Learning Theories and Allagegogy: Teaching the Distance Learner

Learning Theories and Allagegogy: Teaching the Distance Learner

Lawrence A. Tomei (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-824-6.ch003
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Chapter Three introduces the reader to the newest “ology” of teaching: allagegogy: “teaching to transform” as introduced by Priest (2002), to describe a newer approach to education that focuses on learner independence and the inherent changes that define lifelong learning. Linked closely to allagegogy is the humanistic school of educational psychology. From the humanistic perspective, teachers are concerned with making learning responsive to the affective needs of their students, those related directly to the student’s emotions, feelings, values, and attitudes.
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Teaching at a distance has come to be accepted as a natural outgrowth of behavioral and cognitive psychologies that have produced successful learning outcomes over the years. From these early beginnings came a growing research base that continues to identify qualities inherent to successful distance learners but can no longer be explained by considering only the environment or schemata alone. Characteristics for successful instruction continue to include demographic variables such as age, gender, and ethnic background as well as situational variables including prior knowledge, knowledge acquisition, and age-stage implications. Today’s online learning management systems used in distance learning settings facilitate and guide a new assortment of learners through the educational process.

Allagegogy. In much the same manner as pedagogy is defined as the study of learning in children and andragogy is the study of learning in adults, allagegogy is defined as the study of transformative learning, a relatively fresh term coined by Simon Priest (2002) to emphasize a new path that focuses on learner independence and the effects of change on teaching and learning. Allagegogy seems the natural outgrowth of teaching and learning at a distance and so is linked in this text to teaching the distance learner.

Allagegogy has its own set of characteristics unique to transformative learning and distance education. For example, self-determination is a key characteristic of the transformative learner as one who decides the who, what, where, when, why, how, and whether learning occurs while the teacher assumes a more supportive role. Also, the transformative learner has evolved to become more self-sufficient, taking on greater and greater accountability for learning how to learn. The distance learner is driven by the need for change with technologies as the conduit for gathering global information. As the transformative learner matures, they accumulate the change tools needed to advance their own learning agendas.

Characteristics inherent to allagegogy include the ability to work independently or in a group, complete assignments and readings with minimal supervision, write in a clear and articulate manner, manage time effectively, learn using different delivery formats, and work with a host of technology tools.

Implications for the Distance Learner. As the first component of the Engine for Designing Technology-based Instruction, learning theories in general encourage designers to develop lessons that combine principles from pedagogical and andragogical learning theory to produce a lesson that truly targets the widest possible audience of distance learners. Lessons designed for the distance environment should take into account that some of their target learners anticipate content that must be mastered (behavioral) as well as those who expect exposure to problem-based, real-world experiences (cognitive). The first component of the Engine produces lessons that consider these initial competencies while moving towards truly distance (i.e., allagegogical) education designed with a set of prejudged skills; namely, the ability to learn independently or in a cohort, writing and time management skills, and technology literacy.

Orientation to Humanism. During the late 1940's, a new psychological perspective emerged from the real-world applications of psychology that were underway. These purposes spilled over into research efforts in the learning process by both accident and intent. The movement that grew out of this perspective became known as Humanistic Psychology and attempted to understand behavior from the point of view of the behaver rather than the observer. Arthur Combs (1971) was one of those early pioneer humanists and his statement is one of the recognized credos of the early humanist:

“To understand human behavior...it is necessary to understand the behaver's perceptual world, how things seem from his point of view. This calls for a different understanding of what the 'facts' are that we need in order to deal with human behavior; it is not the external facts that are important in understanding behavior, but the meaning of the facts to the behaver. To change another person's behavior, it is necessary somehow to modify his beliefs or perception. When he sees things differently, he will behave differently.”

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