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September 20, 2011  |   Comments (2)   |   Post a comment

Getting the most out of in-service training

Theories on adult learning suggest that for it to be effective, educators must gain buy-in from the adults, get them involved in the topic and keep presentations fresh. Creating a theme for instructional sessions, a technique that can easily be applied to training for pupil transporters, helps to achieve buy-in and involvement.

by Keith Lowery


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The 2009 Maryland Driver Instructor Conference had a pirate theme: “Navigating the High Seas of Transportation.”

The 2009 Maryland Driver Instructor Conference had a pirate theme: “Navigating the High Seas of Transportation.”

Transportation in-service meetings are a necessary component of the annual instructional landscape of school districts and contractors everywhere.

State and local guidelines determine much of the content of these meetings, but how the curriculum is delivered is seldom discussed. What is talked about even less is the environment or atmosphere our in-service meetings are held in. Employees coming to the meetings should be thought of as adult learners — eager students desiring more knowledge in their field.

What is andragogy?
It should come as no surprise to the adult educator that adults learn differently than children. Malcolm Shepherd Knowles developed theories for the adult learner that contrasted, yet complemented, the pedagogy (ways in which children learn) theory that already existed. His ideas have been discussed throughout the 40-plus years since they were conceived, and they include six core truths about adult education (see the sidebar on the third page).

If looked at carefully, as Knowles sees it, andragogy (the methods or techniques used to teach adults) is best looked at by analyzing the roles of the learner, instructor and institution. We could apply these principles to our transportation in-service meetings by summarizing Knowles’ six points on andragogy. Boiled down, we could say the educator/institution needs to gain buy-in from the learners, get the learners involved in the program by facilitating the meeting effectively and keep presentations fresh by updating materials regularly.

Knowles also suggested that the adult learner is independent, possesses life experience, craves job enhancement knowledge and is ready to apply learning immediately to his or her present situation.

In later writings, Knowles added more to his theories on andragogy. He believed that adult learners want to know how the coursework can benefit them as a person, not so much society as a whole. And perhaps most importantly, “adult learners want to know why they need to learn something,” according to authors Maria Martinez Witte and James E. Witte in an article on adult education in the Encyclopedia of Educational Leadership and Administration, Volume 1.

Self-directed learning
Self-directed learning is often discussed by adult education theorists as it relates to the motivation of the learner. D.R. Garrison’s model of self-directed learning, found in Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide by Sharan B. Merriam, Rosemary S. Caffarella and Lisa M. Baumgartner, provides some clarity with his simplistic, yet profound explanation of the dimensions of self-directed learning. He states, “Motivation leads to self-monitoring and self-management, which leads to self-directed learning.” This means that an adult learner needs to show some initiative in his own learning to position himself into a learning environment best suited for him. Once this happens, he can follow through on his commitment to learn by organizing his life to accomplish his academic goal.

In an article titled “Preclinical Students’ Predispositions Towards Social Forms of Instruction and Self-Directed Learning: A Challenge for the Development of Autonomous and Collaborative Learners” in Higher Education: The International Journal of Higher Education and Educational Planning, authors S.L. Raidal and S.E. Volet discuss a study that was done with students to research their preferences of learning styles.

One student commented, “I think learning is synergistic — being able to bounce ideas off one another.” Other students stressed that “they enjoyed explaining concepts to other members and were keen not to let the group down.”

The instructor who directs adult learners to work together to discover relevant information from each other promotes group self-directed learning.

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Read more about: in-service

Inservice training to be effective with adults attending must adapt the content to three groups in the audience: Regular Route Drivers, Special Needs Drivers and Special Needs Bus Monitors. Much of the monthly inservice training is geared for regular route drivers and does not address the unique questions, challenges and safety performance requirements to special needs driver teams. Another point please--the presenter should not read to the adults what is viewed onthe screen. Adults can read for themselves. The presenter should have brief statements on the screen and discuss each face-to-face with the audience and not turn away from them to read it aloud. Another challenge presenters often experience is the questions that occur mid-sentence, mid-thought or mid-presentation. A presenter who says "Hold all questions until the end of my presentation please." has lost the audience's urgent need for questions. Why not interrupt the presentation and deal with questions as they occur? The presenter should adopt the approach of "any question answered, any time asked." Further, if the presenter does not know the answer to some of the questions put forth by audience members that authority figure should say: "I don't know the answer but I will get back to you with it as soon as possible." This MUST be followed up with minimum delay to get the answer not only to the individual in the audience that asked it, but to all of the audience. The answer can come in the next monthly inservice meeting where all can hear, know and utilize the information provided. With adults in an adult audience we presenters must never "talk down" in any way at any time to those in the audience. Adults understandably resent this greatly and shut off their attention to the presenter and that content of the presentation. When you have lost your audience it becomes painfully clear to the presenter that everyone in the audience already knows what you are saying and needs to know more or they have hear

Dr. Ray Turner    |    Sep 21, 2011 02:48 PM

I was blessed with a country mother that knew how to trigger what is over 5 decades later referred to as ‘Self-directed learning.’ Not much later after birth (less than a year) my mother would began reading stories from books, then at about a year or so later began accumulating all sorts of curiosities. By the time I was a few years of age (2nd child) we had three complete encyclopedia sets in our living room, 1,000 stories children’s book collection volumes, all sorts of other books and magazines, including National Geographic, Life, Popular Mechanics, Ranger Rick, etc., eventually erector sets and wood construction sets (my sister and myself would combine these for expanded projects), science, electronic an biology project labs (made paper and tape missiles with fire crackers in the top that shot 400+ feet up, then exploded), all sorts of coloring books and drawing tools...it seemed endless the stuff accumulated that we had available to play with while having no idea we were also learning all sorts of essentials with no fuss at all. She didn’t instruct us to study, simply had abundance available that most any normal kid would eventually explore.

jkraemer    |    Sep 21, 2011 11:34 AM

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