I think if the presentation had been just a straight lecture, I would have drifted earlier if there were no other way to actively participate. And this was done without any dialogue or conversation with my neighbor learners or even the presenters! Interesting! I realize that I would have to rethink and really plan for how to use it and also think carefully about the questions, etc. I don’t see myself using this technology in the settings I presently find myself, but I could see it useful in certain situations.

Barriers to a LC environment

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 8

Barriers to a LC environment

It’s clear there are many barriers to implementing a learner-centered learning environment including how much power to give to learners, learner readiness, cultural influences, the pressure to cover content, perceived effectiveness, resources, org support, politics, and simply time. So, where does one start?

I have experience with the perceived effectiveness perspective. ‘What about the content you’re covering?’ There often is a perception that one needs to know: ‘A, B, & C’. And yet, not so often in the real world do situations come up A, B, or C. There often is some variation from a set answer where some analysis, critical thinking, and integrative processes are needed to come up with a possible response or solution.

Divergence anyone?

I recall in my Org Change Strategies class where one thinker suggests that a key skill or ability needed in a turbulent environment is that of divergent thinking. That is being able to consider multiple options and hold opposing viewpoints in mind at the same time. This is really an area of interest for me. Perhaps because I came out of Kolb’s inventory with a divergent preference for learning. I think to promote divergent or creative thinking there the process needs to include critical reflection and critical self-reflection along with a healthy discourse.

Justin Summers in the 1994 photo shoot for Stanton Welch’s Divergence.

Satisfied, happy, or just open learners

One question that has come up frequently in our class discussion is student satisfaction vs student learning. Do learners need to be satisfied and happy to learn? I recall reading of Blake and Mouton’s idea that said something like: ‘we learn when we are emotionally open.’ I think I have seen evidence of this in my own learning as well as in learning events and situations I have facilitated. So, do we need to be happy to be emotionally open? Or satisfied? Maybe a environment where respect and trust is encouraged could better create an opportunity for being emotionally open. To me, emotionally open means curious, interested, engaged, attentive, open to new or alternative perspectives…

Aye Aye And…

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 7

Last year when I was doing a team teach project I had heard of Vella’s four I’s – Inductive, Input, Implementation, Integration – from some of my teammates who had taken Instructional Strategies that year, but I didn’t quite get it. Dr Carter gave us a further intro to Vella with her presentation of the basic concepts and then the practical activity of “preparing a Thanksgiving meal”. The inductive part for me connects with what others refer to as prior knowledge or experience. I find this helps to bring learners into an active and engaged state, if done thoughtfully and well. Then putting it into practice – testing the new ideas out. And then having the learners consider how they will integrate the new knowledge.

Actually, it’s interesting to consider another model for instruction or learning. From my prior connection with my colleague who was actively involved in experiential learning when it came out 20-30 years ago, I have leaned towards the experiential model. I have conducted quite a few learning events with this in mind, but I still don’t think I fully grasped the process.

The experiential approach basically centers around Kolb’s model [concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, & active experimentation] or a variation thereof. It was also fascinating to learn about brain function and adult learning. This the part that was interesting to me was how the neuroscientist, Jim Zull, proposed that the brain learns by “gathering, reflecting, creating, and testing.” This corresponds to Kolb’s model (Taylor, 2006).

Image from:

I can see Vella’s model is somewhat different from the experiential model. Some of the elements seem are the same although named differently and in a different sequence. I’m not sure which I prefer. I think I’ll have to explore more of Vella’s approach. I think by seeing different models, it helps me to develop an overall sense of some key elements or factors involved in learning. One key factor is to consider how learners make meaning and give them the opportunity and situations that allow the meaning making process to connect with their prior knowledge and experience, bring in new knowledge, put it into action, and reflect on the whole process (in one order or another).

Tell me, I will forget
Show me, I may remember
Involve me, and I will understand

This above saying really rings true for me. It’s a great summation of adult learning principles!

Taylor, K. (2006). Brain Function and Adult Learning: Implications for Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education,110, p.71-85. DOI: 10.1002/ace.221

Assessment Again

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 6

It was great to listen to summaries and have discussion about the different articles class members found. I was again struck by how assessment was a key topic. I think one thing that struck me in this session was to consider assessment as an extension of learning – something to help the teacher help the learner. I think I have such an ingrained view that assessment is about grading – pass/fail and all the various pressures to succeed. Through such a lens, learning itself seems to be pushed into the background. However, to consider ways to assess where learners are so that a teacher may address the gaps is important. I think there are clearly many informal ways of assessing and I have used some of them, but again for me, the point here is to become more conscious about it.

Blogs to assess reflective practice, e-portfolios to have a view of perhaps different aspects/perspectives of learning… The idea that blogs can help build communities of practice which are known to deepen learning (hey, this isn’t assessment is it? but it is about learning…!!)

The article by Shavelson and Huang on assessment in higher ed mention some key things for me – we often get what we test for, consider assessing personal, social, and civic abilities as well as cognitive  – wouldn’t that be a change!

Frequent, human, efficient, valid, reliable and consistent, and an extension of learning… more points to consider about assessment. I’ve never created a rubric. I think this could be a good exercise to gain some perspective in assessing.

I think a whole course could be devoted to assessment. I still feel I am without a full grasp, but I do have many new things to consider the next time I need to plan an assessment strategy. bookmarks