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Analyze Professional Development for Alignment to Knowles' Fourth Assumption: Problem-Centered Orien

Analyze Professional Development for Alignment to Knowles' Fourth Assumption: Problem-Centered Orien


In this lesson, students will analyze how Knowles Fourth Assumption of Adult Learning with their professional development plans.

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Analyze Professional Development for Alignment to Knowle's Fourth Assumption: Problem-Centered Orientation.

Source: Globe, Clker,; Thinking Person, Clker,; Bill Gates, Wikimedia Commons,; Chairs, Pixabay,

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Hello there, and welcome. As adults we know that we learn differently than children. When creating professional developments we need to keep this in mind, and align our planning with Knowles' assumptions. In this video we'll look at assumption number four, which is called problem centered orientation. Let's get started.

What motivates us to learn? For adults it can be a problem that needs solving. It brings this quote to mind, "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." This, to me, is a great example of problem-centered learning. Bill Gates is acknowledging that some of his customers are unhappy, and that's a big problem for him. However, his approach is one that embodies Knowles' fourth assumption, problem centered orientation. He's going to take that information, and learn ways to fix the problem. When it comes to success, Bill Gates knows a thing or two.

With professional development it's essential that we take into account that we are dealing with adult learners. Therefore, we can dramatically improve our delivery when we align it with adult learning theories, especially Malcolm Knowles' six assumptions. Teachers benefit greatly when they are able to make connections between their professional learning, classroom practices, and the skills found in adult learning theories.

The first step of the alignment process is to identify areas of existing alignment, then you identify areas of misalignment, and finally, you look for areas that can be improved or enhanced. This analysis is meant to be reflective in nature, thus potentially leading to solutions and recommendations. There are no wrong answers here.

The first three assumptions, learner self concept, experience, and readiness to learn bring us to the fourth assumption, called problem centered orientation. As the name indicates, for adults, learning is often driven by a problem that needs to be resolved.

Here is the PD example that we'll use. A school is really struggling with the attendance rates of students. Teachers, parents, and administrators are becoming very frustrated with the number of students that are tardy, released early, or have unexcused absences. This issue is the focus of a faculty meeting.

Teachers had been given an article to read about the topic, and were to brainstorm ideas for a possible solution. They were told that something needed to be done, and whatever they came up with would be implemented immediately. Let's go ahead and answer some questions that will help us check for alignment with assumption four, problem centered orientation.

Step one is to find out if this assumption is aligned with our professional development plan. Are teachers being asked to solve a problem, and a need for immediate application? Yes, they absolutely need to address this issue of absenteeism immediately. Is there a problem readily at hand? Yes, there is a problem, and the data indicates that absenteeism is affecting student achievement. And finally, the learning that needs to happen is certainly problem-centered.

The second step is to identify any areas of misalignment in terms of the PD and assumption four. Can the information be presented in a more problem-centered manner than a subject-centered manner? In the open forum, that is the faculty meeting, it will certainly be presented from a problem-centered point of view.

Have we shared the nature of the problem and its immediate relevance with the participants? Yes, the data has been shared and disaggregated to show school, class, and individual attendance records. And finally, how can the PD plan foster the importance of problem solving with participants? This is an area that our PD falls short. Some sort of protocol or activity needs to be put into place to collect information, and use it to create a plan. Something like a plus minus delta chart could work.

The last step is to look for areas of enhancement in order to make our plan stronger. What needs to change in order for optimal learning to happen for the adults? For this one, an article on the effects of absenteeism might not be enough learning in order to help teachers solve the problem. Some research on how similar districts have dealt with it might help.

The activity can also be strengthened for the learner if the staff gets to the root of the problem, and learn why so many students are absent or tardy. This will help them view the professional development as problem-centered, rather than subject-centered.

So it's time to go ahead and summarize this lesson. We started by introducing the importance of aligning professional development with adult learning theories, in general. We also looked at the three steps of identifying alignment, misalignment, and areas of enhancement with Knowles' fourth assumption called problem centered orientation. I also modeling an analysis of a professional learning opportunity using a series of questions.

And now for today's food for thought. Conduct a quick self-assessment of your own learning. How much of it happened because you were trying to solve a problem? To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. Here you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material. As always, thanks so much for joining me. Have a great day.

Notes on "Analyze Professional Development for Alignment to Knowle's Fourth Assumption: Problem-Centered Orientation."

(00:00-00:18) Intro

(00:19-00:52) Bill Gates

(00:53-01:35) The Steps

(01:36-02:25) The Problem

(02:26-02:52) Step 1

(02:53-03:39) Step 2

(03:40-04:11) Step 3

(04:12-05:02) Food For Thought/Summary

Additional Resources

What is "good" professional development?

This page explains what is included in good professional development. The model includes Knowles' Adult Learning Theory principles.

Guide to High-Quality Professional Development 

In this guidebook from Baltimore County Public Schools, you will learn how to identify needs, systematically deliver services, and evaluate effectiveness in raising student achievement. The guide follows Knowles' Adult Learning Theory principles.