Adult 688 #3: Scenarios with mixed groups

Reflection Question:  How do you see yourself handling a teaching-learning scenario where there are individuals with learning disabilities in a mixed group?

Teaching adults in a learning event where there are disabilities in a mixed group seems a natural progression from the questions asked in the mid-term process.  All learning groups are mixed.  I cannot recall working in one where everyone in the group learned in precisely the same manner and by the same method of instruction. Conversely, I recall very few instances where appreciation for intellectual diversity as well as diverse modalities of learning was offered to me in a learning event.  It is unclear to me if differentiation was offered to a specific individual, which is as it should be.  While I am rather astute in determining the processes employed by a trainer, I am assured that confidentiality was in play if diverse strategies, assessments, evaluations or formal assessments were offered.

As an adult educator, there are many frameworks from which we consider adult programs.  The frameworks I would employ when planning learning events would draw from andragogy, intellectual diversity, and dialogue education.

My assumptions about the adult learner in a training conducted by me would reflect an understanding that Knowles Six Assumptions  (a layperson’s link) are applicable for all learners. The reservoir of learning experience should be a resource for learning in problem solving, internally motivated events (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner, 2007).  The teaching strategies that would best engage learners and allow them to flourish are those that welcome intellectual diversity.  Adults with learning differences may approach learning events where respect for their individual difference was not honored and where diverse learners were often unable to design, develop or execute their own learning. Events which welcome heterogeneity allows adult learners to succeed (Rodis & Witherell, 2001).

Human Resource Management:

The purpose of this meeting is to discover the previous learning and training experiences of the individual. I would meet with the team member along with the representative responsible for managing the initial intake of EEOC and ADA forms and procedures. We would begin by engaging the individual in a conversation regarding the previous training/learning which occurred in this organization. Along with a discussion of what is a struggle, I would ask specifically where the “islands of competency” (Rodis & Witherell,2001) lie.  The areas where an individual may shine is an opportunity to discover the type of learner, situation or where how a team member may be paired for success. A conversation of equal measure is one that encourages the team member to share the areas of success in learning in this employment setting.  At this time, I would ask the team member to share the types of accommodations that are in place to ensure a productive workplace setting. I would ask the extent of the involvement of the team member in planning for and in considering which accommodations or learning strategies would be useful.

Human Resource Development:

At the outset of program design, evaluation indicators should be established by those who conduct training and development. Evaluation indicators are designed into the learning experience that will be used to indicate that learning has taken place (Vella, 2008). When planning for learning, I would include the individual, the accommodations which work well for learning. The type (s) of assessments, pre, mid and post assessments are a viable way in which to capture learning in the moment.  Assisted technology tools, which may already be a part of the individual’s plan, can help an adult during a learning event. Low tech assistance, as in the intensity of noise, interaction or conversation, the movement of instruction and the presence of the learning plan being offered ahead of time are simple ways in which to assist individuals who may find learning auditorily a challenge. As a member of training and development, it should be an integral component of the conversation to ask if there is a device that would improve, maintain or assist the functional capabilities of the adult in that setting.

At the conclusion of “Shimmers of Delight and Intellect,” Witherell & Rodis provide a very useful list of suggestions that could most certainly be considered when planning for instruction for intellectually diverse learners. Of the seventeen suggestions provided, all of which are quite useful, these resonate with my experience in adult learning where struggle resides:

  • Teach in ways that respond to the linguistic, culturally and developmental difference of all students.
  • Recognize and affirm the “islands of competency” that reside in every student.
  • Support copious and yet nonpunitive practice in basic literacy skills.

I can foresee that a future role in training and developing adults with diverse learning styles and differences is going to be a challenge.  I have never found it difficult to do what is best for the learner.  Where I find it challenging, is in working within a system that is either unable or unwilling to consider diverse learning for adults.  The last bullet above is one that is so very important to all learners, but I assume even more so for those with a difference.  For example, the last year that I taught in a public school setting is one where a new assessment tool was unveiled to the faculty.  This new program was taught in a large group setting, using a power point, a lecture along with visual images of the computer program. One hour of training with a lack of diverse tools or strategies, with no opportunity to practice this new skill, was so very frustrating for the faculty.  Couple this event with the unveiling of two additional programs presented in the same format was such a poor way in which to train learners. There are diverse learning styles differences in each work setting, however, the thought that the children in classroom settings one day become working adults in an employment setting does not appear to surface on anyone’s radar.  How is this possible?  This was one important event that helped to tip my decision to educate, advocate and support adult learners!

Ultimately, at the core of any learning experience for adults is the learner.  When planning a learning event for an adult with learning differences, I cannot make assumptions about the individual and act on them without the learner.  The self-concept of the learner must be preserved.  Any prior experience that may be poor, exclusionary or collaborative is important to consider in order to allow for readiness to develop.  All adult learners can be motivated to learn in a positive, adult learner-centered, approach.

A new way to think about the word FAIL-first attempt in learning.



Garrod, A., Rodis, P., & Boscardin, M.L. (Eds.), (2001).

          Learning disabilities and life stories. Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA.

Merriam, S.B., Caffarella, R.S. & Baumgartner, L.M. (2012).

Learning in adulthood.  A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Vella, J. (2008). On teaching and learning: Putting the principles and

         practices of dialogue education into action. John Wiley & Sons.

Something to chew on…   Lab chewing a bone

The self-concept of the adult learner is the most important consideration when planning for instruction. A productive work setting is one in which adults transition from being directed to directing themselves as learners.



Adult 688 #2: A difficult road

Difficult roadThe process of finding someone to consider for the case study has been a difficult road. I was so pleased when I thought that I had found someone a week before the class began.  I was not aware of the difference between supported and sheltered employment.  I was unaware that a transitional plan is required to be written by the special educator in a public setting.  My first consideration was not appropriate because the individual is intellectually disabled, has received superb accommodations and planning through a local program and has a wonderful support system and a place of employment.

The next individual thought would have been an interesting individual to interview as he provided educational services to local high school students.  Unfortunately, school is over.  Like rats fleeing a sinking ship, teachers scatter and refrain from interacting with their school email until coerced by an administrator to do so.

My third attempt was to engage with an individual who provided a very short window of time in which to meet and share.  I did not hear from this individual until Wednesday, June 8.  Adults are busy.  Work and home concerns are a priority.  Communication with me, an unknown individual,  fell further down this individuals to do list.  No judgment on my part.  While I acknowledge that life happens for others, a major component of my current role as a  graduate student was beginning to become rather stressful for me.

I dug deep into my network to consider an individual with whom I had not communicated for nearly 10 years.  I had a previous relationship with this person as a colleague. Colleagues are often willing to assist with coursework.  I was saved! I met with two individual to conduct this interview for nearly 3 hours over lunch.

With a score of 28 in Confluence, Learning Connections Resource would suggest that this type of activity is something that I should enjoy.  I nearly always see a situation as different than others.  I do not mind taking risks and am willing to learn from my mistakes.  This individual and I have a wonderful relationship based on a mutually supportive experience in a past life. The last relationship between my interviewee and me was that of adult and child.  We knew how to interact within this hierarchy. To reframe our setting, it was imperative that I embrace the opportunity to interact with this individual as an educator of adults as opposed to that of an educator of an adolescent.

Of equal strength is my desire to be precise.  Asking questions is typically not a problem for me. However, to desire answers to questions which require accuracy in order to complete this assignment with precision was challenging for me.  I am the individual with whom others confide.  I do not consider knowledge as gossip or too overly personal, but rather place it into the context of information.  I consider the collection of information as a way to allow me to process how my role, behavior or performance in a future setting may unfold.  Seeking personal information from an individual as opposed to receiving it was a daunting task for me. I was not asked to provide questions to consider ahead of time.  A level of trust was established between us during a different time and place.  While the adult and I slid comfortably into a conversation, the younger individual was relaxed and welcomed the instance to rekindle our relationship.

I am excited to say that the experience was very positive for all of us.  These two individuals expressed a desire to engage in the questions created by my classmates. They welcomed me to pursue several threads which evoked painful components from the past.  I look forward to learning how to create a map for this individual.  I assume that it will engage the concepts and services that we have discussed in class lectures.  The struggle to locate the correct interviewee and situation, while stress inducing, was certainly worth the effort to do so.  This is the right individual to engage at both the right moment in both our work and educational setting. Serendipity happens!

Something to chew on…  Lab chewing a bone

When approached with respect and consideration, many individuals welcome an opportunity to share their story.

In what way does my discomfort with interviewing inhibit the processing of storytelling?



Adult 688: #1 In defense of the “Strong Willed Learner.”

STRONG-WILLED-CHILDREN-pin-683x1024I am considered a “Strong Willed Learner.”  This doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve been labeled as such for a long as I can remember.  This labeling is typically not positive as it suggests a desire on my part to do my own thing as opposed to that of doing what everyone else is doing.  As an adult learner, developing as a member of a group or team has been an essential component of the adult learning program.  To understand how I fit in a group as a participant is one that has caused great consternation in some instances while in others I have found participation to be seamless. Participation in the Adult Learning program provides an abundance of opportunities to work with others in a group setting.  It wasn’t until the last course of my study, Lifespan Issues for Adults with Learning and Behavior Disabilities did I understand more fully the best way in which I could contribute to a group.

The Learning Connections Resources inventory is probably one of the best tools that I have explored as a way in which to understand the way in which I function best.  As a “Strong Willed Learner” the resources suggest that I use three or more patterns at the first level. My interactive learning process engages me as highest in Confluence, with a score of (28), with Precise (28), Sequence (25) and then Technical as (21).  When considering the internal self-talk of learning, metacognition, the way in which I make learning work for me appears to be consistent with the way in which I responded to the questions on the survey.  I am not surprised that my learning styles are fairly balanced at this stage in my career.  I am curious about the way in which I may have scored as a college student or young educator.

Most recently, in several encounters with an individual in an organization setting, I noticed that the individual with whom I was speaking began to exhibit discomfort.  This individual expressed behaviors as well as verbal reactions during these discussions. When considering my penchant for confluence, I recognized that my responses were uncomfortable to the listener based on prior knowledge. (We have known each other for several years.) The Learning Connections Inventory (LCI) is a 28 item self-report instrument. As a focal point, teachers can use it to discuss learning with students. The survey suggests that I enjoy taking risks, I see situations very differently than others and that I don’t like doing the same thing over and over.  Hello…how did a survey know this about me?  I am very comfortable being a “confluent” learner.  In order for learning to work for me, I need the opportunity to use this strategy as well as the others in order to consider how best to learn.

Work assignments that are frustrating for me as those that I consider boring, lack creativity, are not well thought out or are devoid of well-documented research.  I value a balanced approach to my own learning and the learning that I do in group settings.  As an adult learner, I recognize that learning on my own is the way in which I self-select the tools from each of these measures that will work for me.  When approaching a work in a group setting, I now feel comfortable expressing how this resource supports the way in which I will both learn and contribute to the work completed by a group. I understand myself as a learning, and quite frankly, like having my own style.  I value confluence and see it as a strength.

I understand myself as a learner, and quite frankly, like my style.  I value confluence and precision see it as a strength. However, I do recognize that this style is uncomfortable for some individuals, particularly those who are unfamiliar with a questioning culture where asking questions is a way to learn and advance critical thinking.  I can now recognize this discomfort visually in others and understand that to use my style for my own learning is perfectly suitable for me, however, must be tempered for others who are without understanding.

In an adult learning setting, the interactive learning processes surveyed through this assessment is one that would provide greater validity when describing how the individuals in a class setting learn.  For example, professors frequently share the “working draft” of a syllabus for a course of study.  This tool provides a working vocabulary for responding to future requests by instructors as well as to when evaluating my own learning in a class setting. I wish that I had this verbiage in my adult learning toolbelt in the beginning of my course of study.

When designing and developing learning for adults, this is an essential tool that I look forward to using in the near future. I am really intrigued by the concepts described in the “Let Me Learn” program that Dr. Webb referenced in class. Exploring how the brain and the mind connect these concepts appears to be a natural way in which to consider the work of Carol Dweck’s “Mindset,” which I’ve referenced on numerous occasions during class discussions.

Something to Chew on…    Lab chewing a bone

  • As a participant in an adult learning setting, how will I help my instructor to see the value of sharing the learning patterns of the instructor and the class with each other?
  • As an instructional coach, I am excited about how this new knowledge will strengthen conversations that I will have with those whom I instruct.