Self-Direction

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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I strongly believe that self-directed learning is the best way to learn. It can be challenging, even for the brightest and most motivated students. Students need to understand themselves as learners in order to understand their needs. I have learned that adults are very often internally motivated. Most adults are self-directed, but, we can see on a day-to-day basis that adults for the most part are externally motivated. A perfect example of that is when an employer insists that an employee be retrained or must take courses to maintain certification. Candy (1991), an Australian adult educator, suggests that continuous learning is a process in which adults manifest personality attributes of personal autonomy in self managing learning efforts. Confessore and Confessore (1992) conducted a study involving 22 self-directed learning experts from several countries. Consensus was reached in several areas, such as the most important self-directed learning research findings, research trends, practical applications, and published works. We as educators often think that an adult is internally motivated to complete a course, but the reality is that, it’s really an external motivator, like an employer. The bottom line is, anyone that does not engage in self education, voluntarily or not, lags behind the demands of the time. (Ruvinsky 1986 p. 31). My “Aha” moment was, that there are a lot of external motivators. I always knew this and had it in the back of my mind, but now it has been confirmed that self-direction in learning is a term recognizing both external factors that facilitate a learner taking primary responsibility, and internal factors that predispose an adult accepting responsibility for learning-related thoughts and actions. At the same time there is a strong connection between self-directed learning and learner self-direction. I have a better view on how to better understand adults that participate in my courses, as well as differentiating who is here for what reason. If you are aware of this as an adult educator, you are half way there in properly educating students. I have learned that my adult students may have internal and external motivators, and that it is my job as an educator to differentiate each and every student. Most important of all, I now know that self-directed learning works. Many adults succeed as self-directed learners when they could not, if personal responsibility for learning decisions were not possible. Some adult learners will excel in ways never thought possible, when they learn how to take personal responsibility. Future learners will need to become very self-directed just to be able to deal with all the information available to them in today’s world.

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Memory and Classroom Strategies

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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The process of forming a memory involves encoding, storing, retaining and recalling information and past experiences. We use memory in our everyday lives and would not be able to function in the present or move forward without relying on our memory. Memory allows us to recall a huge amount of information that we have encountered.

The three main types are:

  1. Encoding – When we receive a piece of information, before we can store it the information needs to be changed into a familiar type so that the brain can process it. For example, when we see a written word may be stored if it is changed (encoded) into a sound or a meaning. The three main types of encoding are: visual (picture), acoustic (sound), and semantic (meaning). Visual and acoustic are associated with short-term memory, while semantic is associated with long-term memory. Classroom strategy – Students will perform better on exams when studying in silence, because exams are usually conducted in silence.
  2. Storage – This is the retention of information, and is said to be something that creates a permanent record over time. It is believed that there are three main areas of storage: sensory memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. The difference is that sensory memory is for one moment in time, short-term memory is stored very briefly, and long-term memory can last a lifetime. The way memory is stored affects the way we retrieve it. Classroom strategy – Advise Students to highlight and underline key terms when studying, or they can write down key words in the margin when they read a chapter. They will then be able to go back and read what is underlined, highlighted, or written in the margins. This will help them remember the information more easily.
  3. Retrieval – In order for the memory to be used after it has, it needs to be retrieved. Retrieval is the process of accessing a stored memory. This can be achieved by using a retrieval cue that prompts the memory to trigger the retrieval. Typically there are four basic types of retrieval: recall, recollection, recognition, and relearning. When a Student takes an exam, they need to be able to retrieve information in order to answer the questions on the exam. Classroom strategy – Practice test can be an extremely useful tool when reviewing information before exams. Teachers can provide Students with the tests or they can have Students make up the questions for everyone to answer, and then get them involved in group discussions.

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Creating a Positive Environment for Adult Learners

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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To create a positive learning environment an instructor has to always be available. My Students can always approach me and count on my help. Also, I take the first few minutes in class to engage my Students in casual conversation. I will ask them about their day and if they have anything exciting going on for the rest of the week. We’ll talk about gaming, music, television shows, sports, movies, and anything else they want to discuss. Sometimes it’s only a couple of minutes with a handful of Students or a larger class discussion on something in the news, but this is something I always do in class. Creating a positive learning environment will allow Students to feel comfortable, safe and engaged – something that all Students deserve. In a classroom where values and roles remain constant and focus is placed on the positive aspects of learning, Students will be more open to actively participating in class. If they are given the opportunity to become responsible for their own learning, Students will more likely benefit from the lesson, and thus more likely be self-motivated. This should be a primary goal for all instructors, since lack of motivation is often the root of disciplinary issues. Standards and values in the classroom need to remain consistent so that Students know what to expect and what is expected of them. It is important that Students know that theirs is an inclusive, respectful, community-oriented environment. The ambience in the classroom needs to be right; it should be a dynamic and engaging place for Students. Adult education is a practice in which adults engage in systematic and sustained self–educating activities in order to gain new forms of knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values.

The instructor needs to be:

  • Respectful – for Student’s self-directed learning. They have to see themselves as a resource for learning rather than an instructor that has all the answers.
  • Engaged – in a dialog between equals with learners. Open to new ideas and allows Students to experiment.
  • Flexible – staying positive and seeing mistakes as opportunities for learning.

The main motivation for adult learners will come from the understanding of why they need to learn and how it relates to their job and real life situations. This is why the learning objectives need to be clearly defined, and everything needs to be explained in detail. Because they are adult learners they already come with a certain level of knowledge, and it is our job as instructors to tie this into new ideas.

To create a positive learning environment, the instructor needs to implement the flowing techniques:

  • Provide concrete examples. Every learning theory has to be accompanied by real life situations, this helps Students relate and realize that this is not just another theory.
  • At the end of every module take the time to revisit and reinforce the learning. Talk about the module and what the takeaways are from it, what we have learned and whether we have a proper understanding of how relevant it is.
  • Make sure that the learners are engaged. Every adult learner is very self-directed, and they like to be in control, so allowing them to explore is a powerful motivational tool for them, and ensures that they will reach their goal more efficiently.

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Assessment Strategies (Formative Evaluation)

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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Formative evaluation takes place before or during a project’s implementation with the aim of improving the project’s design and performance. We should all be using this method, as it encourages the Students to take the time to provide feedback. This type of evaluation should be administered on a weekly basis, and last a few minutes of class time. This is an opportunity to provide feedback to Students during the lecture of the following week. Formative evaluations are very useful because feedback from Students allows the Instructor to respond to Student identified challenges. It also reinforces the strengths of teaching and you can adjust the lesson plans as needed. In response to Student feedback, a detailed week by week reading syllabus should be provided, and/or a study guide for every quiz – as an enhancement. In response to positive feedback, i.e. Student expressed appreciation for the structure and guidance during small group work, a lesson plan should be included, and it should state a group work task/goal, time limit, role & responsibility, criteria, etc. Formative evaluation allows immediate response to Student concerns, and that relaxes the learning environment. It is not uncommon to receive criticism on the level of the language used, specifically on specialized vocabulary. Students without advanced language skills are challenged to understand specialized terms. The language of the disciplines taught should be used, and the intent needs to be explained to the Students, that they need to master specialized terms. This will teach us as instructors to adjust our teaching styles and modify our lesson plans, and every time we teach we need to try and add one more element to a lesson plan as a direct response to Student feedback.

Personally I follow a few techniques depending on the course I teach. I tend to ask for a lot of feedback verbally and I only do one summative evaluation at the end of my course. Peer assessments are added to the Student’s group project. Receiving feedback from my Students really helps me make adjustments as needed to my lectures, assignments, etc., as we go through the course. I believe that frequency is key, as a one-time only evaluation will really make a big difference.

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Effective Learning Environmet

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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Great article by Terry Heick, Director at TeachThought, Founder & Director of TeachThought, humanist, technologist, futurist, failed philosopher, macro thinker extraordinaire.

In this article, Terry talks about the modern way of creating an effective learning environment and how things have evolved over time. He stresses the importance of students asking questions, but not only simple questions but those that have some meaning to them. As per Terry, the questions are often more important than the answers themselves. This is something that I have noticed in the classroom with my students time after time, and this leads to a great group discussion, where ideas come from places that students connect to everyday life. When the right question is asked at the right time, the conversation in the classroom takes a life of its own, and it is great to watch and be part of it.  This is what I would call a highly effective learning environment.

Worth sharing with everyone, so please have a look at it: Effective learning environment

 

 

Interesting Study

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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Looking at various studies on adult education, I stumbled upon a very interesting article written by Torben Drews and Tyler Meredith, authors at the Institute for Research on Public Policy.  They talk about the fact that an investment in education earlier in life generally provides a higher pay-off, but despite that, a considerable number of Canadians engage in education later on. I believe that this goes hand in hand with progressing in ones career, as well as maturity levels. One cannot argue with the fact that younger generations have access to vast amounts of information, and just based on that fact alone, it is easier for them to be better informed and educated. However, it does not provide them with wisdom and experience that happens in later stages of life, and often is very connected to patience and a more clear vision of where one is going. Not too many young adults can say that they have a definite picture of what they want to do, and very often life and career takes then in a completely different direction. This is why to me; it is no surprise that Canadians engage in job-related learning later on in life.

I encourage you to read the study, please click here: Toward an Adult Education and Training Strategy for Canada

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Motivating Adult Learners

Posted by: Nesha Milicevic

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Motivation is one of the key words when it comes to education. There are probably not too many people out there that can say that they were able to accomplish something without being motivated. It seems so easy in the beginning, as adult learners we establish a goal, come up with a strategy on how we are going to achieve it, and then assess the outcome once the goal is achieved. Simple??? It certainly looks that way…… But the reality of things is that there are many unforeseen obstacles on the way that it is very easy to lose direction, and some of those obstacles can make us avoid situations, which results in lowered motivation to accomplish the goal. This is why things should not be left to chance; we need to create an environment that will allow students to explore and make mistakes along the way, without being punished. After all, learning on ones mistakes is a great educational strategy, and can be used as an effective educational tool!

I found a good article on this topic and would really like to share it with you, to view it just click here: 17 Tips To Motivate Adult Learners

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