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The hope for a higher wage and better lifestyle can represent one of the factors influencing adults to pursue a post-secondary education. Studies have indicated a correlation between higher levels of education and success in the workforce. Success can mean many things, but a common way to measure success is through income. A College Board publication (2005) shows the typical year round working employee holding a Bachelor's degree earns 62% more than the typical year round working employee who holds just a high school diploma. Studies indicate the higher the education, the individual is better prepared and successful in the workforce (College Board, 2005).
In the past, adults wanting to pursue a higher education had to overcome different barriers or forfeit the pursuit. Technology has enabled individuals to pursue their education eliminating the need to meet schedules of the institution. While technology has enabled adults to find a way to pursue a higher education, some potential barriers may exist such as other responsibilities, family commitments, finances, and low self-confidence.
The challenge for organizations, faculty, and advisors requires the ability to recognize and determine challenges and issues affecting the students. Adult students are aware of his or her need to know, others are unable to distinguish between preferred and required. Students displaying a lack of confidence or esteem issues can be the result of previously negative experiences. These adults may have the desire to obtain a higher education but require universities and advisors to provide appropriate structure, methodology, and communications to assist the adults to transform into the learning environment.
Determining the concept or theory promoting a positive learning experience for students depends on various factors. Learning theories are concepts describing the adult learning process this includes the processing information. Some of the theories discuss changes in behavior and attitude along with manage new information. Some of the learning theories come from two different disciplines. The disciplines of psychology and adult education have been responsible for theories such as transformational theory.
Transformative Learning Theory
Mezirow's Transformative Theory discusses the process in which students learn and apply life experiences to the knowledge. The transformation theory has two different approaches to learning:
1. Instrumental learning ï¿½ Controlling and manipulating the learning environment
2. Communicative learning ï¿½ Understanding what another individual communicates to another individual
Transformation theory has similarities with other theories such as experiential learning and andragogy. The fundamental elements of Mezirow' theory included:
1. Analysis ï¿½ Identify the problem
Mezirow stated adults learn through reflection and interpretation of new experiences.
2. Interpretation ï¿½ Determine the credibility
Critics believed this theory as it was too narrow-minded on the individual and not the other factors, which dictate on whether or not transformation could be possible (Merriam, 2004). The theory eludes variables such as learning contexts, students, and educators.
3. Self-regulation ï¿½ Comprehension and Maintain Open Mind
Mezirowï¿½s theory uses the "disorientating dilemma" to reflect and interpretations of new experience.
4. Inference ï¿½ Merriam argued the change in the adult learning processed resulted from a level of development and cognitive development (Merriam, 2004)
5. Explanation ï¿½ Establish the reliability of interpretations
6. Evaluation ï¿½ Providing a significant or boarder picture of the situation/problem
Reviewing the adult learning process and the relationship to adult behavioral performance and change is a critical theme for both scholars and practitioners.
Mezirowï¿½stated students go through a state of reflection for problem solving. The reflection involves the critique of assumptions acquired through cultural assimilation in childhood (Mezirow, 1991). Mezirow recognizes three types of reflection in the transformation process:
1. Content Reflection: Individuals reflect on problem by the subject matter or explanation.
2. Process Reflection: Involves strategies to solve the problem rather than the content of the problem.
3. Premise Reflection: Questions the significance of the problem by the following:
The development of transformation occurs when the reflection leads to awareness in a previously held misconception or perspective, reevaluate, and revised the viewpoints (Cranton, 1994).
Review of Literature
Cranton (2006) defined the transformative learning theory as, "a process of becoming aware of one's assumptions and revising these assumptions" (p. 730). Cranton (2006) explains instructors can have preconceived assumptions guiding teaching practices. Cranton (2006) described adult students "as transformative learners, they question their perspectives, open up new ways of looking at their practice, revise their views, and act based on new perspectives" (p. 14). Mezirow (1997) cautions adult students "need practice in recognizing frames of reference and using their imaginations to redefine problems from a different perspective" (p. 10).
Laffey, Lin, & Lin (2006) list several foundational elements to successful learning environment including motivating the students. Motivation will assist development of other foundational elements such as honesty, responsiveness, and respect (Laffey, Lin, & Lin, 2006). Achieving success in the learning environment requires establishing a foundation of on each element.
Students need motivation, a reason to change. If they see nothing wrong with the status quo, they will be less receptive to the idea of change and perhaps fearful of what is to come. If the students challenge previously held beliefs by expanding their knowledge base with new information, this is the transformation to becoming a critical thinker (Brookfield, 2005). Tucker (2005) stated evaluations conducted on potential students and students with special needs to determine their needs in pursuit of a higher education promoting academic success.
Wadsworth,ï¿½Husman,ï¿½Duggan,ï¿½Penningtonï¿½(2007) study evaluated the needs of the students whether to the student's advantage or disadvantage. The researchers indicated determining the needs of the students can be distinguish (Wadsworth, 2007). Duarte and Snyder (2001) study experienced the similar success and failure when attempting to establish the needs of the students. The findings reflect student needs require communication, collaboration, and understanding need in a positive learning environment.
The lack of interaction can have negative impacts within the learning environment such as the loss of student interest and motivation. Learning and teaching styles need to develop and maintain motivation and communication within the learning environment. Adult students acquire certain perspectives from education and life experiences to determine if an instructor is approachable. Mezirow describes this viewpoint as structures of assumptions, relating to experiences. The previous experiences serve as a learning element students will apply to future experiences or scenarios (Mezirow, 1994).
Alan Roper emphasized the importance training needed for instructors to identify and assist the students and his or her needs to be successful. Bulger and Watson (2006) supported Roperï¿½s research (2006) indicating the need for training to support student issues. Connection between training and changes may assist in minimizing and eliminating challenges or issues found within the learning environment. Some students resist learning if the information contradicts personal beliefs, prejudices, and assumptions (Mezirow, 1994). The instructor's challenge is promoting a proactive approach guiding and motivating students to new information.
Motivation is endeavor for instructors to challenge and encourage students in a learning environment. Different methods of motivation required for each student because of the unique personalities. The assistance of a qualified instructor may promote student academic success. Ineffective practice of the instructor can jeopardize the learning environment and promote a negative learning experience for the adult students. The instructor establishes the stage for transformative learning by serving as a role model. The instructor demonstrates a willingness to learn and change by expanding and deepening understanding and perspectives of curriculum and learning styles (Cranton, 1994).
The influence of diverse cultures in America has meant an escalation of diversity at institutions. Transforming the learning environment requires a diversified mindset. The managing diversity mindset functions as an internal regulator that keeps beliefs and actions consistent (Loden, 1996). Promoting a positive learning environment requires a diversity mindset making the ethical commitment needed to make the appropriate choices and take appropriate actions for the right reasons (Loden, 1996). This mindset is an attitudinal state achieved through lifelong learning, personal investment, and continuous self-improvement (Loden, 2006).
A managing diversity mindset cannot be mimicked, but education each individual (Loden, 1996). Loden (1996) points out four basic beliefs that form the foundation for this mindset:
1. Valuing diversity requires long-term culture change
2. Valuing diversity is beneficial for organizations and students.
3. Valuing diversity realization must be comprehensive, not limited.
4. Valuing diversity benefits all and sundry (p. 64)
Understanding these beliefs is fundamental in gaining a diversity mindset. Managing diversity in the learning environment challenges the attitudes and assumptions (Loden, 1996). Diversity can be a source of discomfort for many individuals when introduced. Diversity is not just the responsibility of the instructor to embrace and implement, diversity is the responsibility all stakeholders (Thomas & Woodruff, 1999). If diversity is to thrive within the learning environment, all stakeholders must embrace diversity top down (Thomas & Woodruff, 1999).
Components of the change agent require clarity of motivation, concepts, consistency, emphasizing education, and student involvement. A cultural understanding becomes especially important in times of transformational endeavors (Brock, 2010). Perceptions of leadership, management style, and performance are interrelated within organizational culture and performance (Mehra, Dixon, Brass, & Robertson, 2006). The tacit assumptions at the core of organizational culture manifest at many unconsciousness levels (Brock, 2010).
Diversity emphasizes inclusion and mutual respect giving hope to students believed marginalized or excluded. Diversity can influence motivation and innovation meeting the universal need for inclusion and respect among students and instructors, which improves productivity, satisfaction, and academic growth. Greenberg (2006) states organizations with constructive diversity cultures realize much higher levels of motivation, teamwork, satisfaction, quality, and student growth.
Accountability supplies instructors with the information required to create and monitor student performance. The instructor can oversee influence on the student learning skills realizing the goal of transitional learning to become self-directed. The student should be shown how to take accountability for his or her learning, resources, goals, and evaluation (Paul & Elder, 2002).
The transformational learning focuses on the fact instructors should concentrate on diagnosing the needs and capabilities of their students. The instructors diagnose students' needs and attend to them individually. In order for transformation to occur for a student, instructors should create an environment of collaboration and communication. Instructors should create an environment stimulating the student's ability to rationalize and contemplate their development for perceptions and viewpoints of his or her own principles.
Communication and trust between the instructor and student can promote an environment of trust, openness, and positive learning environment. This collaboration presents an exchange of information back and for the between the instructors and the students. Mezirow stated, ï¿½Transformative learning addressesï¿½direct interventionï¿½ (2003, p. 62) by the instructor. Enhancing communication between students and instructor requires a written communication plan promoting a positive learning environment.
1. Communication occurs through speech, writing, training, Internet, and various other forms
2. Communicate changes, as swiftly as possible
3. Provide time for questions and answer sessions
4. Communicate the expectations and the objectives
5. Communication is a two-way conversation between instructor and students
6. Communication should be practical and positive.
Instructors will coach, advise, and provide feedback for use in the academic development of the students. Instructors will raise the needs and confidence levels of the students to take on increased accountability. The student's responsibility does not simply cover his or her educational goals but to increase student performance. Students are taking greater responsibility for their academic development will apply to personal situations. The primary apprehension with positive reinforcement should apply constantly and carefully. Thus, the instructor must maintain frequent communication with the students.
Communication is vital in any environment to accomplish tasks and objectives. The interaction between the instructor and student builds the relationship and trust need in promoting the learning environment (Lamb & Johnson, 2008). Prompting communication within the classroom to promote instructor/student interaction can include:
1. Asking questions to acquire student thoughts and understanding;
2. Instructor provides personal experiences;
3. Participate in discussions, reading, and explain insights on topics;
4. Provide examples and explain how course concepts applied to personal or professional life.
The lack of planning and managing a diverse student body can be a challenge for any instructor if there is a lack of understanding of varied circumstances and experiences. Today's society organizations and educators have an obligation the stakeholders, community, and students to understand the needs of the students. Organizations and instructors can use the four layers of diversity tool to lead to an understanding of the students. The four layers of diversity tool consist of the following:
1. Personality: Uniqueness
2. Internal dimension: Age, gender, and ethnic group
3. External component: Geographical location, monetary issues, theology, education, employment, and marital status
4. Organizational dimension: Curriculum, location, background
Each element has distinctiveness to aid in recognizing individuals in an assortment of ethnicities (Lamb & Johnson, 2008).
Achieving accomplishment or failure is dependent upon the combined efforts of the instructors and students. Developing trust is critical activity in the interaction between the instructor and student relationship. The ability of the instructor to identify the needs of the students may depend on his or her ability to adapt to changes within the learning environment (Roper, 2007). The consequences of the lack of training may in students falling behind, missing deadlines, or even failure of completing the assignment (Shils, 2008). Organizations, curriculum designers, and educators will need to focus on thought out decisions, thereby achieving student needs and course expectations.
Curriculum planning can cause the success or failure of the efforts of the instructors and students in achieving success in the learning environment. Bishop (2006) investigated problems related to student accountability and challenges reducing student failure. Imposing curriculum components without incorporating planning can jeopardize academic planning and student retention (Bishop, 2006). Problems and challenges identified in a structured planning process should be resolved prior to curriculum changes occur.
Proper planning implements good decision-making and prevent possible failure after implementation. Planning determines expectations and establishing clear objectives providing clarification to the students. The objectives are action items to assist in determining the intended goals to be accomplished within the decision making process. Charting possible outcomes and resolutions in the planning stage will assist in meeting desired outcomes and objectives. Recommended methodologies for achieving objectives:
1. Advising Methods ï¿½ Student evaluation, goal assessments, and student advising
2. Best Practices ï¿½ Ideas and changes recommended for implementation
3. Professional development ï¿½ Instructor training
4. Specialized training ï¿½Specific needs needed for successful learning (Bishop, 2006)
If effective practices are not evaluated, revised, and modified could jeopardize student success. If the students lack proper direction, this can lead to students developing their own ineffective techniques. Instructor under qualified to assist students, the lack of qualifications will create further frustration and difficulties for the students. If qualified instructors successfully address issues affecting students, this action can promote motivation, interest, and self-direction. Effective behavior modification tactics can reinforce wanted behaviors and remove unwanted behaviors by communication. Facilitating positive learning skills will promote positive behaviors and accountability by students. If the students maintain responsibility for their education such as maintaining motivation and positive attitude promotes a positive learning environment.
The expectations intended to assist in understanding the needs of adult learners in the learning environment. The educators need to adjust their behavior and approach to the learning environment. The role of the instructor becomes a facilitator of learning, and a catalyst for students to integrate learning with new, theoretical, and conceptual learning (Duarte & Snyder, 2001, p. 75). Instructors should foster the growth of the learnersï¿½ ability for identify and question previously held beliefs and opinions. Baumgartner stated, ï¿½Transformational learning is not an independent act but is an interdependent relationship built on trust (2001). Mezirow states ï¿½Transformative learning addressesï¿½direct interventionï¿½ by the facilitator (2003, p. 62). The path for students to become critical thinkers involves:
1. Validation of the information ï¿½ Understanding if the information offsets the cost and if the information has real-life application.
2. Develop self-direction to learning - Adults take responsibility for learning.
3. Use background of experience as a resource ï¿½ Using background information as a foundation for application of new information.
4. Motivation ï¿½ Adults learn by extrinsic and intrinsic motivators. When adults accept and desire learning new material, apply to life situations. The need to learn must occur prior to application to take place.
5. Goals ï¿½ Adults begin the learning experience achieve specific goals.
The research conducted implies motivation is significant because of its implication as a determinant of performance and its insubstantial nature. Motivation can inspire students to improve, increase, and achieve academic goals (Wadsworth, 2007). When motivated, students display positive behavioral traits in the course and outlook. Alderferï¿½s theory implies motivation will compel a student to produce resourceful or constructive actions on personally and the learning environment (Huitt, 2004).
Instructors modeling effective teaching accept the responsibility of keeping discussions on track; contribute experiences, knowledge, and insights. The creation of a learning environment transformed in creating a self-directed course does not occur overnight but requires time, cooperation, and support. When students are conscious of instructor's authentic interest in him or her, he or she will act in response in kind. In this type of surroundings, students assist in making suggestions and decision-making in their education.
Instructors need to display patience and understanding with students in the learning environment. If instructors reminisce about their own journey to obtain an education, they demonstrate an understanding to their student's journeyï¿½in achieving his or her goals in education. The construction an enhanced learning environment should be the intention every instructor should strive to attain. Promoting and articulating course goals, educators need to encourage students to assume responsibility of their education. The collaboration between the instructor and students will motivate and assist students reach self-discovery. In order for students to develop the learning skills for success, requires a constant review and modification of teaching styles. Flexibility and modification of teaching methods must be a requirement for instructors to meet the needs of the students.
Dewey (1938) noted, without proper reflection and direction these students to their own approach to learning jeopardizing academic success. Instructors need to remain conscientious in evaluating and implementing adult learning theories into his or her practices. Understanding the role of instructors affects the learning on students and professional occupation (Brock, 2010).
Transformation learning theory identifies there is no single approach to meet the needs of all students; flexibility is required as each student is unique. Education does not occur within the confines of a classroom, despite a common misinterpretation of an education. The boundaries of an education expand to every aspect in an individual's everyday situations (Gutek, 2004). Education is a lifelong process, expanding the horizons of one's knowledge. Education is biased only to those who prefer to live in ignorance, the transformation occurs when student understands there is more to life than ill-conceived notion and attitudes.