Individualizing the instructional process does not work equally well in all situations. Adapting the process to a particular setting, emphasizing certain elements one time and other elements another time, or using only portions of the process with certain audiences are some of the decisions you will need to make. Part One of this book is designed to help you decide whether or not you should try individualizing some of your instructional or training efforts.

We discuss several elements in the five chapters that make up Part One: (1) the role that adult learners, themselves, can play in any instructional process; (2) the notion that an instructor or trainer is really a facilitator or manager of the process; (3) the need for instructors to understand the emotional, physical, mental, and social characteristics that make each learner unique; (4) when it is most appropriate to use individualizing approaches; and (5) the learner's responsibility in an individualized setting. We also present some of the philosophical underpinnings of our approach.

In Chapter One we very briefly describe our six-step model to provide you with an introduction to the process components. Chapter Three provides a somewhat more detailed description of each step. If you already have had some experiences instructing adults, you may recognize many of the components in the process that we describe. In fact, in building our instructional processes through several years of actual teaching or training experiences, we have borrowed and synthesized from many of the approaches to working with adults that have been described in the literature during the past two decades. What makes our approach worth examining, we believe, is that we cover numerous elements crucial to instruction, ranging from what do you do the first few hours with learners to how do you even think about the physical environment as an inhibitor to or stimulator of learning.

In this part, as in Parts Two and Three, each chapter begins with a vignette to set a context for the material to be presented. Although we use fictitious names, all the vignettes represent situations either we or some of our students have experienced. For example, Joe Daniels in Chapter One experiences a fairly negative classroom environment when he attempts to reenter the educational environment after being absent for many years. The Joe Daniels story was patterned very closely after the experiences one of our graduate assistants had when he first went back to school.

We are afraid there are lots teachers or trainers "out there" like the one he faced. These are usually well-intentioned people who are striving to be good teachers. However, they subject adults to ridicule, attendance charts, locked classroom doors so people arriving late cannot enter, boring lectures, speed or timed tests, grading on a curve with a guaranteed percentage of failures, and a host of other actions tied primarily to didactic or socratic models of teaching. Such models obviously have considerable utility and will be used for many, many years to come, but we believe they often do not "fit" very well with the needs or expectation of adult learners.

The reader may wonder why we initially present a rather negative view of teaching. Unfortunately, this view matches reality in too many cases. The positive side of teaching and learning that we have experienced is presented throughout the book. We believe the chapters in Part One will convince you it is worthwhile to analyze our individualizing process and adapt aspects of it to your own teaching or training efforts.


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