Thesis: Boudon 2001 and Eskensberger

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Boudon 2001 and Eskensberger 2001

What concepts in the articles of Boudon (2001) and Eskensberger (2001) can current instructors apply in an adult education program?

An important concept for instructors to keep in mind when teaching adults is that adults usually return to educational settings in search of what the students see as rational, concrete purposes. Because of the expense of obtaining an education, even more undergraduates are entering into programs with a largely vocational mindset. But for adults with a family to support and a mortgage, these students are more likely to embark upon a program of study with the cautious, cause-and-effect approach that Boudon (2001) describes in his essay "Theories of Social Action." Just like individuals looking both ways to avoid being hit by a car, frequently adult learners proceed across the street into the schoolroom with a risk-adverse attitude, and a purpose-driven attitude -- to get to the other side (graduation and a diploma). Moreover, the cause of their actions, in this case returning to the classroom, impacts the execution of the actions of the classroom -- adult learner's attitudes may generate a more disciplined student, but also may create a classroom filled with students frustrated with theoretical discussions or the instructor's lack of a focus on their eventual certification and technical competence.

However, despite this distinction between undergraduates and graduates, all individuals within a classroom regardless of age may still find themselves playing social 'roles,' perhaps roles they have not played in years in the case of adult learners. A highly competent executive might experience frustration when he finds him or herself in the same role as high school, struggling with team work and making friends with equals rather than subordinates. A mother, in contrast, might experience a new feeling of empowerment not granted to her at home when she realizes that she is more fluent in math than the younger students in the class. She might experience new confidence that fills her with unexpected enthusiasm, despite having been a poor student when she was younger. The presence of being in a classroom itself alters the role dynamics individuals are accustomed to playing in their current work and family lives, often in a fashion that is more distinct than younger students who are accustomed to having their lives revolve around school. And adult learners also remember their past roles in scholastic settings.

Disliking their current or past roles may generate resistance to learning, or excitement at being in an educational environment once again may generate higher levels of conscientiousness. Regardless, an instructor must be prepared for both personality shifts and study how these different attitudes play off one another in a classroom -- what happens when a stay-at-home mother taking a course for personal enrichment or to transition back into the workforce is better in the subject than the business student in the same English composition course he is treating with contempt? This reminder acts as a caveat as well to the idea that 'rational choice' and rational decisions about going back to school alone impact the roles adult individuals play in class. The greater diversity of roles adult learners may play in their school, work and family lives, as well as practical and personal reasons for returning to study must remain the back of an instructor's mind. The idea that classes can be motivated to strive for "collectively beneficial outcomes" may be less evident in the case of a diverse collection of adult learners.

Even if the class seems goal-oriented as a collective, creating additional, smaller and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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