If you have taken my ED 632 class you will probably remember Ben Zander and his talk about How to Give an A.
You notice in Zander’s talk that he has students writing a letter stating why they will be deserving of an ‘A’. They put into place a contract, so to speak. And while grading (and I say grading and not assessing) does seem to take on a decreasing emphasis in andragogy, there are aspects of contractual agreements that may concern or interest you — such as how do we set up a structure or contract to ensure some sort of organized learning plan.
Each of you have been working on your own individual project chosen because of its relevance to you. Consider using this particular experience to consider the following idea: How would you develop your interest into a learning environment for adult learners? I know that some of you have already been doing this, but if you haven’t, it might be worth taking your particular interest and consider how you would turn this into something that other adult learners would engage in.
How would you set this up? Would you develop a structured curriculum? If so, how would you remain respectful of the adult learners’ needs? Would you be assessing your adult learners? Would you act as facilitator, mentor, teacher? Would you develop some sort of contract with your students?
The idea of contract is what we will explore today. I know that some of you are already interacting with other adults in a variety of learning environments and trying to develop ways of organizing and articulating shared expectations already, but this might add to what you are already doing.
For this week’s summary section I leave you with two chapters that many of you will find particularly useful. The first discusses guidelines for the use of learning contracts. The second chapter has some useful information on planning guides. Both chapters will be found in the following document. Both are from Knowles’ book.
I have also picked out four articles that speak to learning contracts or planning is some way. I chose these because I know they are related to some of your specific project interests. I didn’t include these in a theme category because of the connection to the this week’s summary section of learning contracts and planning. However, these are here purely for your interest. Do not feel as though there is any expectation that you read them. I hope they might be of some assistance to your endeavors.
While many have noted the benefits of interaction and social exchange in online courses, the integration of tools associated with self-directed adult learning philosophies have been relatively ignored. . . What content framework is conducive for developing social, self-directed learning processes in an online course? An action plan was established and continually revised during three consecutive semesters in a master’s level course.
This article argues that whilst there have been substantial advancements in the ways in which
learning is conceptualized, theoretical understandings of assessment, and practices that
contribute to meaningful statements of learners’ achievements, have not mirrored these
changes in certain learning contexts. The authors challenge contemporary methods of
educational assessment, particularly for marginalized groups of learners, specifically young
people and adults in informal, vocational and professional learning. They critique the
assessment and formal accreditation opportunities available to these groups of learners, and
emphasize a need for more authentic, learner-friendly methods to encourage their engagement
Significant differences exist between the nondiscrimination, valuing difference, and managing diversity approaches (Gardenswartz and Rowe, 1998). Questions about whether the course should focus on traditional dimensions of diversity or address a multitude of individual differences, about whether the course should educate students about the contributions diverse groups have made to society or should get them to engage in social action, and about whether the course should inform students of demographic trends and current laws or about strategies for achieving enhanced “organizational efficiency and effectiveness…from the interaction of individuals who vary in their degree of heterogeneity” (Wise and Tschirhart, 2000, 387) can make the task of teaching a course on diversity seem overwhelming. It is in this context that I advocate for the use of learning contracts as an instructional strategy for teaching courses on about diversity.
When adult educators use learning covenants with their students, they should understand that the very term implies a spiritual dimension, because the emphasis is on the relationship rather than on the content of the agreement. Part of the difficulty that adult educators encounter today when using learning covenants with their students is misconceptions about the covenant concept and its meaning. Students often confuse the word covenant with the word contract, which has legal overtones that students often find frightening. In contrast, the covenant approach focuses on the spiritual connection, thereby minimizing the sense of a legal commitment. As we understand them today, covenants have come to our society through a complicated process of change and adaptation.
In a face-to-face classroom, the instructor can easily diagnose students’ motivational status by observing their facial expressions and postures, but such cues are absent in an online classroom. Therefore, online instructors often estimate students’ motivational level based on their online behavior such as the number of messages they post, and look for effective strategies to help them actively participate in online dialogues. One such strategy is contract learning which facilitates self-directed behaviors through structuring an agreed learning process. This study reports a contract learning strategy in a graduate-level online class, examining whether a sample of 28 students’ motivation could indeed be predicted by their online behavior.
Themes and Project Section
Pedagogy / Andragogy / Technology
I have put together five themes for this week. Please keep in mind that all themes are optional and that you may have found a previous theme that is taking up your time. I have, though, been trying to find information that relates to student interests, so perhaps there is something here that is relevant to your own personal pursuit.
Two of the earlier themes I addressed had to do with andragogical methods incorporated into traditionally pedagogical environments as well as the way new technologies are shifting traditional teaching practices in schools. The first article: Pedagogy Redifined: Frameworks of Learning Approaches Prevalent in the Current Digital Information Age, weave pedagogical and technological issues together with andragogical practices. The second: A Compendium of Material on the Pedagogy-Andragogy Issue is another comparison of youngster/adult learning.
The Hidden Brain: Frictionless Learning
I mentioned to a few of you that I came across something that I found interesting that might interest you as well. It is the idea of how habit plays into our actions. The term in the podcast that I found particularly interesting is the use of “frictionless.” This is the idea that if we can create environments with the least amount of friction, disruption, or required effort, people are more likely to take advantage of the environment. That has long been the case when introducing technological innovations to teachers for example. I have heard many times what great changes a new technology will have when teachers adopt some technology hardware of software. However, it is often easy to predict that the implementation won’t be successful because it means more work rather than less. If something has a lot of friction to it, who would adopt it? I think there is something here worth thinking about when we consider adult learning. If we are creating a program to teach adults, especially for busy adults, we have to try to make things easier than harder. Habit and friction might be something we should be keeping in mind.
The following link will take you to the Hidden Brain Podcast page where you can also read the transcript.
Here are two articles from one of the interviewees.
Virtual Reality and Virtual Learning
I wanted to include this theme to encourage you to start thinking about how newer virtual reality (VR) technologies might impact the way that we think of teaching adults. There are plenty of documentaries, most of the connections to adult learning you will have to make yourself. But now with the frameworks you have, it will be easy to pick out specific ideas that would help, or hinder, the adult learner.
I hope there was something in today’s class that you found of interest and of value.
Until next time, have a great week!