CHAPTER ONE (1)
A MEANS OF ENHANCING ADULT POTENTIAL
WHY AN INDIVIDUALIZING STRATEGY FOR ADULT LEARNERS?
Joe Daniels, 43 years of age, had been working on the production line in the local tool and die factory for 25 years. There had been rumors for the past few years that many of the production workers would be replaced by robotic machines to be installed any day. Joe and his friend Barney were talking about these looming changes at the local watering hole one day after work. Barney said, "If we don't do something soon about these robots and computers taking over everything, we will be out of a job!"
Later that evening, Joe was talking to his wife Helen about these changes. Their conversation eventually focussed on what Joe could do to improve his job skills. Helen mentioned the nearby community college that she thought had worker retraining programs. Joe decided to check out what was possible.
The next day as soon as his shift ended at 3 pm, he drove out to the college and tried to discover what was possible. Eventually he found the career counseling center and described his situation to the receptionist. He then found himself in conversation with a vocational education specialist and was encouraged to enroll in an introductory course on computer science scheduled to begin the next week.
When Joe entered the classroom the following Tuesday afternoon he was a little late because he had encountered some difficulties finding parking. The teacher gave him a mild tongue lashing for not being on time. Then when he looked around he discovered that he was one of the oldest people there and his graying temples were clear evidence.
The instructor continued his discussion of the course requirements and the importance of keeping up with all the reading assignments. He then noted that each person should look at the person in the chair to the right and then to the left. He exclaimed, "the chances are very high that at least one of the people you looked at will fail this course -- and remember, two people looked at you, too."
The instructor then began two hours of continuous lecturing about the textbook he had authored and how important it was for each learner to memorize the contents. When Joe raised his hand to ask a question about a word he did not understand, the instructor said, "why is it that the grey haired ones in my class always are the first ones to not understand something?"
Joe began to wonder if he had made a mistake in going back to school.
WHY AN INDIVIDUALIZING STRATEGY FOR ADULT LEARNERS?
The explosion of writings, research, and program development related to adults like Joe and the many other adult learners has been phenomenal during the past decade. Many organizations have discovered that people like Joe are potential clients for education or training, even though some teachers like the one described above may not have a good understanding of adults as learners. Evans (1985) has dubbed this recognition of adult learning potential as part of what he calls the post education society. This recognition affects institutions of higher learning, business and industry, private entrepreneurs, and society, itself, in various ways. In this book we look at this impact in terms of instructional needs and requirements.
Various North American authors have written about adult learners. For example, Apps (1981) talks about adults like Joe returning to college campuses. Cross (1981) synthesizes knowledge about adults as learners. Daloz (1987) talks about teaching and mentoring. Smith (1982) offers suggestions for helping adults learn. Authors from other parts of the world, such as Griffin (1983) and Jarvis (1985), have also focussed attention on adults as learners.
1. The actual process of instruction that accompanies reaching interested adults has received inadequate attention in the literature.
Certainly considerable attention has been given to the andragogical process, an instructional approach popularized during the past 20 years. Knowles (1980; Knowles and Associates, 1984) has been the primary initiator in North America of literature and discussion related to andragogy. He even refers to it as a system of concepts related to instruction (1984, p. 8). Savicevic (1981) provides a useful review of andragogy as it is employed in several European countries.
A parallel area of interest has been the growing body of knowledge about self-direction in learning. Stemming primarily from Tough's (1979) seminal work on adults' learning projects, various researchers have demonstrated that mature learners frequently prefer to be in charge of their own learning with only minimal direction from an instructor, trainer, or some other resource. Both these areas of study have prompted a changing role for the instructor from that of content giver to learning manager, facilitator, and resource locator. It is this changing role and our belief in a need to individualize instruction whenever possible that we address in this book.
2. Linking the instructional process with learner inputs, involvement, and decision making is crucial.
The potential of humans as learners is maximized when there is a deliberate effort by instructors to provide opportunities for participants to make decisions regarding the learning process. The instructional process we describe in this book builds on the notion of individual decision-making, the need for instructors to help learners become more self-directed, and the respect we have for adults because they do have much untapped potential.
This approach involves learners in determining personal needs and building appropriate learning situations to meet those needs. It does so without imposing too many external controls or instructor-directed biases. Sometimes learner needs and subsequent goals are known early or can be determined quickly. Other times, such needs and goals may be preset by an employer, stem from a specific content area requirement such a college credit course, or arise because of some personal situation. There also are instances when the learner needs some time or some type of process before specific learning needs and goals surface.
In Chapter Three we briefly describe a process we use for individualizing instruction in such a way that learner inputs, involvement, and decision-making are facilitated. This process includes six steps: (a) preplanning activities prior to meeting learners, (b) creating a positive learning environment, (c) developing instructional plans, (d) identifying appropriate learning activities, (e) implementing and monitoring the instructional plan, and (f) evaluating individual learner outcomes.
3. The individualizing process is based on the belief that all people are capable of self-directed involvement in, personal commitment to, and responsibility for learning. This includes making choices regarding instructional approaches, educational resources, and evaluation techniques.
You may find the experience of adapting all or some portions of the individualizing process to be a wrenching one. It may mean giving up some of your beliefs about instructor or trainer roles. Personality and institutional constraints may need examination and change. It may require some tough examination of what you remember of your former teacher role models. Frequently, many of our role models were traditional instructors who used an approach quite contrary to an individualizing process. Thus, time may be required before you feel comfortable with some of the changes. If your experience is similar to what ours was like, it most certainly will mean a reexamination of your own philosophy about instruction. It may even necessitate some real soul searching on whether or not some of our underlying assumptions about people can be accepted.
We also need to note that some learners, perhaps those more timid, those who prefer prescribed learning, or those with little educational experience will have considerable initial difficulty in a setting where individualization is stressed. However, we have found that most such learners eventually thrive within the process. Our intent, therefore, is to share the process and help you build confidence and power to use it.
The increasing number of adults involved each year in training or educational endeavors is a phenomenon that truly is worldwide. Although there are similarities in types of learning activities, there also are some unique differences across countries or cultural boundaries. For example, developing countries frequently use education for adults to improve literacy, to upgrade occupational competencies, and to develop communities in various ways. Some societies use adult learning for political indoctrination in addition to nation-wide literacy or development program. The Western world often uses adult education and training for the above, but also promotes personal satisfaction, personal improvement, coping skills, and civic responsibility through adult learning.
4. Various societal forces have stimulated the need for educational change.
Although many social changes taking place today affect people throughout the world, within the U.S., to be more specific, at least four forces have stimulated increased interest by adults in learning. The first of these is the ever-increasing rapidity of social change, constancy of technological advance, and expanding awareness of global conditions. As a result, there is a continuous need for new skills and renewed knowledge. A related need is the continuing struggle to maintain high levels of literacy. Kozol (1985) has helped to focus attention on this problem. This situation has resulted in large numbers enrolling in Adult Basic Education, Laubach Literacy International or Literacy Volunteers of America programs, and high school completion courses.
A second major force is the continuous movement toward job obsolescence experienced by many adults. The educational response has been interest in mid-career counseling, re-training for displaced workers, and complete career shifts often through extensive back-to-school commitments.
The third force focusing some societal attention on adult learners is an undeniable fact that the American population is a steadily aging one. Increased longevity, a slowing birth rate, and the huge numbers born after World War II who have now reached their middle years or retirement are factors creating a population aging faster than ever before in our history. This provides a potentially large pool of older adults interested in learning opportunities.
A fourth force is the evolving changes in life styles permeating the American society. Single-parent families, both spouses of two-parent families working, experiments with new family arrangements, and efforts to enhance individual development are some of the resultant changes. Self-study, participation in a variety of conferences or workshops, increasing private adult education opportunities, and involvement in encounter-type groups have been some educational responses.
5. Societal changes have affected a variety of organizations charged with delivering educational services to adults.
Various organizations and institutions have begun to experience their own change because of increasing demands by adult learners. There is every reason to expect that such impact and change will continue for some time and actually cause evolution of new learning forms. We believe that an individualizing process potentially can assist instructors and trainers as they attempt to respond to such changing situations.
BELIEFS ASSOCIATED WITH INDIVIDUALIZING INSTRUCTION
This section could be titled our philosophy of and theory about adult instruction and learning. Some of our beliefs are based on research findings while others have been derived from observations based on personal experiences. Still others represent some assumptions and values implicit in the particular approaches used by an instructor in working with learners. Such beliefs and assumptions have evolved over time and will, no doubt, continue to change in the future. You may wish to match your own beliefs with those to follow to determine what changes might be required as you experiment with elements of the individualizing approach.
Essentialism to Eclecticism
A useful starting point in discussing personal beliefs about instructional processes is to describe some dominant philosophies of education in the United States. Essentialism, for example, has been a pervasive force in American education for much of the country's history. The goal of such philosophy has been the transmission of cultural essentials in shaping the knowledge and values of the individual. In the process of learning the emphasis has been on content mastery with instructors primarily serving as transmitters of knowledge. Essentialists believe that schools make up one of our society's most important institutions and the mission of schools is to preserve what now exists by reaching individuals in their formative years.
Progressive scholars like John Dewey (1938, 1956) in this century had a considerable impact on educational philosophy. He believed that education was a continuous process of reconstructing experiences and that learners were capable of greater and active roles in the learning process. He also felt an instructor's role is to guide the process of learning and that the school is a social institution, which should reflect and alter culture.
There have been various interpretations of Dewey's and other educational philosophers' thoughts. For example, American educators of young people in the past 25 years have ebbed and flowed between "open schools" and "back to the basics." Adult educators, too, have derived a variety of programs based on essentialism beliefs such as Americanization efforts, adult vocational training, and Adult Basic Education.
Liberalism is another philosophical approach that has had tremendous impact on education in the Western world (Elias & Merriam, 1980). Based historically on classical Greek philosophical origins, liberal education traditions became foundations for early Christian approaches to education and a predominant force in early American schooling efforts. There also have been similar approaches developed or used in several other countries. This emphasis in developing each individual's intellectual powers with liberal exposure to classical thinkers was a basis for many of the early adult education efforts in the United States, such as the "Great Books" movement. Thus, the stage was set for considerable debate between the essentialists and those who believed in liberal education for adults.
Many current adult educators thus are faced with establishing personal philosophies based on varying influences. For example, it is difficult to transmit very many essential cultural values to an executive in a one-day training course or to a 40-year-old person in an Adult Basic Education class. Such a person usually approaches education with fairly immediate and basic needs. It also is not very realistic to expect a refugee from a war-torn developing country newly arrived in the United States to study classical thought until many other more basic needs are met.
There actually are many current differences among educators of adults regarding beliefs related to the adult as learner. Some feel that the role of such education is to develop adults into mature individuals who will contribute to society in positive ways. Other educators believe that the aim is to liberate or free the individual mind. Some believe that the education of adults implies keeping abreast of some institutional, occupational, or technological change. There also are many educators who fall somewhere in between these various beliefs or who have been affected by behavioral, humanistic, or radical beliefs. In addition, people like Cropley (1980), Gross (1977), Hiemstra (1976a), and McClusky (1974) have prompted a belief that learning must be lifelong in nature. Elias and Merriam (1980) provide a useful description of the various belief systems.
Consequently, many instructors or trainers of adults have become eclectic in their philosophical bases by choosing those aspects of various doctrines, philosophies, and approaches that fit a situation or individual teacher's needs. One of us has described elsewhere how a person can use an eclectic approach to translate personal values and philosophical beliefs into a strategy for instructing adults (Hiemstra, 1988b).
We would label our own beliefs regarding instruction and learning as being very eclectic in nature in that we have pulled from various philosophies to build our individualizing approach. For example, we show throughout the book that we have been heavily influenced by humanistic beliefs, such as helping learners have a larger role and viewing oneself as a facilitator. However, we also have had success in utilizing learning contracts, an instructional tool that is founded in behaviorist traditions. There certainly are times when we must serve as a fairly straightforward lecturer to present some basic information. We anticipate that you, too, will need to glean from the book that with which you feel comfortable, can master, and can incorporate into your own personal style or philosophical beliefs.
Enlarged Learner's Role
This eclectic derivation of approaches to instructing adults has resulted in the use of facilitator techniques where learners are encouraged to take an active role in the entire process. This role, somewhat enlarged over that assumed by most learners during their K-12 education and even their undergraduate education, includes participation in various activities. These activities include such functions as assessing individual learning needs, planning content emphases and even methodological approaches, and serving as a learning resource for others in the educational setting. The result of such an active role is that learners usually take personal ownership for the learning efforts.
Another factor that supports the need for mature individuals to take an active role in their own learning is the knowledge that most people have an ability in and desire for learning that is self-directed in nature (Brookfield, 1985; Knowles, 1975; Long & Associates, 1988). Kidd (1976), in describing the term "Mathetics" relative to the science of people's behavior while learning, believed there were several features related to each individual's personal abilities. He talked about relevancy, relatedness, and responsibility in terms of individual needs. McClusky (1964), in talking about the relevance of psychological theory to the adult education field, suggested that the adult learner is both autonomous and independent. He concluded that learning activities should facilitate active participation, be problem-centered in nature, and be highly meaningful to the adult condition.
There are several ways learners can maximize their self-directed skills and enhance learning based on preferences for personal control of decision making. We believe there are at least nine instructional variables learners can control in an individualizing process (Cooper, 1980; Hiemstra, 1988a). As Table 1 displays, the level or sharing of control between a learner and facilitator varies from situation to situation.
Learner Control of Instructional Variables
Variable Learner Control Possibilities
Needs Identification Various techniques are available to assist
learners in identifying learning needs
associated with a study area's contents.
Rediagnosis of needs throughout a learning
endeavor also should be possible.
Content Area and The specificity of topics and purpose for
Purpose the learning should be controlled by the
learner. A learning plan or contract can
be a useful tool and a facilitator can
assist with any refinement activities as
needed or desired throughout the learning.
Expected Outcomes The nature of desired or expected outcomes
should be controlled by the learner. Such
outcomes typically relate to needs and purposes.
The facilitator provides advice and concrete
suggestions as needed.
Evaluation and Learners should select those evaluation or
Validation validation methods that suit personal
learning styles and preferences. Facilitators serve
as evaluators as needed.
Methods of Learners should choose those methods for
Documentation documenting and demonstrating accomplishments
that have long term uses, such as diaries, logs,
journals, scholarly papers, or physical products.
Appropriateness of Learners should select those learning
Learning Experiences experiences best suited for individual
situations or needs. Facilitators can obtain
feedback on the appropriateness of various experiences.
Variety of Learning A variety of potential learning resources
Resources permits learners to choose as need and
interests dictate. Facilitators work to
locate and make available such resources.
Adequateness of Learners should select those components
Learning Environment of the learning environment that best meet
their needs. Facilitators promote an
environment that will foster excitement,
intellectual curiosity, and involvement.
Pace of Learning Learners should select an individual pace
best suited to their particular needs or
life situations. The facilitator and each
learner may need to negotiate a pace or
completion date for learning activities.
Adapted from Hiemstra, 1988a.
These variables also are important to the overall encouragement of individualized learning.
The learner actually can control many learning features in individualizing activities outside any formal experience. Learners are encouraged to seek ways of tying learning activities to practical realities of job, home, and community. In addition, learners have the freedom to select various written or mediated resources to enhance their intellectual growth related to the subject matter, especially after a learning experience is completed and subsequent needs arise.
Teacher as Facilitator
Another belief area revolves around the instructor's role in the learning process. Historic expectations of instructors primarily have centered on a belief that their role should entail the dispensing of knowledge to receptive learners. However, the instructional process we advocate operates on the premise that an instructor's role must become one of facilitating or managing the learning process itself, especially when mature, adult learners are involved. In other words, it is the learning process and resulting transactions that take on the most importance rather than the content or some body of knowledge being covered.
Therefore, the instructor or trainer works to assist each individual learner in taking responsibility for personal learning. This is not to imply that you as an instructor may give up any concern for subject matter. Frequently, you will need to maintain control to varying degrees over key concepts or topics studied because of your institution's expectations or because your learners may have limited initial awareness of important concepts. For example, an instructor in a continuing education session for nurses may know the most recent information about a new technique and must present it as directly, quickly, and effectively as possible. A university professor has a responsibility to both university and learner to see that the promotion of ownership by learners does not result in a focus on some subject quite different from initial expectations. A business trainer may be involving top management executives in sessions that have an exceedingly high cost in terms of the time involved and thus must be concerned about efficiency and effectiveness.
What then is the operational mix for the instructor, trainer, or leader between an expert (instructor-directed) role and a facilitator (learner-directed) role? There is no easy answer to such a question because much will depend on the situation, particular content areas, unique mixture of learners, and instructor's personality. In addition, individuals frequently bring to the initial learning periods expectations based mainly on their own past experiences about what will happen and what will be the instructor's role.
The individualizing process frequently will necessitate your weathering some initial learner confusion, anxiety, or suspicion. It even has been our experience that occasional hostility or uncooperativeness must be overcome. In other words, an investment of time is required to build a "community of learners," where you become a specialist on the learning process and evolve a personal role in comfort with that process. In such a setting content expertise often will be secondary to your skill in learning management and developing a community spirit where learners, your expertise, and available learning resources come together as appropriate.
Success with such an approach also will depend on your own attitude. In other words, an instructor in a facilitator role will need to believe in the overall potential of promoting self-direction in learning, accept learner input, criticism, and independence, and seek a wide range of learning resources. Changing your approach or attitudes toward instruction generally requires dedication, hard work, practice, and time.
Stimulating the Learner to Learn
An important variable in successful facilitation lies in your ability to stimulate learners to become excited about a subject area, want to learn about it, and be willing to dig into available resources. This will entail your helping learners locate a variety of resources and discover their own self-directed abilities in using such resources. We suggest that the development in individuals of a positive attitude about learning and the relevancy of the subject matter to personal needs may be more important than actual subject matter mastery.
There is research evidence to support this notion that the facilitative approach to instruction does in fact promote a positive attitude toward the learning activity associated with a subject matter area. Cole and Glass (1977), Pine (1980), and Verdros and Pankowski (1980) are only some of those who have studied the effect of personal involvement by adults in assessing needs, determining instructional approaches, and carrying out instructional activities. In general, such researchers have found that individualized involvement usually does not increase or decrease achievement of content mastery. However, those having ownership of the process almost always have a more positive attitude about the content, instructional process, facilitator, and desire to study the content further after any formal learning experience has ended.
We also have had considerable success with learning contracts as a mechanism to further interest in a topic, stimulate a person to learn, and promote someone individualizing their learning efforts. Contracts actually are excellent tools for instructors, too, in that they permit different criteria to be used in judging issues like progress or quality for each learner as the situation may dictate. They also serve as a viable planning tool by assisting learners to think through issues like goals, objectives, resources, timelines, outcomes, and evaluation. Knowles (1986) presents some useful examples of how contracts can be used and we provide more detail on our own uses of the contract in Chapter Eight.
Related to issues like promoting positive learning attitudes and individualizing the planning is the issue of self-confidence and self-initiative on the part of learners. Even though considerable research has shown the preference of many adults to be self-directed outside a formal classroom, it has been our observation that the moment some adults enter any type of formal classroom or training setting they revert to prior spoon-feeding expectations. In other words, the adult in a typical classroom where chairs or desks are in rows and a "teacher" is situated in the front initially expects to be provided all the necessary information. The instructor's role thus needs to become one of encouraging learners to become self-directed, make various personal learning decisions, and take responsibility for their own action.
A final point has to do with how the instructor relates to learners. It has been our experience that the best way of stimulating people to become interested in the subject matter, involved in the instructional process, and positive about learning is to treat them as individuals and not just as members of a group. This also requires a commitment to and some experience with learners to make it all work.
HOW INDIVIDUALIZING INSTRUCTION MAKES A DIFFERENCE
"In response to . . . forces, the form and content of teaching in higher education shifted markedly in the 1960s" (Trent & Cohen, 1973, p. 997). This shift has continued and was perhaps even more noticeably in the seventies and continuing into the eighties. There is no reason to believe it won't continue into the twenty-first century. Adapting to or keeping up with change, more leisure, more education at younger ages, and just plain more acceptability from society for participation in lifelong learning are some of the important reasons. When one adds to this the increasingly better understanding of how actively adults pursue learning on their own outside of institutions or without the help of experts, the enormity of this learning involvement is seen.
One of the things that has happened and one of the reasons why we are promoting our individualizing process has been a growing recognition that adults often require or at least desire instructional styles and uses of instructors' expertise in ways different from the more traditional expectations. The forces mentioned earlier accent this expectation for differences in instructional roles and increased roles by learners.
What then should be the instructor's role in promoting an individualization of learning, especially in light of any desire to use such a process to enhance adult potential? We begin an answer to that question by elaborating on Jarvis' (1985) three broad approaches to instruction, "didactic, socratic and facilitative" (p. 94). As one of us has noted elsewhere (Hiemstra, 1988b), the three approaches necessitate quite different roles for learners:
Facilitative--the instructor creates an educational environment in which learning can occur. A variety of instructional techniques can be used. Learners are expected to assume increasing responsibility for specific content determination and acquisition. (p. 105)
6. The individualizing instructional process is based primarily on the facilitative model.
We believe that historic expectations tied to the expert dispensing of knowledge to learners are foundational to the first two models. In many respects learners are seen as receptacles for such learning, rather than as mature people who can take personal ownership for the educational experiences. This is not meant to suggest that techniques like lecturing, socratic questioning and discussing, and standardized testing procedures can't be used in an individualizing approach. They can and some specific discussion related to the use of such techniques takes place in later chapters. As a matter of fact, many learners will deliberately choose such techniques or procedures for part of their personal learning plan. What is advocated in this book is that the successful instructor of adults should use facilitation techniques and serve as a manager of the various learning transactions rather than as one who just provides expert information.
This manager role is different from what we suggest is often an authoritarian role where the instructor assumes an expert hat and expects that learners will be able to demonstrate they know everything they have been told or have read in some assigned books. Some critics of an individualizing approach will point out that autocratic teaching styles are not the issue because there is certain material learners must acquire to obtain a certain grade, move on to a next level, or show a specified competency. Some critics, too, may suggest that regardless of whatever the delivery style, there are ways of involving learners through group discussion, creative projects, and application problems. However, our point is that being a facilitator implies something beyond just being responsible for a certain amount of content. It includes being able to help learners become empowered to take responsibility for their own learning.
7. There are several specific roles the instructor must undertake in the facilitative model where individualization is an intended educational goal.
If you desire to promote positive feelings and desires among learners, while at the same time managing a learning process that maximizes success for each participant, there are several tasks to be performed or functions to be carried out.
1. As in more traditional approaches, there will be many instances in which you must serve as a content resource for learners. Instructors usually have considerably more expertise and knowledge about the subject for which they are responsible and learners will expect that this expertise be shared in various ways. However, using content specialists in areas outside your expertise may be necessary to meet all learning needs.
2. You should be responsible for managing a process of determining learner needs, rather than pre-supposing what all of those needs might be. The uniqueness of each set of learners necessitates such a role.
3. Once the needs or at least some initial understanding of the needs is uncovered, you will need to arrange and employ the resources necessary for your learners to accomplish their personal goals. In some instances this will require finding or creating new resources, obtaining knowledge or expertise on new areas of relevance to the learning experience, and arranging for the availability of outside experts.
4. We have found it important in our individualizing efforts to use a wide variety of instructional techniques and devices to maintain learner interest or best present certain types of information. This may seem paradoxical in the promotion of each learner taking personal responsibility to be concerned about maintaining learner involvement. But, because such learners do begin to see the possibilities, it becomes necessary to appeal to a variety of learning and cognitive styles. In addition, making various techniques and devices available gives each your learners more control because individual choices can be made.
5. You also need to be aware of techniques for stimulating and motivating learners so all can reach their potential. Wlodkowski (1985) presents many strategies for motivating adults.
6. Another role is helping your learners develop positive learning attitudes and feelings about personal ability to be independent. Such attitudes and feelings will vary from learner to learner, with some people having acquired negative feelings about personal abilities or past learning experiences. Thus, at times you will need to become a cheerleader or encourager and be willing to spend time helping an insecure learner achieve a growth in confidence.
7. A very difficult task when learners are using various resources and often taking quite different approaches to the achievement of goals, is maintaining some understanding of how well each learner is doing at reflecting on personal learnings. We have found that facilitating questioning, philosophical growth, and self-reflection is a necessary role. As will be detailed in later chapters, you can accomplish this through techniques such as small group discussion, writing personal interactive journals, creating theory logs, and developing statements of personal philosophy.
8. A final role that we would like to describe here has to do with evaluation of learner progress. You need to evaluate learner achievements in various ways, ranging from more traditional testing or critiquing of written materials to less traditional techniques such as personal interviews with learners regarding their growth. It also is important to stimulate various types of self-evaluation by learners.
It is not an easy task for the instructor or trainer of adults to encompass all of the above into a personal repertoire of instructional skills. Often adults in a formal classroom setting or in a training situation will be initially discouraged by unfamiliar instructional techniques or attempts to place responsibility for decision-making back on them. They frequently will be expecting directive instructional approaches based on remembered instructional models and thereby intimidated by the unexpected.
As a matter of fact, traditional lecture techniques still receive heavy preference marks by some adult learners while mediated and even self-directed learning possibilities or those requiring considerable self-discipline are rated initially low (Cross, 1981). Unfortunately, used just by itself, a lecture format with standardized testing procedures may not meet the many needs of mature learners, although, as Centra (1979) notes, there are instances in which such techniques as lecturing can be used as a springboard for discussion and further inquiry.
Finally, many instructors and trainers who are faced with large numbers of adult learners may have some initial difficulties in adapting their own familiar instructional styles to the process advocated in this book. Obviously, no one style or approach can be completely adopted by others. Adaptations, experimentations, fitting various techniques to one's personality, and some plain old trial and error will be required. However, it is our expectation that you will have more success with adult learners if you use the material presented to examine your current instructional style, philosophy, and beliefs and make whatever adaptations you deem as appropriate for your own situation.
(1) Adapted from Hiemstra & Sisco, 1990.
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