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 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.