Term Paper: Growing Recognition of the Changing

Pages: 30 (7960 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Usually, needs to know on how to understand material without feeling compelled to agree with it.

Abstract Conceptualization (AC): Connects information with prior learning. Learns through linking new knowledge with previous knowledge and experiences. Sees the big picture. May have difficulty with organizing information, finding focus, or attending to details. In writing essays, may appear to be "all over the place."

Active Experimentation (AE): Has a need for immediate feedback. Learns best by asking questions. May jump ahead of the instructor and interrupt with questions. Is often an academic rebel, i.e. likes to "buck the system" or look for exceptions to the rules. Works well with group tutorials and group study.

As explained by Kolb and Smith (1986), in order for learning to be effective, it is critical that the learner be able to use the four different styles within a learning situation. An individual's preferred method of perceiving and processing experience may, in part, be related to self programming and be conditioned by experience (Kolb, 1984; Smith & Kolb, 1986). As well, as explained by Kolb (1984), the learning situation itself may also lead to emphasis being placed on utilization of one or more the learning styles.

Organization of the Thesis

The thesis is organized and presented within five chapters. The first chapter has served to provide an introduction to the study. In Chapter Two, a review of the literature of relevance to learning styles will be presented. This will be followed by a discussion of the research methodology to be applied in the study in Chapter Three. Within Chapter Four, the findings of the study will be presented. Chapter Five will offer conclusions and recommendations based on the primary findings of the study.


Literature Review

Within this section of the thesis, a literature review will be provided of both seminal and current literature of relevance to the study. Initially, as a consequence of the their relevance to learning styles of students enrolled in higher education, an overview will be provided in which a contrast is offered of the andragogical and pedagogical model as associated with teaching adult learners. This will be followed by a discussion of learner-centered and teacher-centered learning environments. After this, further information will be provided on learning styles.

Andragogical Model vs. Pedagogical Model

The literature generally supports the idea that teaching adults should be approached in a different way than teaching children and adolescents. The assumption that teachers of adults should use a style of teaching different from that used with younger learners is based on "informed professional opinion; philosophical assumptions associated with humanistic psychology and progressive education; and a growing body of research and theory on adult learning, development, and socialization" (Beder & Darkenwald 1982, p. 143). The differences associated with and the specialized needs of adult learners has gained growing attention since Malcolm Knowles, during the 1970's and 1980's, developed one of the most cogent models underlying the assumption that teaching adults should differ from teaching children and adolescents (Beder & Darkenwald, 1982).

By contrasting "andragogical" or learner-centered methods with "pedagogical" or teacher-centered methods, Knowles (1980, 1984) argued that adults differ from children and adolescent learners in a number of important ways that influence learning and, consequently, how they approach learning. Therefore, according to Knowles, the more traditional pedagogical model is inappropriate for use with adults.

The following assumptions underlie Knowles' (1984) andragogical model:

Adults tend to be self-directing.

Adults have a rich reservoir of experience that can serve as a resource for learning.

Since adults' readiness to learn is frequently affected by their need to know or do something, they tend to have a life-, task-, or problem-centered orientation to learning as contrasted to a subject-matter orientation.

Adults are generally motivated to learn due to internal or intrinsic factors as opposed to external or extrinsic forces.

Although the assumptions underlying the andragogical model have to do with how adults learn, the model has led to specific implications for teaching practice: if adult learning differs, then it follows that adults should be taught differently (Beder & Darkenwald, 1982; Feuer & Geber, 1988). However, overtime, Knowles gradually modified his position regarding the contrast between how preadults (i.e., children and adolescents) learn (pedagogy) and how adults learn (andragogy). According to Feuer and Geber (1988), "[w]hat he once envisioned as unique characteristics of adult learners, he now sees as innate tendencies of all human beings, tendencies that emerge as people mature" (p. 33) In spite of the fact that Knowles' views reportedly changed, the andragogical model has continued to strongly influenced higher education field, with the assumption continuing to remain that teaching adults should differ from teaching children and adolescents.

The following table provides a brief outline of the primary differences in the assumptions underlying the andragogical and pedagogical approach to learning:

Table 1. Comparison of Andragogical and Pedagogical Assumptions




Concept of the learner

Dependent personality

Increasingly self-directed

Role of learner's experience

To be built on more than used as a resource rich resource for learning by self and others

Readiness to learn

Uniform by age-level & curriculum

Develops from life tasks & problems

Orientation to learning


Task- or problem-centered


By external rewards and punishment

By internal incentives curiosity

Source: Knowles, M.S. (1992). Applying principles of adult learning in conference presentations. Adult Learning, 4(1), p. 12.

As evidenced throughout the literature, extensive efforts have not been implemented to study the degree to which teachers do actually use a different style when teaching adults. Two seminal studies (i.e., Beder & Darkenwald, 1982; Gorham 1984, 1985) examined this area by investigating the following questions: Do teachers teach adults in a different way, and if so, what are these differences? In both studies, subjects were teachers who taught both adults and preadults. In the Beder and Darkenwald study, information was collected solely through a self-report questionnaire. Gorham used an adaptation of Beder and Darkenwald's questionnaire for the initial phase of her study, followed up with classroom observations of a small number of her sample for a second phase.

As was emphasized by the researchers (i.e., Beder & Darkenwald, 1982), in order for the instruction of adults to differ from the instruction of preadults, teachers have to perceive and recognize that there are differences in how adults learn. Both studies investigated perceptions of these learning differences and found that teachers believed adults to be significantly more intellectually curious, motivated to learn, willing to take responsibility for their learning, willing to work hard at learning, clear about what they want to learn, and concerned with the practical applications and implications of learning than were children and adolescents. In both studies, as a result of these perceived differences in how adults and preadults learn, respondents reported significant differences in teaching styles. As compared to teaching children and adolescents, the findings of the both studies suggested that when teaching adults, teachers reportedly spend less time on discipline and giving directions, provide less emotional support to students, structure instructional activities less tightly, and vary their teaching techniques more. Beder and Darkenwald also found significant differences in adult classes in greater use of group discussion, more adjustment in instructional content in response to student feedback, and a greater relationship of class material to student life experiences.

Gorham's (1984, 1985) results suggested that self-reported differences in teaching behavior were not apparent in follow-up classroom observations. Although she found that with preadults, teachers tended to provide more emotional support and overtly to be more directive, overall, the use of directive teacher behavior was essentially the same with both preadults and adults. In interviews, teachers "spoke often of the responsiveness of adult students and of the quality of discussion in adult classes...[but] these differences...did not appear to influence teachers to adopt the less directive, more student-centered approaches to teaching adults they had reported" (1985, p. 205).

As was evidenced by Gorham (1984), the only exception to the lack of congruence between self-reported and observed behavior was in the classrooms of teachers who changed their classroom environments when teaching adults. As reported by Gorham, a nontraditional, less-formal room arrangement (e.g., chairs in a circle) that put the teacher in closer proximity to the students led to a "clear use of the more student-centered approach prescribed for teaching adults" (p. 79). Furthermore, as explained by Gorham, only female teachers made such adjustments.

Gorham (1984, 1985) also reported the following important findings based on classroom observations:

Teachers with more formal training in adult education tend to use student-centered approaches the least.

Teachers who are the most flexible and responsive in both adult and preadult classes are in the following groups: less-experienced teachers, female teachers, teachers who taught personal enrichment adult classes, secondary teachers, or teachers reporting high teaching differences between how they taught adults and preadults.

Building on this earlier work regarding perspectives on adult learning and the application of an andragogical model of adult education, a number of assertions… [END OF PREVIEW]

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