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The Confounding Dimensions of the Learner in Middle Life A Presentation to the Distance Education Technology Symposium (DETS 2008) Athabasca University.

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Presentation on theme: "The Confounding Dimensions of the Learner in Middle Life A Presentation to the Distance Education Technology Symposium (DETS 2008) Athabasca University."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Confounding Dimensions of the Learner in Middle Life A Presentation to the Distance Education Technology Symposium (DETS 2008) Athabasca University Edmonton, Alberta – June 13, 2008 Norman E. Taylor, MDE

2 “We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning For what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and What in the morning was true … will at evening have become a lie.” Good AFTERNOON … Fellow Learners Carl Gustav Jung (1933)

3 Some Questions We Will Attempt To Answer Today Who is “the learner in middle life?” What has changed about “the learner in middle life?” Who are the Four Selves that each Middle Life Learner brings into each learning experience? Why does each of these ‘selves’ represent important considerations for the educator? What additional research could (or should) be done on this topic? What is the research in Adult Education saying about these dimensions of Middle Life Learners? How is the field of Distance Education, in particular, potentially impacted? How (and why) did I get to here through an MDE Independent Study Project? What advice might I offer to other students considering their own ISP? What did I learn from my own Independent Study Project? What am I going to do about it?

4 If a picture is worth a thousand words … … how many words are contained in an experience? Let’s Begin With One of Yours

5 Please plot yourself on the following four scales according to which of each paired description more accurately reflects your state of mind as you entered the specific learning project: Scale # 1 I Felt More Like This 1 …… 2 …… 3 …… 4 …… 5 …… 6 …… 7 …… 8 …… 9 …… 10 Please bring to mind a recent or particularly memorable learning project which you have undertaken as an adult learner. It could be a specific course in your degree program, a workplace training program, an online study module, or a personal growth learning project. I had low confidence based on previous learning experiences in my life. It had been a long time since I was in a similar learning role. I had a high degree of fear and worry about my learning capacity. I had few if any proven learning strategies to draw upon. I had little or no preparation for the subject matter. I had much demonstrated success in the past as a learner and thus had high confidence. I possessed well-developed strategies for learning and good personal disciplines. I felt well prepared to approach the subject matter. I had previously validated measures of my learning capacity and ability.

6 Please plot yourself on the following four scales according to which of each paired description more accurately reflects your state of mind as you experienced the specific learning project: Please bring to mind a recent or particularly memorable learning project which you have undertaken as an adult learner. It could be a specific course in your degree program, a workplace training program, an online study module, or a personal growth learning project. Scale # 2 The learning did not resonate with other past experiences. It neither drew upon nor validated my practical or tacit knowledge. I remained uncertain of what I was learning and was dependent upon the instruction and measured feedback. I learned some things but I did not feel it affecting my points of view. The learning ignited and integrated with other prior experiences. It had the effect of validating and reconciling things I already knew informally. I was highly conscious of the new learning I was gaining and felt the cumulative effects upon my confidence. I encountered rich challenges to my perspectives on life. I Felt More Like This 1 …… 2 …… 3 …… 4 …… 5 …… 6 …… 7 …… 8 …… 9 …… 10

7 Please plot yourself on the following four scales according to which of each paired description more accurately reflects your state of mind as you completed the specific learning project: Please bring to mind a recent or particularly memorable learning project which you have undertaken as an adult learner. It could be a specific course in your degree program, a workplace training program, an online study module, or a personal growth learning project. Scale # 3 I was not very concerned about receiving ‘credit’ for the learning. I had no specific purposes in mind for applying the learning. I did not feel accountable to anyone else to achieve or succeed at any specific level. I accepted the learning at face value and merely expected to integrate it within my general body of knowledge and skills. I was highly committed to achieving some ‘credential’ associated with the learning. I had specific applications in mind for my newly gained competencies. I felt an accountability to my employer or other sponsor(s) to succeed. I anticipated material gain and/or career advancement from the learning achievement. I Felt More Like This 1 …… 2 …… 3 …… 4 …… 5 …… 6 …… 7 …… 8 …… 9 …… 10

8 Please plot yourself on the following four scales according to which of each paired description more accurately reflects your state of mind as you reflected upon your completion of the learning: Please bring to mind a recent or particularly memorable learning project which you have undertaken as an adult learner. It could be a specific course in your degree program, a workplace training program, an online study module, or a personal growth learning project. Scale # 4 Other than its practical applications, the learning did not change me. It did not alter my sense of purpose or destiny. I was not moved to see the world differently. I did not feel compelled to use the learning as a springboard to other actions. I did not discover any untapped or latent talents or passions. I was the same person but with new knowledge and/or skills. The learning opened new windows into my sense of myself. I felt inspired to take on new courses of action. I questioned my view of the world and my place within it. I was moved spiritually as well as intellectually. I re- activated or discovered latent abilities and interests and came to re-examine my sense of purpose for my current and future stages of life. I Felt More Like This 1 …… 2 …… 3 …… 4 …… 5 …… 6 …… 7 …… 8 …… 9 …… 10

9 Please plot yourself on the following four scales according to which of each paired description more accurately reflects your state of mind throughout the specific learning project: Scale # 1 - Entry Or, if you prefer the big picture reflection … Scale # 2 - Experience Scale # 3 - Completion Scale # 4 - Reflection Low confidence as a learner.High confidence as a learner. Low experiential resonance. Low material significance. Low impact on critical self. High material significance. High experiential resonance. High impact on critical self. I Felt More Like This 1 …… 2 …… 3 …… 4 …… 5 …… 6 …… 7 …… 8 …… 9 …… 10

10 Which of these individuals would you describe as a motivated learner? Which would you describe as an unmotivated learner? What concerns might you have as a teacher if you faced this particular grouping of profiles in your classroom or your online course? Why? What concerns might you have as a learner if you were accurately reflected in any one of these profiles? Which profile(s) would concern you most? Why? Five Sample Profiles of the Middle Life Learner Natural SelfExperiential SelfPractical SelfCritical Self Steve2579 Cyril7729 Sharon4853 Dave9361 John5292

11 Who is “the learner in middle life?” What has changed about “the learner in middle life?” Some early goals: New language to capture phenomenology of intrinsic and extrinsic learner motivation Respect for the complexity of our middle-life subjects Need for an operational definition of the Middle Life Learner (Dr. Fahy & Dr. Kenny) What I discovered: Mid-life to “Middle Life” – from narrow field to “30 to 60 … +/- 10 years” (Lachman, 2004) From Jung and Erikson to MIDMAC et al Infuenced by personal studies in Lifelong Learning, Experiential Learning and Interpretive and Critical Social Science Welton, Peruniak: Habermas, Mezirow, Fenwick, Freire, Collins Blodgett: Neuman, Creswell

12 Changes in Adult Education Changes in Psychological and Sociological Factors Postmodern Psycho-Social Realities Patterns of Aging and Family Career Transitions Global Mobility Social Diversity Widening Income & Wealth Gap Sustainable Development Challenges Prolonged & Multi-faceted Generativity Ongoing Disturbance Resulting Impacts on Learning and Development: Lines of Control – Lines of Transition Basic Concepts of Education Classical Early Vocational Classical Vocational Experiential Multi-Mode Options Life Long Learning

13 Who are the Four Selves that each Middle Life Learner brings into the learning experience?

14 The Natural Self asks … The Practical Self asks … The Experiential Self asks … The Critical Self asks … What Native Abilities and Self-Conceptions Do I Bring Into Adult Learning? What Apparent Needs Drive Me To Succeed? How Are Life Experiences and New Points of View Interacting With My Learning? To What Adult Purposes Will I Choose to Direct My Learning? Adult Education Strategies Designed Learning Interactions I am in part all that has gone before: How I have learned, what I have learned, and how do I feel about my readiness for the process of learning? I am whatever happens to me in the learning process: Am I a truly welcome participant? Am I permitted to see how I am being affected? I am also all that might come next: How I have been affected and how will this affect my life? Who have I become? Where do I go from here? I am in part my practical reasons for learning: How will my learning be measured? How will it be applied? How will my efforts be rewarded? As an Adult Learner in the “Afternoon of Life” …. To which of these learners are you teaching? For which of these learners are your academic systems designed?

15 ? ? ? ? Learners Perspective: Compatibility with Purposes ? ? ? ? Educators’ Perspective: Adapting for Success Factors Why does each of these ‘selves’ represent important considerations for the educator? What is the research-to-date in Adult Education saying about these dimensions of Middle Life Learners?

16 Education Psychology Sociology Social Anthropology Linguistics Economics Business International Development Instructional Systems Design My Study of Middle Life Learners tapped into over 160 Literature Sources from:

17 The Natural Self – Overview Mostly informed by native abilities and early life experience. Includes intellect, attitudes, personality factors, self-concept and adopted frames of reference that have guided the individual into adulthood. Principal interface is with the Experiential Self where the processes for acquiring knowledge and accepting growth may come into tension with the self- conceptions from the past. What the Learner BringsWhat the Educator Must Consider  What is my general appetite for learning new things – do I know my developmental goals?  How will this learning program conform to my previously demonstrated cognitive abilities, learning styles and limitations?  How do I tend to perceive the roles of the teacher and student?  Am I open to interacting with new people in new ways, and what do I wish to protect and preserve about myself?  What fears of failure might my students carry with them?  Does the learning cater to multiple learning and personality styles (Ally & Fahy, 2002)?  Have I adequately neutralized the teacher-student relationship?  Have I provided social and cognitive supports (Moisey, 2001; Smith & Ragan, 2005)? Implications for Learning and Instruction from the Natural Self

18 Implications for Learning and Instruction from the Experiential Self The Experiential Self – Overview Informed by situational and dispositional factors (Bullen, 1998) and social discourse. Learning that starts out with instrumental goals can initiate communicative and emancipatory outcomes (Mezirow, 2000). Principal interface is with the Practical Self where cumulative experience and personal transitions can confuse the relevance of learning goals, and learning itself can become disorienting. What the Learner BringsWhat the Educator Must Consider  How is this learning project fitting with the ongoing course of my life?  Is my practical intelligence and tacit knowledge being validated (Sternberg, Wagner, Williams & Horvath, 1995)?  Am I gaining meaningful new knowledge and/or is it causing disorientation?  Am I gaining from my interactions with others?  Am I open to personal transitions and prepared for “traumas of the self” (Fenwick, 2000, p. 10)?  Does my content have the potential to disorient my learners? Have I considered their emotional and affective needs as learners?  Have I designed ways to utilize the life experience of the adult learner?  Have I provided sufficiently for personal choices in the mix and level of interaction?  Have I considered my content and my learners in a systems view (Banathy, 1995)?

19 Implications for Learning and Instruction from the Practical Self The Practical Self – Overview Mostly informed by vocational responsibilities and the money code (Welton, 2005). Motivating factors shift to material outcomes of credentials and advancement. Learning can be reduced to lowest common denominators as intellectual appetite yields to concrete achievements. Features the lowest awareness of the other dimensions. Primary interface is with the Critical Self as control of learning and concepts of meaningful knowledge come into conflict with life stages. What the Learner BringsWhat the Educator Must Consider  Who has decided that I need to learn, and what I need to learn?  Who is in control of what I come to know?  Will the learning meet my pragmatic goals?  Will this learning change my place in the world?  Is the learning ‘contract’ being met in an efficient manner?  Is the central and apparent purpose of the learning project clear to me?  Will my learners grow impatient with activities outside of the central and apparent purpose?  Are they motivated to learn, or merely to complete?  How do the learning requirements and limitations conform to my personal ethics as an educator?

20 Implications for Learning and Instruction from the Critical Self The Critical Self – Overview Informed by global awareness, social conscience and maturing sense of self. Control and value of knowledge are personal and may conflict openly with practical circumstances. Spiritual and legacy purposes can overtake the learning project. Important interfaces with the Experiential Self, which can feed into this dimension unexpectedly, and with the Natural Self, where reconciliation can initiate or accelerate significant life transitions. What the Learner BringsWhat the Educator Must Consider  Is this learning generating new questions about the fullness of my life?  Am I prepared for the potential destabilizing effects of perspective transformations and new ideologies upon my practical life?  Am I moved to consider new lines of action in my life (Mezirow, 1991)?  Am I discovering latent aspects of myself that demand attention?  Am I sufficiently balancing the intensity of this learning experience with my broader perspectives?  Have I considered the potential for undeclared outcomes and directions to emerge in this learning program?  Am I aware of the risks and potential consequences of destabilizing my learners?  Have I provided for adequate reflection, support and balance in my design?  Have I sufficiently ‘bracketed’ my own belief systems in the selection and organization of my content (Creswell, 2007)?

21 What additional research could (or should) be done on this topic? How is the field of Distance Education, in particular, potentially impacted by these dimensions of Middle Life Learners?

22 Content & Resources PeersTeachers The Natural Self The Practical Self The Experiential Self The Critical Self Intellectual, Affective & Personality Factors Acquired Frames of Reference Lifeworld, Citizenship & Spiritual Factors Conscientization Social and Acculturating Factors Transforming Perspectives Socio-economic Factors Vocational & Purposeful Ambitions What Native Abilities and Self-Conceptions Do I Bring Into Adult Learning? What Apparent Reasons Drive My Success? What Points of View and Meaning Schemes Are Interacting With My Learning Processes? To What Adult Purposes Do I Want My Learning To Be Directed? Generativity - Actualization Academic Disposition Disorientation Practical-Tacit Intelligence Metacognition Cognitive Strategies Self-Efficacy Intrinsic Motivation Generational Norms Personal Destiny Self vs. Other Direction Legacy Roles Renaissance Credentials & Career Competency Models Pragmatism Extrinsic Motivation Epistemology Ontology ReconciliationRelevance Educational Strategies Designed Learning Interactions Are My Achievements Recognized? To What Are They Applied?

23 During 1 st 8 MDE Courses: Encountered a growing body of non-integrated material about learner motivation During Systems Theory in AE & Lifelong Learning: Gained new perspectives on learners & opened new pathways During 4 yrs, in dual roles as Professor and Consultant: Contrasts became evident between college students & AE participants Conceived the original ISP Study Topic as Mid-Life Dispositions to the Learning Experience Commenced the preliminary literature scan with about 60 authors and produced the first draft of the concept model. Highlighted the need to develop an operating definition of mid-life and to trace the post-modern influences upon the adult learner Examined concepts of middle life linked to generational differences and globalization & new economic trends Extended literature search to 100 additional sources Revised the language of the conceptual model Parallel studies in Experiential Learning and Instructional Systems Design provided important new clues Profiling Learners for Educational Strategy & Transformative Nature of Adult Experience Final Paper presents a multi-dimensional profile of the learner in middle life Comments on the relative impact of 4 dimensions upon the learning process and their interaction with learning designs During recent 10 yrs in practice: Noticed differences in learners and their circumstances over my previous 20 yrs. experience How (and why) did I get to here in an Independent Study Project?

24 What advice might I offer to other students considering their own Independent Study Project? Be prepared to practice “Fitzgerald’s Intelligence” Be prepared to follow Neuman’s and Creswell’s advice – your focus will change as you go, and induction rules. Be prepared to tap into the wealth of human capital around you: –Your Program Advisors –Your Family –Your Practical Experience –Your Faculty and Peers in Other Courses Prepare to be thrilled by discovering how much you already know. Prepare to be humbled by how much you have yet to learn.

25 What did I learn from my own Independent Study Project? What am I going to do about it? “The nearer we approach the middle of life, and the better we have succeeded in entrenching ourselves in our personal standpoints and social positions, the more it appears as if we had discovered the right course and the right ideals and principles of behaviour. For this reason we suppose them to be eternally valid and make a virtue of unchangeably clinging to them. We wholly overlook the essential fact that the achievements which society rewards are won at the cost of diminution of personality.” Speak About It … Write About It … Research It … Live It Please visit www.Net-L3.com and join me in my weblog on Lifelong Learningwww.Net-L3.com Modern Man in Search of a Soul (Jung, 1933) I believe that as Adult Educators, and especially as Distance Educators … We must harness the Natural Self, reconcile the Experiential Self, serve the Practical Self, and awaken the Critical Self within our Middle Life Learners. Thank you

26 References Ally, M. & Fahy, P. (2002). Using students’ learning styles to provide support in distance education. Proceedings of the 18th Annual Distance Education Conference on Teaching and Learning. Madison, WI. Anderson, T. (2002). Getting the mix right: An updated and theoretical rationale for interaction. Instructional Technology Forum, #63. Athabasca University. Retreived July 1, 2007 from http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/paper63/paper63.htmhttp://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/paper63/paper63.htm Banathy, B. (1995). Developing a systems view of education. Educational Technology (May-June). Boshier, R. & Collins, J.B. (1985). The Houle typology after twenty-two years: A large-scale empirical test. Adult Education Quarterly, 35(113). 113-129 Bullen, M. (1998). Participation and critical thinking in online university distance education. Journal of Distance Education. 13(2). Retrieved October 5, 2007 from http://cade.athabascau.ca/vol13.2/bullen.htmlhttp://cade.athabascau.ca/vol13.2/bullen.html Campbell, P. & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Educational presence in the community of inquiry model: The student’s viewpoint. 21st Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. University of Wisconsin. Retrieved March 10, 2008 from http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/proceedings/05_2024.pdf http://www.uwex.edu/disted/conference/Resource_library/proceedings/05_2024.pdf Collins, M. (1995). Critical commentaries on the role of the adult educator: From self-directed learning to postmodernist sensibilities. In M. Welton (Ed.), In defense of the lifeworld: Critical perspectives on adult learning. Albany: SUNY Press. pp. 71-97 Conrad, D. (2002). Deep in the hearts of learners: Insights into the nature of online community. Journal of Distance Education, 17(1). 1-19 Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA.: Sage Publications. Fenwick, T.J. (2000). Expanding conceptions of experiential learning. Adult Education Quarterly, 50(4). 243-272 Freire, P. (1970, 2003). Pedagogy of the oppressed: 30th anniversary edition. London, UK.: Continuum Press.

27 References (Continued) Garrison, D.R. (2000). Theoretical challenges for distance education in the 21st century. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 1(1). Retrieved November 29, 2002 from: http://www.irrodl.org/content/v1.1/randy.htmlhttp://www.irrodl.org/content/v1.1/randy.html Habermas, J. (1987). The theory of communicative action (II): Lifeworld and systems: A critique of functionalist reason. Thomas McCarthy (Trans.). Boston, MA.: Beacon Press. Harder, A.F. (2002). The Developmental Stages of Erik Erikson. Learning Place Online.com. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/Erikson.htm http://www.learningplaceonline.com/stages/organize/Erikson.htm Houle, C.O. (1961). The inquiring mind. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Jung, C.G. (1933; 2001). Modern man in search of a soul. New York: Routledge. p. 106-108 Lachman, M.E. (2004). Development in midlife. Annual Review of Psychology, 55. 305-331 Lindeman, E.C. (1926; 1989). The Meaning of Adult Education. New York: New Republic. Republished in 1989 by Oklahoma Research Center for Continuing Professional and Higher Education. McCormack, T. (2004). Diversity in Canada: The emerging reality. Presentation to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Forum at Whistler, B.C. Burlington, Ontario: The Centre for Spatial Economics. Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. pp. 1-63 Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In J. Mezirow & Associates, Learning as transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress. San Francisco: Josey-Bass Inc. pp. 3-33 MIDMAC (2006). Research network on successful midlife development. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved February 1, 2008 from http://midmac.med.harvard.edu/http://midmac.med.harvard.edu/ Moisey, Susan D. (2001). An integrated instructional design model to foster lasting behavior change. Educational Technology, 41(2). 60-62

28 References (Continued) Neuman, W. L. (2006). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education Inc. pp. 87-220 Omidvar, R. & Richmond, T., (2005). Immigrant settlement and social inclusion in Canada. The Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement. Retrieved October 31, 2007 from http://ceris.metropolis.net/PolicyMatter/2005/PolicyMatters16.pdf http://ceris.metropolis.net/PolicyMatter/2005/PolicyMatters16.pdf Saba, F. (2000). Research in distance education: A status report. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 1(1). 1-9 Retrieved February 21, 2002 from http://irrodl.org/content/v1.1/farhad.pdfhttp://irrodl.org/content/v1.1/farhad.pdf Smith, P.L. & Ragan, T.J. (2005). Instructional Design (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, N.J. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 10 Sternberg, R.J., Wagner, R.K., Williams, W.M. & Horvath, J.A. (1995). Testing common sense. American Psychologist, 50(11). 912-927 Tough, A. (1979). The adult’s learning projects: A fresh approach to theory and practice in adult learning. Toronto: OISE Press. pp. 1-6 Welton, M. (2005). Designing the just learning society: A critical inquiry. Leicester, UK: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. Willis, S.L. & Martin, M. (2005). Middle adulthood: A lifespan perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. pp. 20- 32


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