Engaging Traditional Learning and Adult Learning via Information Technologies

Engaging Traditional Learning and Adult Learning via Information Technologies

Judith Parker (Columbia University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-791-3.ch012
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Student engagement is a key factor in learning whether it involves traditional or adult learners. While the role of the teacher may differ, it is primarily the responsibility of the teacher to engage the student by fostering a positive student-teacher relationship and supportive classroom culture conducive to engagement. Discovering a methodology that is effective with individual students can be challenging, but Information Technology provides a plethora of new tools to assist in achieving this goal. This chapter will illustrate the importance of engagement, provide several examples in various venues and investigate the role of Information Technology in this process.
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Research on the cognitive functions of the human brain have provided insights into the learning process and as such have informed the development of learning theories, inventories and the effective use of instructional technology. In a recent article in Science, Schneps, Griswold, Finkelstein, McLeod, and Schrag (May 28, 2010) explain that there is a disconnect between the linear traditional instructional methodology and the more haphazard process by which people really learn. They report that “our knowledge builds from conflicting ideas that we weigh, one against the other, so that the understanding that emerges is the weighted sum of probabilistic beliefs” (p. 1119). Yet, they point out that “all too often instruction assumes that students build knowledge sequentially, from one prerequisite idea to the next, in a linear, hierarchical manner that mirrors the design of traditional textbooks and lectures” (p. 1119).

Jarvis (2009) notes that “as a psychologist I recognized that all the psychological models of learning were flawed, including Kolb’s well-known learning cycle, in as much as they omitted the social and the interaction” (p. 23). However, Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgarten (2007) note that learning styles inventories have “proved useful in helping learners and instructors alike become aware of their personal learning styles and their strengths and weaknesses as learners and teachers” (p. 409). They note that Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory is the “most often used instrument to assess learning styles in adult education and classified learning styles into four different categories: accommodators, divergers, convergers, and assimilators” (p. 408). Honey and Mumford (1989) developed a learning styles inventory based on Kolb’s learning styles. Their four styles were labeled activist, reflector, theorist and pragmatist. They were motivated by the conviction that “people should be helped to learn effectively rather than be exposed to inappropriate learning experiences, or be given learning experiences without learning how to use their learning strengths” (p. 1). After they guide the learner through scoring the inventory, they then provide suggestions for the learner on selecting learning activities that would be consistent with their preferred style as well as suggesting how the learner might improve each style for which they had a lower score. Merriam, Caffarela, and Baumgarten (2007) also note that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the “most often used measure to assess learning styles based on psychological type preferences” (p. 408). But, they also note that “learning styles may be in part culturally based” (p. 408).

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