Adult 688 #5: All it takes is one…

Task:  for the final reflection, what are your reactions to this course.I believe

To assert that a course can change one in a profound way is a rather affected way in which to consider this learning experience.  It is utterly true in the case of this lifespan issues course. On numerous occasions, I have maintained a sense of perpetual catch-up in comparison to others in my adult learning courses who possess a business background.  It was a fallacious assumption that my teaching experience in the public sector would better prepare me than my peers for the content of this course. I have a very basic understanding of learning and behavioral disabilities, yet was woefully unprepared by my undergraduate work to educate adults who learn differently from their counterparts.

Several components that provide a different lens through which to consider adult learners:

Shelter vs Supported employment is an interesting way in which to consider how society has moved from containing adults with intellectual and learning differences to a more progressive movement which embraces inclusion.  I was vaguely familiar with organizations in the communities where I have lived which trained, employed and produced products in a sheltered environment.  To embrace the philosophy and model of support, means to be more keenly aware of the unique ways in which adults contribute to the workplace.  I have recognized such an individual in a local organization where I volunteer.  I just learned last week that this organization supports his engagement as a support organization.  To understand the value and role that a job coach plays when assisting adult workers embraces the idea that there is a role for everyone in society.

In reality, the rules of the above organization, which remains vague in order to maintain privacy, find my manner of working unacceptable. The more complex an organization. the greater number of rules. I have an affinity for risk-taking when it means an opportunity to explore different ways to learn or assess.  As an adult educator, I am now able through training experiences to provide alternative ways in which to consider the services that an organization provides.

The new lens of lifespan issues asks me to re-frame not only the way in which I perceive the structures within my organization but to consider if I am paving the way for individuals with disabilities to become allies as opposed to passive receivers.  On numerous occasions during this graduate program, I have referenced Carol Dweck’s research.  In order to engage what’s best about the medical model with what works for this segment of the population, the minds of those within my organization must be willing to experience growth.  A growth mindset considers a variety of accommodations as tools to enhance the productivity of the individual and the success of a workplace.

The narratives in the book, Learning Disabilities & Life Stories are written from the heart and must be consumed in small segments; they are nothing less than heartbreaking.  If children with hidden disabilities can be so scared by a system charged to educate them what incentive do they have to divulge learning or behavior disabilities to an adult educator in a training setting?  Rodis suggests that the autobiographies help readers to understand what it means to be an expert in learning and behavioral disabilities from real life as opposed to expert knowledge through institutional learning (Garrod, Rodis & Boscardin, p. 194).  The insight and wisdom reveal through heartbreak and suffering are the stories that I will remember when working with adult learners. The narrators so candidly reveal the pain and isolation experienced in public education.

To consider that there are seven stages of identity formation for those with a learning disability, I must recognize that an adult may actually find relief with a diagnosis. Understanding that adult learners in my organization do not matriculate through identify stages by age, but rather at the time of diagnosis. When planning for and creating learning experiences for adults, I must consider that the schema may have relevance for those in my training and development.  If nothing else has touched me in this course, it is the necessity for adults to provide a more inclusive, loving and supportive place for those with hidden differences.  If I can begin by working with one educator or with one employee who attends a training, I can make a difference. All it takes is one.



Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.


Garrod., Rodis, P., & Boscardin, M.L. (Eds.) (2001). Learning disabilities & life stories.

Allyn and Bacon.


Adult 688 #4: Searching for Islands of Competency

Task:  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 were 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 confidential 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 androgyny, 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 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 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 participated in this organization in the past. 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 with 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 for 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, in height of noise, interaction or conversation, the movement of instruction and the presence of the learning plan being offered ahead of time is 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 are cultural, linguistically, and developmentally responsive to all students.
  • Recognize and affirm the “islands of competency” that reside in every student.
  • Support copious and yet non-punitive practice in basic literacy skills.

Understanding a proclivity for confluence, in terms of creative and non-traditional problem-solving, 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 a challenge, 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 principle

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