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Reflect on Applying Adult Learning Principles to PD

Reflect on Applying Adult Learning Principles to PD


In this lesson, students will reflect on the concepts of Adult Learning theories as it is applied to PD design.

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Source: Globe, Clker,; Thinking Person, Clker,

Video Transcription

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Hello, there. And welcome to another lesson connected to reflection. This time, we'll focus specifically on the concepts of adult learning theories as they apply to designing professional development. I will mostly walk you through the process of making changes to an existing professional development and aligning the revised version with an adult learning theory. So let's get started.

Let's begin with a hypothetical example of a professional development gone bad. Your school decides to introduce an initiative to help improve writing scores across all grade levels. They introduce a new writing program and offer a professional development on the day before the first day of school. The materials are still in packages and you attend a session to learn more about them. You are grouped with teachers of all different grade levels. And the presenter is a representative from the publishing company that simply talks at you for 45 minutes.

Obviously, this is not a good situation. Let's take a look at the parts of it that make this a poor model and try to improve them. First of all, it was rolled out poorly and gave teachers no time to become familiar with materials. Next, the program has components that are grade specific. Yet, multiple grades came together, adding to the confusion. The presenter was unknown to the audience and not a teacher of writing. And finally, a lecture approach did not sit well with a group of teachers on a hot August day, knowing how much they had to do to get their classrooms ready.

Let's try to make some changes in order to align it with the adult learning principles, specifically Malcolm Knowles' adult learning theory and his six assumptions. Assumption one is self concept. It's important for the adult learner to have some sense of control in their learning. So in this case, the designer could've differentiated the audience by grade and had teachers go to the level that is right for them.

Assumption two-- experience. Presenters are wise to factor in the participant's experience level when deciding the manner in which they will present their material. Assumption three is learner's readiness and assumption four is problem-centered orientation. If a teacher will not actually be utilizing the program being purchased, there's no need for them to go through the training. Or, if their role doesn't require them to do anything with writing, they won't feel like they're solving any problems. This, again, is where choice is favored over forced participation.

Assumption five is all about motivation, internal motivation. Adults are more likely to be driven to participate and learn if they are respected as adult learners. And one way of doing this is by providing them with the time to explore the materials on their own. And the sixth assumption is the adult's need to know. A skilled presenter who is in the field and has used the program with children is the best way to convince the adult learner that they need to know this material.

Although the Pappas Model of Reflection is usually applied to the receiver of learning, it can also be beneficial to the facilitator, and in this case, it's the designer and/or the deliverer of the professional development. The Pappas Model uses the levels based on Bloom's Taxonomy. Let's go ahead and give it a shot from the perspective of the individual who designed and edited the implemented PD. In this case, that's me.

Remembering-- What happened in the PD design and how was it altered? The revisions and alterations made to the original plan took the adult learner into consideration. The new plan was much more differentiated to meet the needs of those attending the session.

Understanding-- What was important about it and why were the alterations made? It's important to respect the learner. And the alterations were made to do that, as well as to engage them at a deeper and more personal level.

Applying-- Where can I use aspects of the design again? Would I make similar alterations in the future? The new design can be used at a faculty or grade-level meeting throughout the year, continuing to adjust for the needs of the participants.

Four, analyzing-- Are there any patterns in the design? Are there any areas of strengths or weaknesses I should address? Yes. In this case, there was a consistent effort to learn about the audience and meet them where they were and bring them along at a slower pace.

Evaluating-- How well did it work and did the PD participants respond well to the changes? Since this is my hypothetical scenario, I'm confident in reporting that the PD was a smashing success.

And finally, creating-- What should I do next and do I need to make further changes to take other actions? One thing I would make sure to include is the opportunity for participants to provide their feedback to me, the designer of the professional development.

As you wind down near the end of this learning experience, I would like to leave you with a different kind of food for thought. I'm going to model some questions that will help you to continue to grow professionally through the use of critical reflection. You might find it helpful to pause the video and answer the questions yourself before I do.

As you look back on your professional development experiences, ask yourself if they've been aligned to the adult learning principles. In this lesson, I did so specifically and highlighted the process. Number two-- Do you think you would personally benefit from PD designed with an adult learner theory orientation? Why or why not? I know that it helps me to better understand the type of learner I am when I also think about experiences that have nothing to do with education.

Number three-- If you were going to design PD for your school, which principles do you think it would be most important to incorporate? Depending on the role you have within your professional learning community, this answer will vary. You may be expected to coach new or struggling teachers. Or maybe you are training faculty in a district wide initiative, like a new program or application. Or perhaps, it's much more routine and school-based, like faculty meanings. In any case, the principles outlined throughout this course will help you bring your practice to the next level.

For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the Additional Resources section that come with this presentation. The Additional Resources section includes links useful for applications of the course material, including brief descriptions of each resource. That's all for this lesson. Thanks so much for joining. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Reflect on Applying Adult Learning Principles to PD"

(00:00-00:21) Intro

(00:22-01:35) PD Gone Bad

(01:36-02:48) PD Revisions

(02:49-04:39) Pappas Model

(04:40-06:21) Food For Thought

Additional Resources

Professional Development in the 21st Century – Teacher Reflection and Action

This Intercultural Development Research Association article reviews the importance of teacher reflection in professional learning. In addition, this resource includes useful questions to guide reflection.

Understanding Yourself and Increasing Your Professional Value through Self-Reflection

This article reviews strategies for self-reflection to improve self-efficacy, confidence, and skills in the workplace.