Teaching Adults across Cultures, Distance, and Learning Preferences: Universal Tools for the 21st Century

Teaching Adults across Cultures, Distance, and Learning Preferences: Universal Tools for the 21st Century

Gabriele Strohschen (DePaul University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-906-0.ch028
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This chapter focuses on the underlying principles of instructional design and delivery as means for adult education practitioners to discern which instructional methods and strategies are suited to learners and learning tasks. The considerations here are intended to assist the educator in grasping key elements of ISD that work across cultures, distance, and learning needs, styles, and preferences of adults. It offers a strategy for determining key components of instructional technology. As such, this chapter is a foundation that provides data points for decision-making about instructional design and delivery for today’s adult educators.
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In any adult education endeavor, philosophy alone cannot address the contextual needs of today’s adult learner; nor can technology bring about success in teaching and learning without clarity of why we use the tools. Adults return to education and training settings for a variety of reasons. Their goals include bridging a performance gap within their respective work environment; gaining knowledge and skills desired for personal development; or improvement or chance of family or community circumstances. In today’s interconnected world, a world where technology is highly valued and prolific in every aspect of life, the task of educating ought to be based on a thorough understanding of our practices and options that best lead learners to their goals. Moreover, adult education practitioners need to acknowledge that there may not be quick fix or one size fits all or instant customization to special needs solutions to facilitating the learning process for adults, locally or globally, in virtual or real time settings. Whether ICT-based or in basements of churches; whether in seemingly homogeneous groups of learners or across borders of culture and geography, instruction by, with, and for today’s adult learners requires a solid, examined foundation of instructional design and delivery principles.

Teaching successfully across a variety of purposes, cultures, distance, and learning preferences necessitates a strategy for selecting instructional technology appropriate to the context and task at hand. Adult educators need to be able to discern good practices, effective methods, and appropriate media for instructional design and delivery. It is at the intersection of educational philosophy, theoretical frameworks, and instructional technology with a keen understanding of the tools we are to apply in our practice that we strengthen our practice of instructional support to adult learners.

A theoretical base about key elements of our practice, such as learning needs assessment and analysis, design of learning events, and delivery of learning activities that result in evaluated outcomes exists, and it can scaffold our practice, irrespective of the conceptual frameworks (e.g., from behaviorist to constructivist) or philosophical values that undergird it. In other words, there is a universality in instructional methods and strategies which encompasses fundamental, key elements of facilitating the learning process for adults. Over the decades, models and paradigms for instructional design and delivery have abounded (Reigeluth, 1983). Bloom et al. (Bloom, Madeaus, & Hastings, 1981) interjected their concept of mastery of learning into the dialogue that emphasized the need to individualize the instructional process. A rich history of ISD is detailed here that spans over five decades of instructivist or objectivist designs. In his recent volume for ICT-based designs, Willis (2009) brings together an array of constructivist design concepts, ranging from the early linear designs based on information processing theory to current constructivist ones that value more and more iterative flows of the design and delivery phases. The latter designs put the learner at the center. Any of the described models include very basic and similar elements that had been developed at Florida State University in 1975. These elements of analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation (ADDIE) remain stable and standard as phases or chunks in any instructional design today. Whether dominated by behaviorist or constructivist concepts, for example, the primary need in ISD has always been to develop approaches that teach the person as well as the content. Students and trainees in the 21st Century, in the USA or abroad, are characterized by a multi-layered diversity with respect to their backgrounds and learning needs. Individualizing instructional approaches to meet disparate needs is of the essence in today’s education and training settings

Key Terms in this Chapter

ADDIE: This acronym’s letters represent each phase of the instructional design process: analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation. It is an ISD concept and was first developed by Florida State University in 1975 and adopted by the military for training program designs.

Instructional Methods: Instructional methods are kinds of instructional ways or activities used to guide the facilitation of learning in each phase of the instructional process. There are hundreds of variations. Examples are lectures, case studies, journals, blogs, story telling, peer feedback, quizzes, performances, brainstorming, video taping and review, etc.

Instructional Strategies: These refer to the ways instruction is “presented,” and include group instruction, self-paced instruction, instruction that takes place on the job or in the environment, and reliance on job aids/instructional aids.

ISD: This acronym stands for Instructional System Design and was originally disseminated widely in the 1970s. In the training field, ISD became known as SAT, i.e., Systems Approach to Training. Key to this concept is the notion of chunking of components of the instructional cycle, such as can be seen in the ADDIE model.

Adult Learning Principles: These refer to the tenets about adults’ learning as set forth by Malcolm Knowles and they are widely used with variations and interpretations nowadays without reference to their originator.

Diversity: In the context of this discussion, diversity is seen from a humanist perspective in that each human being, i.e., the adult, is seen as distinctly different from another. Based on this premise, then, instruction by definition of such diversity of learning needs, must be individualized to fit learners’ needs, styles, and preferences irrespective of the culture, setting (e.g., with use of eTools or in group instruction in f2f settings), or knowledge or skill learning task at hand.

Phases of Instruction: These phases represent the portion of an instructional design that addresses the presentation of content, its practice, and corresponding feedback.

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