Good bulleting boards are like good bumper stickers. One such board was displayed in a Geometry classroom. “When you hit a wall you have (3) choices: stare at the wall, go around it or find a way to climb over it.” This one resonates with me.
Did you notice that I’ve been AWOL in this course? If so, this is where I have been.
When considering the learner for this course, I hit a wall. Who were these individuals? I had ideas about what made them unique, but nothing substantial to support my ideas. There’s nothing worse than creating a program for an imaginary group of individual only to discover that it is irrelevant or redundant. A new role surfaced for me two weeks ago thus allowing me the ability to become one of the individuals for whom I am creating this module. Destiny, fate or serendipity? Participation in a conference this summer along with training for new instructors provides a stronger platform from which to address the questions for this week’s readings.
Learners: The learners targeted for this module are instructors in the Commonwealth’s CCR program, College and Career Readiness (GED) instruction. I’m not sure if ‘unique’ is the most accurate way in which to describe them. A significant amount of people watching, listening and then participation provides the basis for my ideas about the learners.
- Well educated
- Varied professional experiences
- Digital literacy skills are sketchy at best
- Literacy and learning are integral to their value system
- Possess the desire to use professional skills to support others in their learning
- Not necessarily knowledgeable about adult learning principals and teaching practice
A community of Practice: the creation of a community where learning and support are available is of great importance to these individuals. The organization encourages faculty to participate in a COP which relates to their practice: ESL, ELA (English Language Arts) and Mathematics. Participation is encouraged, but not required. One full-day of organizational learning is mandatory as a component of professional development. It’s natural for teachers to want to share what they know. The dissemination of knowledge is a vital component of learning and teaching. In the introduction to Common Knowledge, Nancy M. Dixon suggests the following:
- “knowing” is deeply personal. To ask one to share is to ask them to give of themselves. (p. 8)
- “If we want people in our organizations to share what they have learned, we would be wise to create the conditions in which sharing results as is of personal benefit.” (p. 9).
- “If I share my knowledge, that is, give it away, then we can both hold it in common-common knowledge that is known throughout the organization.” (p.9).
Creating a community for the learners in this module is essential to both the development of faculty as learners as well as to the overall mission of the organization. Components of the organization provide learning for adults in rather remote areas of the Commonwealth. It is simply not feasible for faculty to access face-to-face training and learning as a result of physical distance and allocation of funding.
Addressing the needs of learners: The self-assessment tool created by Athabasca University , “Am I ready” is powerful. When applying for both undergraduate and graduate study, the potential student divulges copious amounts of information about themselves in anticipation of an offer of acceptance. Until I took this assessment (yes, all of it), I was never asked questions to make me consider my readiness for the learning expected of me prior to application. Understanding the types of skills necessary for a particular area of study is an important predictor of how well an individual might do in a given course. Notwithstanding what life throws at an adult learner, recognizing the strengths and weakness of a digital learning module is important. When training originates with program managers, subsequent learning for faculty should be a natural progression. Additional staff placements fulfilled after whole group training is supported through mentoring as well as through the buy-in of program managers.
Community in our course: Community is so important for me. I am a social being who thrives on the development of relationships and through conversation. The lack of community at the beginning of this course was difficult for me. In order for me to develop as fully as possible, I need to know that someone is there, will read what I have written and respond to me. When reading and responding to blogs, I am conversational in my writing, ask questions and consider ways in which to share what I know. The concept of blog buddies, along with Google Hang-outs encourages me to dig deep into my learning and support the learning goals of others.
Translation to the module: understanding that many instructors engage the tools that are of greatest comfort to them does not place the learner in the center of the process. I will need to make adjustments to my module by creating an “Am I ready?” assessment as well as the opportunity for choice. Learners who need less support or community engagement should make a choice in their learning that supports them. For example, in a learner component would have two choices for community building: One learner might engage in sharing through a Google Hangout. Another might view the hangout posted to the LMS and respond in writing.
Something to Chew on…
In the “Am I ready” assessment on the Athabasca site, the ability to follow a trail for both a NO or a YES response is useful for the learners. It’s been approximately six (6) years since the site has been updated. I wonder which research has surfaced in the field of adult learning that could be included in this site? Were there any particular questions that surprised you? The one about disability was interesting to me when considering ADA, confidentiality and the ways in which the learner need support to be successful.
Dixon, N. M. (2000). Common knowledge: How companies thrive by sharing what they know. Harvard Business School Press.
Hughes, J. A. (2004). Supporting the online learner. Theory and practice of online learning, 367.