Mel Brooks, Ben Stein and Principles of Facilitative Teaching

By Dr. Rick Upchurch,
Asst. Vice President for Adult Studies

In February, I presented a webinar on Andragogy.  At the time I wasn’t able to record it due to technical difficulties.  Last week I had the opportunity to re-record the webinar, which you can find at this LINK.

I’m not going to include the all the content from the presentation in this post.  What I will do is try to reinforce the fact that teaching adults is DIFFERENT than teaching 18-22 year olds, and requires different methodologies.  It also requires faculty who approach the endeavor from a different perspective.  Since the average age in our classes is 38 years of age, it is easy to see we are dealing with an audience which has had 20 years of life experiences beyond High School.

Andragogy was first coined as a unique term in 1833 by Alexander Kapp.  However, it was Malcom Knowles who made the term popular in the 1980s.  Knowles put forth six assumptions about adult learners which form the foundation of his learning theory for adults.  I’m not going to describe these assumptions, if you want to know more about them you can easily “google” them, or simply watch the webinar.  What I am going to do is share with you what those assumptions MEAN for teaching adults.

1st – you should know the students in your class wouldn’t be there if they weren’t serious about getting their degree.  They are investing a lot of money with the hope of improving their life.  For them the experience is more than the content, it also includes self-accomplishment and self-worth.  You carry the burden of bringing a return on their investment.

2nd – treat your students as you would like to be treated, or even better, as you would hope an Instructor would treat your mother.   Patronizing attitudes or demeaning language is unacceptable and creates a barrier to learning.   Along with this goes the importance of respecting the experience the students are bringing into the classroom.  Mining for that experience should be one of the key activities of the Instructor early in the course to best maximize that student’s learning and to bring important experiences into the classroom for everyone to learn.

3rd – Take the time, to make sure your students understand why what you are teaching is important and how it fits.  When you do, their engagement in the class and learning will increase.  Bring in stories, case studies, examples and illustrations of the relevancy of the information and how it fits.  Draw upon students’ experiences, good and bad, to demonstrate the importance of the information.

4th – Don’t lecture more than 15-20 minutes at a time without changing up and adding an active learning experience.  Students should be doing 70% of the talking.  This can be accomplished by having them teach key topics, asking PCQ (Process Comprehension Questions), which are open-ended questions requiring them to apply the information learned, working in small groups on projects or case studies, etc.  There are several great posts to the faculty blog which outline some of these activities.

5th – Give the students a chance to practice what you are teaching and to demonstrate competency.  That is why class presentations are included in most of the classes.  When students demonstrate competency reinforce that and guide their practice to continued improvement.  Allow as many opportunities as possible for students to take the lead in discussions, and working in the front of the class.

This is really only a starting point and, as you know from watching the orientation, a Collaborative Learning Strategy will go a long way toward facilitating student learning.  In addition there are many great resources which can be consulted to assist in bringing these principles into the classroom, not the least of which is the information contained in some of the posts to this blog site.

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