Image adapted from UCBHCA: Training of Facilitators Manual for the Functional Adult Literacy Training Manual
Throughout my studies on digital education leadership, and specifically what it means to be an effective instructional coach and to design great professional development, I have continually been reminded that many of the teaching and learning practices used with K-12 students are effective with adults learners as well. In fact, this point has been the resolution to most of my inquiries over my graduate program studies. So, over these last few weeks I have been both delighted and intrigued to get to look at what sets adult learners apart from adolescent learners.
What Makes Adult Learners Unique?
I touched on adult learning in my last blog post, but to recap, the most prolific commentary on adult learning, also known as andragogy, comes from the adult educator Malcolm Knowles. Knowles narrowed his theory of andragogy down to six major principles (Knowles, 2015). He claims that adult learners…
Are motivated and self directed.
Bring life experience and knowledge.
Are goal oriented
Are relevancy oriented.
Like to be respected.
The Australian Catholic University does a great job of summarizing each of these principles, but I was left wondering how this differs from students. To address this inquiry, I found another great resource, from the Nebraska Department of Labor’s professional development site. Below, I include a screenshot of an interactive infographic that details what sets adult learners apart from children.
I found the first point especially interesting–that children base what is important in their learning on what they are told to study. If a teacher says the material is important, students will often believe them. Contrarily, adults want to know the value of what the are learning and specifically how it will be valuable to their teaching. I highly recommend all interested parties check out this resource!
Adult Learning Principles in Professional Development
In studying about adult learners I quickly realized that there are so many great resources already available it would be superfluous to make my own. Instead, I choose to search for a model for professional development that is designed with the adult learning principles in mind. I didn’t have to go far, as my own school district is currently preparing for a Learning Improvement Day (LID) that takes these principles into consideration. In fact, the following slides are from the recent facilitator training.
How does the LID consider adult learning principles?
- Adult Learners are goal oriented: our LID revolves around the Lake 8, which are the eight instructional components of student learning. Each professional development session is aligned with one of these standards. The infographic below details the Lake 8 standards.
- Adult learners are relevancy oriented: the LID consists of several sessions and participants get to choose which ones to attend. The sessions are grouped by grade level (elementary or secondary) and, while some are subject specific, many apply to various subjects.
- Adult learners are practical: the goal of the LID is to leave teachers with instructional tools or resources they could implement in their classrooms the next day. The goal is to keep each session quick and provide time to work. The LID site also includes links to presentation materials and suggestions for future PD for those who want to extend their learning.
It is unfair and inaccurate to judge just how effectively my district’s LID day accounts for all of Knowles principles until during and after the session. The follow three principles cannot be determined yet and should therefore be the priorities of the facilitators when designing and implementing their specific professional development session.
- Adult learners are motivated and self directed.
- Adult learners bring life experience and knowledge.
- Like to be respected.
- My goal for this blog post was to be reflective rather than to judge or evaluate. However, I am curious to know if and how my district intends to assess how effectively the learning from the LID is implemented into instruction.
- I keep reading that effective professional development is ongoing. How could the LID be extended?
ACU (Australian Catholic University). (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://www.acu.edu.au/staff/our_university/faculties/faculty_of_health_sciences/professional_practice_resources_for_supervisors/interprofessional_resource_library/Facilitating_Learning/knowles_principles
CAV: January 13, 2017. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from https://sites.google.com/lkstevens.wednet.edu/learningstrategiespd
Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) – Training Manual: Unit Two: Facilitating Adult Learning: 2.1 Characteristics of Adult Learners and Qualities of a Good Instructor. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://collections.infocollections.org/ukedu/en/d/Jh0414e/5.1.html
LSSD Professional Learning Portal. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://lifeinthetechlab.com/LSSD/plp/
Professional Development: Key Differences. (n.d.). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from http://nelearn.myelearning.org/mod/page/view.php?id=423