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Module 6 Reflection

This course (EDTECH 522) has exposed me to several pedagogical concepts especially relevant to adult learners. Most notably is the concept of Andragogy by Malcom Knowles which related to psychological and educational theories such as progressivism, naturalism, constructivism, problem-based learning and motivation. Andragogy posits several key learning attributes of adult learners such as: Need to know; Self-Concept; Experience; Readiness to learn; Orientation to learning and; Motivation to learn.

Although these key attributes are useful, it is instructive that the approach used for instruction should still consider the levels of self-directness, motivation, and experience of the individual learner.

Another concept which was relevant was that of the Community of Inquiry. The elements to create this community being cognitive presence, social presence and instructor presence were useful not only for adult learning but in any educational environment if learning outcomes are to be maximized.

One instructional approach that this course highlighted was the flipped classroom. Although, I have read about the flipped classroom and the concept of blended learning, it was interesting to read the real-life experiences of instructors in the course who have attempted the flipped classroom and blending a course. These have informed my opinion that the flipped classroom is an instructional strategy whereas blended learning is a model of delivery for instruction.

Regardless, research suggest there are educational gains from adopting such approaches and any good instructor would be wise to incorporate them within their instruction.

From the theories to concepts to approaches considered, any instruction should be evaluated. I was particularly interested in the various rubrics available for evaluating blended and online courses such as the Quality Matters and SREB rubrics.

These rubrics were shared with colleagues since the institution I work at is set to formally launch a blended learning policy initiative which promises to be transformative.

Throughout the course, I have created several artifacts which encompassed technological and pedagogical skills. The rich media tutorial and online module development were two such artifacts. The skills developed will prove useful in providing further support to my colleagues at the institution at which I work.

Reflection – Online Course Design

How did you use your understanding of Andragogy or adult learning theory in designing this lesson?

Andragogy is described by Malcolm Knowles (1992) as “a learner-centered approach to learning in which the adult learner determines the goals for learning and how they will be achieved.” The assumptions that describe the key attributes of adults such as their need to know, self-concept, experience, readiness to learn, orientation to learning, and motivation to learn were taken into consideration in the design of my lesson on Teaching and Learning with Multimedia.

The lesson was targeted towards course instructors at a higher-education institution who would be interested in utilizing the technological tools available to them to maximize teaching and learning. Instructors would bring a wealth of teaching experiences to the course, however, may have only been exposed in a limited way to the affordances of multimedia in teaching and learning.

Thus, the course was not designed solely as a hands-on tutorial showcasing the features of a particular tool but it provided a theoretical background on how the brain works and how multimedia principles can affect the brain leading to enhanced learning.

What instructional strategies you applied and how does your design address the cognitive, instructor and social presence?

The course was delivered as a blended online course being a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities. Direct instruction was the primary teaching strategy employed facilitating interaction between instructor and learner, however, there was also ample opportunity for learners to interact amongst themselves.

The success of blended learning over fully online learning have convinced me that a more effective design approach is to utilize elements of synchronous communication for teaching  at various points during the course, thus, a live online session using Zoom web-conferencing tool was included.

Web-conferencing can easily facilitate information exchange and allows for more dynamic communication due to immediate interaction, in the absence of any physical face-to-face interaction.  The asynchronous elements of the course were intended to foster more in-depth thinking.

When combined as with my blended course, the synchronous and asynchronous elements developed a community of inquiry by facilitating cognitive, social and instructor presence and also reduced transactional distance.

Overall, what was the most difficult in creating this Moodle lesson?

The most difficult part of creating an online lesson is being consistent across all content that is created since learners may be viewing course material individually, information must be conveyed in a simple, accurate and concise manner.

How did you solve problems as they came up? What are your thoughts on online teaching now that you have created an online lesson? What was the most rewarding thing about this project?

I didn’t encounter any problems of a technical nature because I function as a support to faculty and the learning management system we use is Moodle – the same that was required for the assignment, however, knowing what is best practice to facilitate learners may lead to a course design that you constantly want to tinker with to improve but there is always the constraint of time.

For example, a typical online course must follow all the pedagogical aspects of having a goal and related objectives and ensuring that any activities and assessments align to the objectives. But that is only the first part of online teaching. You then require technological tools that can facilitate what you require from learners. But that is not the end. The principles of accessibility, multimedia learning, community of inquiry and andragogy (if you are teaching adults) still have to be considered. This is considerably more difficult in an online environment as opposed to a face-to-face environment.

However, it is rewarding to see how all the elements of your course fit together like pieces to a puzzle and be finally ready for delivery to learners.

Community of Inquiry: Online Learning Tools

This module grabbed my interest as it explored the elements that form a community of inquiry, those being cognitive presence, social presence and instructor presence in an online setting.

Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2001) describes cognitive presence as “the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained communication.”

In my opinion, cognitive presence results from the various interactions that go beyond surface learning. This occurs if critical thinking is required and thus instructors should provide activities that lead to such.

I view social presence as providing a safe environment for cognitive presence to occur. In a safe environment, divergent views are encouraged amongst learners.

Both cognitive presence and social presence need the ever-important instructor. Therefore, instructor presence is critical as a facilitator of cognitive and social presence not only by providing the tools and activities that encourage social and cognitive presence but by the various instructor-learner interactions.

Since this course is focused on online learning, instructors will be well-served if there is harmony in the elements of the community of inquiry their course.

Many tools were presented by colleagues that can be used to enhance these elements to varying degrees.

I was quite attracted by the uniqueness of the presentations on Virtual Worlds especially Second Life.

From the View-Master to the Oculus Rift, virtual reality seems to be an innovative strategy to be used in education. When coupled with virtual worlds, learners may no longer need to imagine things but may be immersed in virtual environments that can provide experiences that otherwise would not be possible.

As technology changes, so too would our expectations of their affordances. If we were to cast our minds back to when Personal Computers became popular, maybe a basic text editor like Notepad and a floppy diskette could have been regarded as tools to allow for collaboration amongst learners thereby enhancing cognitive presence. At present such a tool would not even be mentioned to enhance any element in a community of inquiry. This should remind us that technological devices are merely tools to facilitate the underlying pedagogy.

Andragogy

Question 1 & 2

What are the primary criticisms of andragogy and where do you stand on the issue(s)?

Summarize the six key assumptions about adult learners as described by Malcolm Knowles and discuss their implications for teaching adult learners online.

Definition

Andragogy, as defined by Malcolm Knowles, is the art and science of helping adults learn. This contrast with pedagogy which Knowles defined as the art and science of teaching children.  For Knowles, this was a fundamental distinction between pedagogy and andragogy.

Knowles developed four (4) principles and six (6) key assumptions about andragogy.

Four (4) Principles of Andragogy

Knowles suggested four (4) principles that are applicable to andragogy.

  1. Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  2. Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  3. Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  4. Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented.

Six (6) Key Assumptions about Adult Learners

Knowles’ posited six (6) assumptions about adult learners to support his theory of andragogy. These were:

Self-concept: adults tend to resist situations in which they feel that others are imposing their wills on them.

Experience: adults tend to come into adult education with a vast and rich amount of prior experience compared to that of children.

Readiness to learn: adults’ readiness to learn is oriented to the development task of his/her social roles given the topic is relevant.

Orientation to learn: adults are motivated to the extent in which they perceive that the knowledge in which they are acquiring will help them perform a task or solve a problem in real life.

Motivation to learn: Adults are mostly driven by internal motivation and the desire for self-esteem and goal attainment.

The need to know: adults need to know the reason for learning something.

Implications for Teaching Adults Online

The assumptions made by Knowles about adult learners may be used as an instructional design guide for online courses.

The online community, eLearning Industry, suggests that online courses can be designed to “create learning experiences that offer minimum instruction and maximum autonomy” which is consistent with the self-concept assumption. A major aspect of designing adult online courses is by having an online support system to offer guidance and help, while still giving the online tools and resources they need to learn on their own terms. Adult learners acquire new information and build upon existing knowledge much more effectively if they are encouraged to explore a topic on their own.

Assumption 2 of Knowles assumption can be met in an online course by including a wide range of instructional design models and theories to appeal to varied experience levels and backgrounds. Since adult learners are more mature, it is presumed that they have had more time to cultivate life experience and typically have a wider knowledge base.

That means that you’ll have to take into account that your adult learning audience is going to be more diverse, especially in terms of backgrounds, experience levels, and skill sets. While one adult learner may be well versed on how to search for resources online, another may have very little experience using the Internet.

Applying Assumption 3 to the online environment can be as simple as including Web 2.0 tools to better facilitate collaboration for any deliverable in a course. Since the assumption presumes there is a readiness to learn, in an online environment adults may challenge themselves with learning Web 2.0 tools which may be new to them once it promotes learning community.

Assumption 4 can be applied to online learning by “emphasizing how the subject matter is going to solve problems that an adult learner regularly encounters.” In an online environment, activities should be given that allows adults to solve problems they encounter on a regular basis and should not be of abstract value.

Assumption 5 and 6 are interrelated when the online environment is considered. Since adults are expected to be motivated, there should provide a valid reason why each online module, online activity or assessment is included. This should also be communicated to adults.

Criticisms of Andragogy

Merriam et al. (2007) criticizes Knowles theory because it lacked the fundamental characteristics of a science since it could not be measured. In fact, researcher Pratt (1993) concluded that “they could not say with any confidence that andragogy has been tested and found to be the basis for a theory of adult learning or a unifying concept for adult education.”

Secondly, Rachel (2002) noted that there was an absence of a clear meaning of what constituted andragogical practice given there are so many different instructional methodologies/techniques.

Another criticism of Andragogy is based on his characteristic assumptions of adult learners. Not all adults will exhibit the assumptions that Knowles listed. Some adults will be self-directed learners and some will be highly dependent on the teacher. This also occurs in children so there isn’t any distinct difference between adults and children based on Knowles’ assumptions.

My Critique

In my opinion, the assumptions of Andragogy as outlined by Knowles should be more appropriately defined as a set of guidelines that should be followed when designing instruction. Regardless of the age of the learner, these guidelines should be applied.

Therefore, I do not agree that andragogy is a different from pedagogy.  Effective instruction does not have delineations based on age, and should take into consideration the needs of the learners which is provided in the goals and objectives of any well-developed instructional unit.

References

Knowles, M. (1984). The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species (3rd Ed.). Houston, TX: Gulf Publishing.

Knowles, M. (1984). Andragogy in Action. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass