This post is my first reflection for EdTech 522. During Module 1, we have considered a number of topics including andragogy, the demographics and characteristics of online learners, and challenges faced by adult online learners. This reflection will occur in two parts. The first part will focus on the theory of andragogy (since it was my favorite part of the module this week) and the second will feature a concept map of online learning along with an explanation.
Part One: What is andragogy and how does andragogy relate to online teaching and learning?
Andragogy, in its simplest form, refers to adult learning. A meta-analysis conducted by Taylor and Kroth (2009) indicated that the study of andragogy considers the different processes of learning for adults as well as the instructional methods which best meet these needs. Stavredes (2011) defines the concept as an adult, learner-focused theory. The adult learner determines their own goals and plans for meeting them as opposed to the traditional practice of the instructor doing so for them. The literature indicates that andragogy has incredible value for its philosophical insights in teaching adult learners. However, this theory lacks empirical evidence and consequently it may not provide enough definitive direction for practice in the classroom (Taylor & Kroth, 2009).
The theory of andragogy applies directly to online teaching and learning because of the demographic characteristics of online learners. According to Stavredes (2011), the average online learner is aged approximately 25-44. Additionally, online learners frequently have families, careers, or both. These factors meet the definitions of an adult set forth in the Taylor and Kroth article (2009). Thus, one can safely deduce that adults comprise of a majority of students enrolled in online courses. This means that andragogy, as defined above, has direct relevance for online instructors, at least in terms of its philosophical value.
Online instructors can gain many insights from the study of andragogy. This information can be used adapt instruction to better meet the needs of adult learners. Knowles’ six assumptions on adult learners provides important clues to engage students in the learning tasks of a course. Although empirical evidence is lacking for andragogy, as mentioned previously, instructors can take information about these assumptions and combine them with their course content.
For example, I teach introductory U.S. History courses to incoming freshmen, seasoned undergraduates, and dual credit (high school) students. After learning about Knowles’ six assumptions for adult learners, I might choose to redesign my course to meet these students needs. Rather than presenting the story of history as a series of facts, people, and events to be memorized, I might present a series of modules that pose problems for students to solve. Instead of studying the foreign policy endeavors of the United States, era by era, I might ask students to determine an answer to the question “Why do other countries despise the United States so much?” or “Why does the United States behave as the world’s police?” This format would better meet an adult learner’s orientation to learn (problem-centered), their motivation to learn (because we are addressing a current event issue through the context of the past), or even a student’s readiness to learn (again, due to the current event connection).
This process of implementing andragogical principles into a course may vary for each online instructor depending upon the demographics of their student population, their course content, resources available, and institutional or state requirements.
Part Two: Concept Map of Online Teaching & Adult Learners
My concept map is broken into two parts. The five topics on the left side reflect things that I have worried about in the past when teaching online. These topics include history content, course objectives, assessment, student readiness, and presence/interaction. The topics on the right side of the map reflect things that I learned about through this course materials this week. They include institutional resources, persistence, social styles, demographics, and andragogy. As I completed this map, I realized two things about my past thought processes on eLearning and my future processes going forward. First, much of my attention was focused on things directly related to the courses I teach. I am largely concerned with the history content, how students will learn it, what tools we will use to communicate and assess, whether or not students are prepared for the coursework, and the whether my course meets the various objectives of the stakeholders involved. Most of these concerns do not factor in some of the more foundational or fundamental topics which we discussed this week in Module 1.
After considering the mind map as I had created it, I realized that I need to change my thought process concerning my own online courses. Perhaps by considering some of these foundational ideas studied in Module 1, some of the issues I have experienced teaching online may be resolved easier. To begin this process, I decided to map connections from the new content (on the right) to my existing concerns (on the left). These connections are displayed in yellow in the image above. I felt that andragogy related to all of my concerns on the left. By knowing a bit more about what students hope to learn or want to know in my course, I may be able to adjust my own objectives, assessments, and practice. By knowing about a student’s ranking in terms of persistence, I may be able to prevent issues of student readiness that may arise during the semester.
For example, I like to have students fill out a basic survey at the beginning of each course concerning things like ideal times to meet virtually, use of tools such as Google Chat or Twitter, and their access to internet at home. This survey could be adapted to provide additional information such as a student’s social learning style, their readiness\orientation\motivation to learn, basic demographic information, and a bit on their concerns (relating to persistence). By having this information at my disposal in the beginning of a semester, I could adapt the course to better meet my adult learners needs each semester.
Undoubtedly, I still have much to learn about adult learners in online courses. By knowing more about my student population, I can ensure that the design of my courses and their experiences improve.
M Smith. (2010). Andragogy: What is it and does it help thinking about adult learning? [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://infed.org/mobi/andragogy-what-is-it-and-does-it-help-thinking-about-adult-learning/
Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative. (2007). Adult learning theory and principles. Retrieved from http://www.qotfc.edu.au/resource/?page=65375
Stavredes, T. (2011). Effective online teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Taylor, B., & Kroth, M. (2009). Andragogy’s transition into the future: Meta-analysis of andragogy and its search for a measurable instrument. Journal of Adult Education, 38(1), 1-11.