Course Journal – Category 4

Standard

“The most valuable insights to be gained…can be found when

problems are studied in the actual context in which they arise.”

(Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p. 273)

Objective

This quote caught my attention because it is one of the core beliefs of the Transformational Learning Theory that I studied, wrote a paper on earlier in this course, and learned to respect and appreciate profoundly.  Two things that I have learned about this quote is 1) it is completely true; and 2) it can prove very difficult to manufacture in a classroom setting.

Reflective

With a degree in Psychology as my background, I know that experiences can have a profound effect on people.  The amygdala is the part of the human brain that stimuli travels through when an emotionally significant event occurs (whether negative or positive, traumatic or elating).  This course solidifies the event and stimuli in the memory substantially.  Sensations like smells and tastes and sounds present and experienced during the event will often evoke vivid memories when sensed later, even in completely unrelated circumstances.  This leads me to think that even less-significant experiences would still have greater effects on learning than mere rote information intake or memorization, simply by being experiential in nature.

Interpretive

While this quote in and of itself did not leap out and change my mind about being an adult educator, the Transformational Learning Theory it represents certainly did.  Jack Mezirow’s four-fold process asserts that critical reflection and reflective discourse must follow experience in order to glean the greatest insights and breed the most potent learning experience as well as result in action (Merriam et al., 2007).  Being a naturally intellectual man who loves knowledge and enjoys relaying concepts and regurgitating information, this did not line up with my previous educational philosophy.  This was largely due to my lack of thought put into the notion.  The whole theory made me rethink all aspects of education and come to terms with its truth in today’s world of andragogy.

Decisional

This, for me, changes everything.  The way I have always taught was what Paulo Freire referred to as “banking education” to which his solution was “problem-posing education” (Freire, 1970, p. 80).  Freire and his “problem-posing education” is what Mezirow admits would later largely influence his Transformational Learning Theory (Mezirow, 1997).  While the formal classroom setting has been a rarity in my past careers, I as instructor was the know-it-all to be listened to by the students.  Questions and challenges toward the content was always welcome as an exception, but was never the rule, let alone the focus.  So it is with all seriousness when I say that the learning theory represented in the above quote has completely transformed the way I will approach education forever.

References—

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: The Continuum International Publishing Group, Inc.

Merriam, S. B. & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2007). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Mezirow, J. (1997). Transformative learning: Theory to practice. New Directions for Adult Continuing Education, (74), 5-12.

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Course Journal – Category 3

Standard

“Education functions to preserve a society’s economic and politi-

cal systems.”  (Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p. 196)

Objective

“Learn from your mistakes.”  Is that not what we were told growing up?  I certainly was.  Education (learning) preserves the systems of society by not only informing the scholastic populace of the what, why, and how of political and economic problems in the past, but goes further to cultivate an environment wherein students are able to critically discuss how to better these systems in the future.

Reflective

This quote presses the importance weighing on instructors, whether they realize it or not.  Be current in the affairs of the world, be constantly active in your own learning, be forever pursuing betterment and relevance for the sake of your students and therein society at large as a result—this is what I hear in the undercurrents of the above quote.

Interpretive

What hit me is realizing the crucial role I may be playing as an instructor someday.  This is not a career to take lightly, not an achievement that affords a sense of “Ah, I’ve finally arrived and can therefore relax and coast through the remainder of my vocational life.”  Such an attitude is the very antithesis of what such a position truly represents.  So often I have thought to myself, “If I could only be a university professor, my life would be complete and I would be truly happy.”  While this could possibly be true, how utterly ignorant to omit the constancy of learning, the burden of relevance, the necessity of being current for the sake of society.

Decisional

That is how this quote has influenced me—realizing the true importance of my role as instructor.  I may never teach economics or politics or history, but I must endeavor to find relevance in what I do instruct.  I should subscribe to The Vancouver Sun or The Province to keep up with global information.  I should watch the actual news instead of being solely updated in current events by comedians like Bill Maher.  I should always be finding ways to weave what’s happening in the world into lesson plans of any subject for the sake of my society’s future.

References—

Merriam, S. B. & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Course Journal – Category 2

Standard

“The overriding goal of educational institutions at any level would

be to learn how to learn, since specific content becomes obsolete in

a fast-changing society.”  (Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p. 84)

Objective

The contemporary parable, “Catch a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime” comes to mind upon reading this quote.  In our present state in society, obsolescence is a regular part of life.  Buy the newest cellular phone today only to have a better one become available next month.  Learn the latest computer language for software programming this year only to find your skills rendered useless in a short matter of time.  Read the most up-to-date textbook on adult education for this course only to have the next edition released next semester.

Reflective

In this culture of fast-paced progress in technology, research, and information, acquiring a mere educational certificate is no longer enough to solidify one’s relevance or ability for the long-term within most vocations.  Diplomas and degrees now need to be much more than meager rites of passage.  As educators, plainly providing the information required to pass the exams and earn the credentials is to detrimentally cripple students’ future endeavors in their prospective careers.  To instead teach research skills, to provide resources available to be accessed in a variety of forms, to guide students through projects of their own design within specified boundaries—this is what is required of present-day instructors involved at every level of education.

Interpretive

I remember my mindset throughout elementary and high school; I was focused on simply learning the subject matter well enough to pass the tests, receiving my A grades, and reaping whatever rewards my parents were dishing out that year for impressive report cards.  There were, however, a few teachers along the way (and especially once I entered university) that had a larger view for my future than I did.  They were the ones who pushed for individual creativity, who fostered an environment for learning to learn on my own, who asked the questions that did not have correct answers.  They were the unconventional ones, and—in my ignorance—seemed frustrating because they would not simply give out the “right answers” so I could study.  Looking back now, however, they were the ones I call my favorite teachers.  They earned these titles because they did not merely teach me information to regurgitate onto the blank lines of an exam paper.  They taught me skills to use for the rest of my life.

Decisional

I would like to be someone’s favorite teacher someday; how amazing would that be?  I now realize that teaching students the ability to learn on their own is a requisite of a “favorite teacher” designation.  Much the way I have found this course to be, with a plethora of available resources to use at my leisure, but not as a requirement to get through them all; with a choice of several theories to choose from to research and write about; with an open-ended creative project in manufacturing a personal blog; with a mandate of settling upon a philosophy of education that is all my own and requiring a means of defending it.  Assignments like these are what indirectly force students to learn on their own and encourage the growth of skills necessary to do so.  And this is what is so vital in order to survive in today’s society of ever-changing industries.

References—

Merriam, S. B. & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Course Journal – Category 1

Standard

“Reflecting on what we do leads to more informed and perhaps

better practice.”  (Merriam & Brockett, 2007, p. 50)

Objective

This quote, for me, does not necessarily awaken a great epiphany or provoke a stunning leap of mind-expanding learning.  In fact, initially it seemed quite obvious to me, striking as a sort of commonsensical truth that any individual with the slightest shred of intelligence would realize on their own.  What caught my attention, however, was (ironically reflecting on the quote further) realizing that reflecting on what we do on a regular basis is a rarity among human beings in general.  It is easy for me to say, “Well, obviously!” but the process will not run its course on its own.  I must intentionally decide to initiate it and carry it out to completion.

Reflective

What I have realized, having pondered the simple quote further, is that unless we actually take the time to reflect on what we do as adult educators, we become guilty of a disturbing number of negative clichés.  Lines such as, “Cannot teach an old dog new tricks,” and “Stuck in a rut,” and “Your own worst enemy” came to mind.  It is far too easy to be that “old dog” rooted in my methods simply because that it is how I have always done it.  And unless I proactively make time, I will indeed become “my own worst enemy,” being the only one stopping me from improving.

Interpretive—

Another cliché that came to mind was “Walking a mile in another’s shoes.”  This, I believe, is what the quote truly aims at when it refers to “reflecting on what we do,” because unless there is a context against which to reflect upon, the act itself may be futile and fruitless.  There have been many times in my life when I have looked back on previous actions and, gazing through the context of someone else’s perspective, realized how misinterpretations or unintentional offenses could have occurred where there were none intended.  Being constantly aware of the potential worldviews and differing abilities to receive and absorb information and undergo experiential transformation among students comes largely from regular reflection on past experience.

Decisional

This quote has certainly inspired me to schedule regular time for personal reflection.  I do not know, of course, where my future will lead.  If I end up in a classroom setting as an instructor, I will have to make time for marking, for lesson planning, and for dialoguing with students.  If I become a corporate trainer, I will have to carve out time for preparing seminars and workshops, for designing presentations and reading client feedback.  In any of the positions the future holds for me, I now know that I will also need to make the proper time for personally reflecting on what I do in the role I am in for the sake of informing, adjusting, and bettering myself as an instructor.

References—

Merriam, S. B. & Brockett, R. G. (2007). The profession and practice of adult education: An introduction. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.