Sunday, June 18, 2017

Androgogy vs Pedagogy

How will understanding the history of Andragogy, and how it differs from Pedagogy, help you in your practice?

Learning the difference between how and why adults learn compared to children is important. It really boils down to two key areas: motivation and responsibility.

First, let's look at motivation. Kids and adults are similarly motivated.

 There  are some students who are internally motivated who love learning for the sake of learning, other students are motivated by rewards and punishments, and others who simply are not motivated and invested in learning at all.

Adults, when they go back to school or take a class, are usually doing it because they are getting something out of it. It may be an increase in pay or an increase in self-esteem. Sometimes, they are taking a class simply because they are told to for their jobs.

Responsibility of learning is a huge difference. 

The most accepted pedagogy is that children do not hold primary responsibility for their learning. They lack prior knowledge and experience and must rely heavily on the teacher not only for what to learn, but how to learn. Students are not often given the chance to reflect on their learning and how they learning before moving on to the next skill. Students often wonder, "Why do we have to know this?" for all sorts of topics and if the student does not find the connection, they may not retain the information.

Adults, however, are expected to take responsibility for learning. They have many years of experience and instructors value those experiences. Typically, an adult in a learning setting is learning material that is relevant to their lives. The "Why do we have to know this" is tied to why they are taking the class. A teacher knows why he or she is attending professional development. An engineering student understands the value of taking calculus. This results in the learning making consistent meaningful connections to the information.

I do not understand the assumption that children are not expected to take responsibility for their learning and participate in reflections of what they have learned. A good teacher will take the experiences children have and tie it into what they are learning. Young students should have the opportunity to have responsibility for their own learning. This should increase student motivation.

When it comes to teaching adults, we also can't forget that sometimes adults have to take classes and do things that they don't want to do. And, typically the same type of motivations that work for unmotivated children, work for unmotivated adults. Someone once told me you could judge how interesting a PD would be by what was on the table: If there were plenty of treats, expect it to be extremely boring.

According to Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, there are six principles of adult learning:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences
  • Adults are goal oriented
  • Adults are relevancy oriented
  • Adults are practical
  • Adult learners like to be respected

To be perfectly honest, you can substitute children for just about every one of those besides internal motivation and goal oriented, and even then, you will find those children who could be described in those terms.

Perhaps because I teach older children and have homeschooled in the past (and again this next school year!) that I expect students to be more self-directed. Students definitely want to know why, they want the steps to be clear and practical, and they definitely want to be respected. We can't discount how their life experiences and prior knowledge add to (and unfortunately, sometimes detract from) the classroom.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Teaching Adults vs Children

I spent several years teach adults before I went back to college to learn how to teach children.

My first steps into teaching adults were a complete disaster. I clearly remember being asked to teach an adult Sunday School class at church. I was 18 years old and teaching people who were far more knowledgeable about pretty much everything. The word intimidated doesn't even begin to describe what I was feeling. Our church is very organized and streamlined, and therefore there is a curriculum for teachers, and a handbook for students. My very first lesson, I stood up and read directly from the teacher manual. It was so awful. There was another teacher who was vibrant and creative. He engaged every single adult and everyone wanted to attend his classes. Our Bishop had to ask people to attend mine. I lasted three months.

I didn't teach adults again another 12 years.

I also didn't teach children either, except for the nursery class of 18 month to three year olds.

Around the time I was asked to teach adults at church again, I also transitioned from being a member of the non-profit La Leche League to being a leader. This meant I had to teach monthly meetings, answer phone calls at all hours, and to train other leaders. LLL also had leader manual with meeting topics, but it was far less specific than the manual for teaching at church. I had to learn how to reach mothers in a way that was meaningful and helpful to them. They were coming to the meetings because they needed something specific. They kept coming because there was a feeling of sisterhood. My lessons mattered because most of the women only came for one or two meetings. I had to maximize their learning and, most importantly build a relationship of trust. Women who needed support from LLL needed to feel comfortable talking to a complete stranger about breastfeeding and ask for help.

When I started teaching at church again. I was asked to attend a teacher class. My eyes were opened! A good lesson began with an object lesson, some comparison of a Gospel topic to an everyday object. In my education program, I learned this was called a hook. Each lesson started with the small idea and built up to the big ideas. Each week, the lessons built on each other. In the education world, we think of this as scaffolding.

As I went through my education classes, learning to be a"real" teacher, many of those same ideas and principles I learned through my church classes, were techniques used in teaching children.

Teaching children is not all that different from teaching adults. The teacher is still competing for attention with devices and all the other things going on in the students' heads. The teacher still needs to find a way to draw the students into the lesson. No one wants to sit in a lecture and listen to a person drone on and on.

I would often post links and lessons on Google Classroom for my students, but once they left my room, it was impossible to follow up and make sure they watched the extra lessons. The students promised they would watch and a quick survey the next class showed very few of them did.

The same thing happens for adults taking online classes. We wait until the last possible minute and if we have time, watch the extra lessons, but more often than not, we try to skate by doing the minimum. That's probably more of a confession than anything else. With five kids at home for the summer, and one leaving for college in six weeks, I have to force myself to do my homework. I have to force myself to do my housework, to be honest. There are so many other things I would rather be doing. I am an adult. I know better! But, when it comes down to it, teaching adults is not all that different than teaching students. And being an adult student, isn't all that different than when I was a young student--except the tech toys are so much better.