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Application of Theories

Application of Theories

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, students will analyze the three learning theories and their application.

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In this tutorial, you will learn how to apply the three adult learning theories-- andragogy, transformational learning theory, and self-directed learning theory. Let's begin with andragogy.

Recall that andragogy refers to the art and science of helping adults learn. In andragogy, the focus is more on the process and less on the concept that is being taught. One way to approach the implementation of andragogy is through Knowles' six assumptions for adult learning. Those assumptions were self-concept, experience, readiness, problem-centered orientation, internal motivation, and the need to know.

So as you are developing your instruction and designing your lessons, you can incorporate these six assumptions by asking yourself some very directed questions. For example, you can ask, have I created a climate that is conducive for learning? Have I created a physical setting that is comfortable and adult-oriented? What experiences are my learners bringing to the situation? The unique life experiences of your learners can serve as a great jumping-off points for your instruction.

You can ask yourself whether your learners are going to feel an immediate need for the information that you'll be presenting. Will your learners be able to use the new information in future roles? Are you going to be presenting your learners with a problem that needs to be solved?

Is your lesson going to approach any concepts that refer to internal motivators, like self-esteem and self-confidence and a higher quality of life? And finally, you can ask yourself whether your learners are going to understand the immediate applications of the information. Will they understand why they are going to be learning what they're learning?

When implementing the adult learning theory of andragogy, we need to remember that self-directed learners want to be heavily involved in all stages of their education, from the decision making to the planning to the self-evaluation. When you're designing learning activities, you can choose activities that include simulations and roleplaying and case studies, and again, that element of self-evaluation for your learners. And remember that instructors should act as facilitators instead of just as lecturers in that educational environment. Next, let's look at implementing transformational learning theory.

Recall that transformational learning theory asks learners to reflect critically on their experiences and to engage in valuable discourse on those experiences. And the results of this self-reflection and of the discussion of the experiences should then prompt the learner to make any necessary changes as a result. So when we're planning for learning using transformational learning theory, we want to remember the four components of transformational learning-- the learner's experience, the learner's ability to critically reflect, that element of reflective discourse, and finally, the action that the learner is going to take after they have reflected on their learning.

So to support transformational learning, we can establish a climate of learning that supports the foundation of transformational learning. We can try to incorporate learning activities that are going to appeal to our students' unique learning preferences. And we can make an effort to include diversity and varying points of view in our learning activities. Finally, let's look at self-directed learning theory.

In self-directed learning theory, learners are actively involved in making decisions about the content, the resources, the methods, and the evaluation of their own learning. So when you are designing self-directed learning for your learners, you might want to keep in mind these components. You may consider the development of a self-directed learning plan or a contract with your learners.

It may be useful to conduct a skill level assessment or needs assessment that would help you to determine what learning objectives are going to be appropriate for the students. You can help your learners to set learning goals, to determine those strategies, and also to determine what the evaluation criteria are going to be. You can help them to match the appropriate resources and methods to their unique learning goals.

You can help them to implement strategies that are going to aid in their decision making and in their self-evaluation of their own work. And on that note, you can also share with them some strategies for engaging in self-reflection on their own learning. And finally, you might consider working with an advisor or a peer as you help guide your learners through their learning processes.

Self-directed learning can include all sorts of activities, like learning projects, self-teaching self-learning, collaboration, self-study, self-education, independent learning. All of these different types of elements can occur within the context of peer-to-peer learning, for example, PLCs, or just within individual learning situations.

Self-directed learning that is occurring in formal situations is going to require an instructor who is there to guide the learners through the self-directed learning process. So this might involve helping students to make those decisions about the content and the resources and the methods that they're going to be using. It could be helping them with setting their learning goals and sharing strategies with them. And it can also be helping students with their evaluation process. Let's look at an example situation.

Let's consider a group of adult learners who have been placed into a study group in order to learn how to use a new software application that they are going to be required to use in their professional situation. Let's first consider how andragogy might help here. If their instructor is incorporating andragogy as the adult learning theory that they're building their instruction on, that instructor would be keeping in mind that these learners are not young students that they are going to be instructing.

Instead, the instructor would be focused on the fact that these are adults leading professional careers and that they are bringing a unique set of skills, then, to the table. So the instruction is going to be tailored to adults who already probably have a vast amount of experience using technology. And so the instructor would build on those experiences, frame things in terms of the software applications that the adult learners are already familiar with, and then use that to bridge into the instruction on the new software application.

One of the elements of andragogy is considering whether your learners have an immediate need for the information that you are presenting. And definitely in this case that immediate need would be present. The expectation here is that these learners will be implementing this software application right away into their workplace. And so that would benefit those learners and the instructor as they're working together to meet this goal that has a sense of immediacy.

Next, let's consider what this instruction might look like if the instructor is using transformational learning theory as their framework. In this case, the instructor would be expecting the learners to engage in some critical reflection and some valuable discourse on the topic. So for this reason, transformational learning theory may not be the best fit because the realistic expectation here is that these learners probably just want to get a practical introduction to the software application so that they can begin using it right away. It may not be realistic to expect these adult learners to have a really valuable and meaningful conversation around the topic of keyboard shortcuts in a software application, for example. Finally, let's consider whether self-directed learning theory might be a good fit here.

In self-directed learning theory, the learner has a lot of control over the content, the methods, the resources, and the evaluation of their own learning. Considering that we are making the assumption that these adults have no prior experience with this software application, they may not be the best people to be making the choices about the particular content or the methods that are going to be employed to teach them this new software. When it comes to the resources, in this case, the new software application is going to be the primary resource. So again, the learners don't really have even a choice to make there.

So we can see that in this particular example, andragogy really is the best adult learning theory framework from which to approach this situation. This just reinforces for us the idea that these different theories are going to come into play at different times. Not any one theory is always going to be the best fit for every single adult learning situation. So you can really consider the needs of your learners and the specific circumstances surrounding each situation to help you decide which theory is going to be the best fit.

So we've spoken in depth about the implementation of all three of the different adult learning theories. And we've seen that each of these theories is going to be the best fit for different types of situations. Perhaps you can think of a time when you were an adult learner in a situation that didn't seem to be particularly effective. If the instructor had used one of these adult learning theories as the framework, would that have helped the activity to be more successful?

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the Additional Resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The Additional Resources section includes hyperlinks useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for joining me. Have a great day.

Notes on "Application of Theories"

(00:00 - 00:11) Introduction

(00:12 - 02:23) Andragogy

(02:24 - 03:29) Transformational Learning

(03:30 - 05:34) Self-Directed Learning

(05:35 - 09:09) Example

(09:10 - 09:55) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

How To Drive Your Professional Development With A Self-Directed Learning Program

This article provides strategies for driving your professional learning to improve practices.

Teacher Agency: Self-Directed Professional Development

This blog post explains the difference between visionary and traditional professional development paradigms. It also outlines the importance of teacher empowerment through self-directed learning.