Thursday, November 18, 2010

We're doing SOMETHING right

While Reading Fiedler & Väljataga's paper, "Modeling the personal adult learner", I thought, these five layers (systems) of organization ring true to my own experience. I’m not sure I could have understood this at age 21 though. Besides some well-developed foresight, it requires a degree of hindsight not readily available to college freshmen. I think this model can also provide insight, or at least context, to the questions raised about MOOC engagement drop-off in the discussion forum.

When I got to page eight in the paper I got excited. "Here finally," I realized, "is an area where Adult Literacy and Basic Education (ALBE) is ahead of most HE."

Fiedler & Väljataga say:
"Many educators and educational researchers seem to maintain the view that it is quite appropriate to limit their efforts …(to)… learning activities on system one
We hold an alternative view.
…we first need to make an attempt to re-configure learning activities … in a way that allows the individual personal adult learner to actualize and execute control and responsibility … by modeling and actively shaping her own learning activity and its specific environment."

ALBE maintains that its responsibility is as much preparing learners for life as teaching academics. Essential skills to participate in today's world and attitudes for success are at the forefront of shaping the educational offering. This is because the majority of learners in ALBE classes have a history that has led them to regard themselves as failures. It's beyond the scope of this post to examine the legacy of Aboriginal residential schools, but it still informs a certain fearful expectancy that many adults bring to an educational setting. Their need for healing, and complicated life occurrences are some of the major issues that prevent academics alone, no matter how skilfully delivered, from meeting their needs. It’s still necessary to keep things interesting in class to motivate a learner, but it's essential to recognize that most of the drop-out occurs because "life happens", not boredom or difficulty in comprehending. That these students will put formal learning on the back burner, what Fiedler & Väljataga call System 2 and System 3 educational management decisions, is inevitable. That they should be penalized for it by denying them further access to education is unconscionable.

To address this situation we have, at the community level, made innovations that may not be possible at a central campus setting. Continuous intake, individual learning paths, and especially non-punitive attendance policies, all remove barriers to re-engaging with learning after a life event (e.g. childbirth, temporary employment, or judicial intervention) has interrupted schooling. Digital technology makes multiple individual learning paths much easier to manage than in the past, but buy-in on the part of the Institution and the individual instructor is key to allowing ALBE students to shape their learning activities to fit their complicated environment.

1 comment:

  1. Having taught GED, ESL and Developmental Writing, online and hybrid, I was struck by the same ~ had already noticed how far ahead ESL was over HE. I used that experience to experiment with hybrid arrangements of my own configuration for ESL and Developmental Writing. An advantage of the margins (not many of those) ... experimentation more likely to go unremarked. Plus the challenge of having to do more with less.