Category: Andragogy – Adult Pedagogy

Context: A Required Fundamental for Hermeneutics and Analysis

by Jon Pirtle, Full-Time Instructor, Atlanta

Recently I was invited to speak at a local church gathering on the biblical worldview with regard to some hot button issues in our culture. That’s a pretty common request, so I did not expect anything unusual to come of it. Boy, was I going to be surprised. About forty adults, forty to eighty-year-olds, assembled monthly to discuss current events. I knew several people in the class on a casual level. We shared a passion for history, so I was excited about being with them in their current events class. The evening arrived. I entered the church, greeted folks, engaged in small talk, and then the class leader introduced me and asked me to pray. After that, we distributed printed agendas so the class would have a road map of topics for the evening’s discussion.

We were in a political season in GA. The primary elections for governor and other state offices had been held just days before. Arguably, like much of our nation, the class divided when it came to social issues and politics. The atmosphere had been cordial, respectful, and dignified when I entered. But when the topics of politicians’ stances with regard to illegal immigration, special “rights” for the LGBTQ demographic, liberation theology, and “social justice” engagement came up, the atmosphere changed. Some of the men’s voices grew louder. I watched three of the women’s faces grimace. Several wives squeezed their husbands’ hands as if to say, “Patience.” I was hearing Solomon’s admonition in my mind (ESV): “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29). In short, I sensed things were going south … quickly, and I had not even spoken yet. What was I going to do?

Then something happened that made me realize I had an opportunity to hopefully bring calm to the room and draw the focus to the biblical worldview. One man cleared his throat and said loudly enough we were all sure to hear, “You know, it’s not our place to judge! Jesus told us to ‘Judge not, that you be not judged.’” He then sat back in his chair as if he’d settled every issue for the night.

What shocked me was this: the class as a whole seemed knocked off their positions due to one man’s quotation from part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Suddenly I felt like Esther. Was I here for such a time as this? I believe I was, so I raised my hand. The class leader looked at me and said, “Jon, you have something?” “Yes, I do. May I ask a few questions and then just make a comment or two?” I asked. “Sure,” he said.

“I heard someone say that we are not to judge. Is that right?” I asked.

“Yes,” came a wave of affirmations from the class.

“Do you know what the Lord says in the following verses?”

Silence filled the room.

“Jesus tells his followers to not throw pearls before pigs. Isn’t he judging? Isn’t he making distinctions? He called some people pigs—foul animals to his first-century Jewish audience.”

Again, silence.

“Furthermore, Jesus tells us in that same sermon to not condemn sanctimoniously but to remove the logs from our own eyes. Does that not require us to judge, to discern, our own shortcomings? Isn’t judgment involved there?” I pressed.

I knew I might make some enemies by drawing them to the text, but the text of Scripture must be interpreted correctly. Otherwise, all sorts of misapplications can occur with supposedly biblical grounds. Proper context is key.

This is the way I ended, and for the remainder of class I just listened.

“Folks, may I suggest something to you? You are in a current events class. You spent half an hour excoriating politicians with whom you disagreed. Some of you condemned the president for wanting American sovereignty and laboring to build a wall to protect legal American citizens; others of you recognized that social justice is encroaching, and even overtaking, some mainline Protestant denominations. You condemned your political and theological enemies, and you lauded those with whom you agree. How can you misapply Jesus’ words about judging? Your whole class is designed to have you think biblically—to judge, to discern, what God would have you think and do. Does that make sense?”

I share this story from my own life only to reiterate what we need to do with our own writing and when we teach writing to Belhaven students. When we quote Scripture, context is key. Explaining and understanding the whole and proper context of a verse/passage/book, etc. of Scripture is essential in our vocation as educators and Christians. When Paul neared the end of his life, and was about to be executed for his Christian witness, he wrote to Timothy crucial words for all of us, too, to heed: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Challenges for Adult Education as Learning Trends Change

by Dr. Ken Elliott, Dean Belhaven Jackson/Madison

Adult education is on the forefront of changes in the culture. Mary Kay Park (Executive Managing Director for the Far East Broadcasting Company—Korea in Los Angeles), the main speaker for the annual conference for the Christian Adult Higher Education Association, summarized the greatest challenges facing adult education.  Her background in intercultural studies brought a clearer understanding of these challenges we face in adult education and the intercultural context of our enterprise.

In her first session, she asked what drives changes in learning trends.  Socioeconomic factors, she said, are top of the list.  We can expect an increased cost of higher education.  With this said we need to think about how adult education fits with the current job market.  Students want to see an immediate value to their education.  In addition, many students are divorced parents looking for ways to improve their economic level.

The second factor to consider is “the disillusionment of value.”  The rules for working with current bureaucracies and for education keep changing and creates disillusionment on the part of adult learners.  The new crop of prospective students are not driven by “passion” as in previous generations, but rather they are purpose driven.  Long drawn out education is often not primary for them.  The tendency is pleasure first and education later, or travel first and learn later.  This is the Instagram generation.

Also, challenges will persist, she says.    Prospective students want to know how education helps them now.  Many adults are working full time and trying to raise a child. This creates challenges for higher education programs in marketing, recruitment, and enrollment.  The new generation wants it now – the “no child left behind” generation, the group that was taught to pass the test, lacks critical thinking skills, and wants to rather know what is needed specifically for the test.

The question that most students are asking internally is: What is more important to me (and my family)?  They are conflicted between immediate needs as opposed to future needs.  It will be up to educators, to help prospective students to see the value and purpose of their education.  This will also mean that we will have to help these prospective students to understand the need to change their habits and see the great value in education.

How to Navigate the New Norms for Adult Education

by Ron Pirtle, Dean – Belhaven Chattanooga/Dalton

I had the privilege of attending the 2018 Christian Adult Higher Education Association (CAHEA) conference recently. While there were a number of really good sessions, one particularly stood out to me as it related to what we have all seen as the potential new norms for adult education. Dr. Claudia Dempsey reminded us of the traditional attitude toward professors, which is the “Sage on the Stage” and was the standard until the beginning of what we know as the “Computer Age.” Dempsey feels that once the internet became accessible for all, “higher education became a fluid, real-time, globally-accessible, inquiry-based exchange” and if we give careful thought to that statement, I believe we would all have to agree that it is rooted in fact.

Some statistics that Dempsey shared concerning, what she referred to as, the “Brave New World,” are:

  • Distance education has now surpassed six million students
  • The student demographics in higher education are now 73% non-traditional
  • We know have consumer students – meaning that higher education is evolving into a customer service industry. (“How can I serve you” vs. “Come meet our standards”)

While the last statement is difficult for most of us to swallow, I believe many of us would concede that this is the attitude we see displayed by more than one of our students. Dempsey actually refers to this generation as the “Starbucks Generation.” She expounded on this designation by pointing out that our students, generally speaking, are no longer just a coffee generation, but a venti, non-fat, salted caramel mocha frappuccino generation. When we shift our thinking to understand that description is representative of students that we are going to be teaching soon, our attitude towards how we present information to our students must be adjusted. The traditional “lecture” format is not what our students are looking for as they participate in their education.

Dempsey addresses this attitude by referring to what Mats Alvesson calls “The Triumph of Emptiness.” She reveals that Alvesson believes that our pursuit of marketability, superficial shine and branding is allowing us to succeed at the triumph of emptiness. Because of this emptiness, Dempsey fears education might experience the assembly-line mass production that has been avoided for years. Should that happen, she feels it could result in several things for professors:

  • Loss of job security
  • Loss of voice
  • Increased academic work/demands
  • Isolation – smaller/long-distance teams
  • Perpetual upgrades in learning systems, which result in bugs/glitches
  • The need for supplemental income

If we just accepted that this might become the reality experienced in higher education, the pursuit of pouring into our students’ lives would be futile. I, for one, am very thankful that we work at an institution where we do not pursue an assembly-line mass production of graduates.

While the attitude presented by Alvesson could become a reality, students that sit in our classes do not experience the triumph of emptiness. I believe that is based on our pursuit of integrating the Christian worldview into all of our classes, along with what Dempsey referred to as cultivating a climate of C.A.R.E: Compassion/Affirmation/Respect/Encouragement. It is my joy to work with instructors who are committed to investing in the creativity, productivity, and resilience of our students, all while enabling them to deepen their understanding of Christ and his place in their daily life.  So, for those of you who have picked up the mantle of teaching, never underestimate your ability to overcome and help our students overcome the triumph of emptiness!

Reflections from CAHEA – Teaching practices with Adult Students

by Dr. Larry Ruddell, Dean Belhaven-Houston

Dr. Joseph Flowers spoke on “Basic principles and practices for teachers of non-traditional adult students” at the annual Christian Adult Higher Education Association (CAHEA) conference. We have several good articles on instruction in this blog, but it always good to review and remind.

Dr. Flowers started by emphasizing that our roll in teaching is not necessarily to “teach” students but to “create an environment for learning.” Thus, people with different strengths and gifts can “help students learn.” A small few have the gift of teaching and can lecture effectively because of that gift. Others bore students after ten minutes of lecture but can help students learn through a number of other class activities.

Flowers reviewed the basics about andragogy but went further to introduce three “radio stations” (two of which are pertinent) that helped explain adult learners and their perspectives.  The first station is “WII-FM” which stands for “What’s in it for me?” It highlights the importance of relevance in instruction, answering questions like; “why do students need to know this information, how will it benefit them, how can they use it in practical ways, and do students know what to expect?”

In other words, students need to see value in what they are learning, so as instructors, we always need to be building bridges between the course material and how the knowledge can impact students. As Flowers points out, “adults feel the application of information is the primary motivation for undertaking the learning project.”

The more the instructor has experience in the topic covered and relate professional experiences and evaluate course content based on actual professional experiences, the better for students. So, we as instructors should bring this experience into the classroom each week.

The second channel covered by Flowers is “MMFG-AM” which stands for “Make me feel good about myself.” In other words, “instructors should value the learners’ life experiences.” So, as instructors, we must walk the line between covering the course material and valuing and encouraging the individual student. Respect is critical. We must always keep in mind that advanced degrees don’t make us better than anyone else. We must value the experiences of our students whether working in major corporations, small businesses, non-profits, churches or educational settings.

Part of making “students feel good” is mentoring them in personal responsibility and confidence in their ability to perform. A “well done” when a student knows a professor maintains high expectations for performance actually means something versus a platitude for “participating” by submitting an assignment. In fact, when I’m fishing for something positive to say about a lackluster paper, I’ll write at the end of the comments, “glad you were able to submit something.” It sounds trite but depending on the week, it may have been all the student could do to just submit their assignment so even that effort, even though not highly lauded, should be acknowledged.

You want students to complete assignments but hopefully can give them flexibility in how they handle assignments based on their own interests and goals for learning. As Fisher points out, “adults need to be independent and direct their own learning.”

Finally, make sure to chunk material together so it can be memorable. Do not rely too much on PowerPoints. Include three modes of learning; auditory, visual, and tactile. And “tell, show, and experience.”

So, we removed some basic principles of teaching adults from Dr. Joseph Flowers who presented at this year’s annual CAHEA conference. Hopefully some of these points are good reminders for continued success!

Webinars to Inform and Improve

Greetings,

We are working on a re-design for the Faculty Resources tab of our site and in the process the webinars, which have been listed there, have all been moved to YouTube for easier access.  As I was compiling these links I reviewed some of the webinars and was reminded of the wealth of information these contain.  I’m posting that information below and encourage you to look over the list and review a couple yourself – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Don’t forget to register for the upcoming Webinar of the Faculty’s Role in Student Retention – see the calendar link on this page to register.

APA and Grading Writing Across the Curriculum. Presenter: Dr. Everett Wade https://youtu.be/HFeLIpg2lUk

Bring Life to Your Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Ed Garrett https://youtu.be/urKi7DGVGQM

Christian Worldview: Practical Applications for the Classroom. Presenter: Dr. Paul Criss https://youtu.be/jFm9nNoFoXc

Effective Use of Library Resources. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/CxpBGF8AHAs

Introducing Critical Thinking into the Classroom. Presenter: Rosemary Foncree https://youtu.be/HotogEC0PEc

Plagiarism: Helping Your Students Avoid It. Presenter: Dr. Kim Priesmeyer https://youtu.be/jFmhBggVdzw

Student Engagement Strategy: Experimentation. Presenter: Dr. Thomas Randolph https://youtu.be/vvOAQl2Q_48

Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Foster Critical Thinking. Presenters: Dr. Jerald Meadows & Elizabeth Juneau https://youtu.be/Qdt7Mu5sGno

Using Canvas to Facilitate Team Projects. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/RWuMnPtAvZA

Millennials in the Classroom. Presenter: Emma Morris https://youtu.be/0kgNsVN3SDs

Canvas Updates 2017. Presenter: Joe Villarreal https://youtu.be/0wWkVfKNNbA

Andragogy: Adult Learning Theory Applied. Presenter: Dr. Rick Upchurch https://youtu.be/KnDc3zfpvrs

Accessing Case Studies from Belhaven Library. Presenter: Charles Gaudin https://youtu.be/3k_X6RQ5jvM

7 Laws of the Learner

7 Laws of the Learner is the title of a book by Bruce Wilkinson published in 1984.  The focus is on understanding how students learn and ways to enhance student learning. Because Dr. Wilkinson is a Christian, biblical principles are applied throughout the material.  He draws out the word for teach in Deut. 4:1 and learn in Deut 5:1 and shares that they have the same root.

According to Hebrew grammar, the fundamental idea … means to busy oneslef eagerly with student’s learning. Do you see how the Bible’s mindset is the opposite of the normal mindset? The Bible says that teaching means “causing learning.” This is the heart of the Law of the Learner. No longer can you or I consider teaching merely as something the teacher does in the front of the class.  Teaching is what the teacher does in the student.  How do you know if you are a great teacher? by what your students learn. p. 26-27

I know we have great teachers working at Belhaven. I know you are passionate about your students and their success. I know you go beyond expectations to do all you can to achieve student learning.  We are blessed by a faculty who recognize the biblical foundations of what they do and strive to do what they do “as unto the Lord.”

May God bless you for all you do and the lives you are impacting by your faithfulness.

Crossword Classroom Activity

This is a variation of a post initially made March 2015 titled Activity for the Last Hour: Scrabble.  In this version, it becomes a game which can be used to teach a new concept or review a concept already covered.  The model below is based on teaching a new concept.

Break your class into groups of 3 to 4 individuals.  Each group should name itself. Give an assigned passage from the textbook or an article which covers a key concept.  Each group is to compose 6-10 crossword questions and a one-word answer.  This portion should take approximately 20-40 minutes depending on the amount of reading assigned.

Now, print one term in the middle of the whiteboard that defines the key concept.  On a rotating basis, each team adds a series of boxes across the word you entered, or one of the words another team entered, to make a crossword option.  One of the team members asks the question relative to the term and the first team to respond is awarded points.  Each team gets 10 points for adding relevant terms to the growing crossword, as well as 15 points for correctly answering the questions.  Keep score on the whiteboard so everyone can see the running totals.  As Instructor you are the judge on relevancy of terms and any team which proposes a term which you deem non-relevant misses their turn. The game ends when no team can add other relevant terms.  Total the points and announce the winning team.

At the end of the time, have everyone take a picture of the board (you too).  Assign a student at the beginning to create a Google Doc to record the questions and answers and share it with the entire class.  Alternately, have each team create a Google Doc for their team and share it with you so you can compile the information later.

This type of activity is great for learning new concepts because it not only covers the data, which you could probably do quicker in a lecture, but it also helps the student to better integrate the data into their memory.  Alternately, this activity can also be used for mid-term or final review.

TAMING THE TEN O’ CLOCK TITAN – repost

by Dr. Larry Ruddell,
Dean, Belhaven Houston

This is a repost from January 2015 but definitely worth reading!!! (RLU)

You have had a very long day. You are tired and want to hit the road. … not to mention the fact that you feel sympathy for students and all they’re going through because you care for them. You have pretty much “covered the material.” You give students the opportunity to “work in groups” or “work on material” or “ask questions” but students start shuffling for the door thanking you profusely for “the break”! … saying “we’ll do it at home” or “we’ll meet during the week.” So at 9 or 9:15 pm, everyone is ready to leave, or perhaps much earlier on the last class.

Belhaven requires staying to 10 pm … but how do you make it happen? … sounds daunting doesn’t it? How can we be so demanding to hard-working students? It’s a “titanic” issue in adult education. But for Belhaven, it doesn’t have to be. It simply boils down to motivation. How do you motivate yourself to bring great teaching for the full class time each week? How do you motivate students to not only learn for the full four hours, but expect it?

Let’s start with you. Never underestimate the value you bring to students; intellectually and personally. Luke 6:40 suggests “… but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (ESV) Students learn from not only what you present but HOW you go about doing it. We call this at Belhaven – Houston “professionalism.” So you are setting a professional example for students. So to motivate yourself, keep in mind:

– You are selected to teach because you are great at what you know/do so afford the students of that knowledge/expertise for the full time period!
– Keep in mind that you are doing all things “for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) so are teaching for Him
– If you are excited about your topic, the students will be too!
– Prepare additional activities to use if you have time; videos, cases, extra exercises, “lab time”

So you are fired up!! … but what about getting the students on board? 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs: “… preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” So use different techniques to motivate depending on the student and be “patient” (also can imply “persistent”). Try:

– Humor … i.e. saying “we’re continuing on because I want to make sure you get your money’s worth!”
– Inspiration … i.e. “we want you to be great so I want to make sure you receive as much information about the topic as possible!” … “in Houston we strive for professional excellence so this is who we are.”
– Rebuke/instruction … i.e. we have a legal requirement to meet for the required time.”
– Exhortation … i.e. “I know you have a lot going on, so better to work on those problems right now in the time remaining while I am here to help you immediately if you have any questions/problems.” … “There is no need for your group (Graduate students only) to meet outside of class. Use the time now to knock out your work!”

Think of your own motivation. But, whatever it takes, let’s bring great instruction for the full four hours every week!

Student Created Rubrics?????

A rubric is simply a way to assess something by breaking it down into its component parts, and weighing them according to the importance of that part.  For instance, a rubric for evaluating a writing assignment could include a breakdown of items to be considered such as grammar, APA style, structure/layout, introduction, body, conclusion.  These would all be given different points possible relative to the overall importance of that item to the whole, e.g. grammar might only be 5% whereas the Body might be 25%.  In effect, a rubric is a way to evaluate something by looking at its component parts.

As you probably are aware there already exists an evaluation form to use for student presentations.  This is located in the Resources section of the Faculty Orientation Canvas Course and on Blazenet under Faculty Resources/Adult and Graduate/Documents.  The link above takes you to the Canvas course but you can find the evaluation at either location.

What I have found to be extremely useful as an activity a week or two before the presentations are to be made is to distribute the evaluation form to the class and engage them in a discussion about the weight of each of the items, whether there should be more or less items, and how the evaluation form might be modified for their upcoming presentation.  The Instructor, of course, needs to protect the points awarded in the content area, but this activity has tremendous power to increase student buy-in and awareness of how the evaluation will be assessed. Typically you can conduct this activity in about 30 minutes and it also gives the opportunity to discuss the assignment itself and answer questions.

Going a step further, on the day of presentations, have students evaluate each other using the rubric they created, and use those evaluations when considering the final score.  By doing this you not only emphasize the importance of the subject, but the importance of the presentation itself, which is also a learning objective of the program, if not the course.

Having students create their own rubrics teaches critical thinking skills and make them part of the learning process.  Give it a try and let me know your thoughts.

The Intersection of Irreducible Minimum and Collaborative Learning Strategy

Irreducible Minimum – the absolute minimum that must be learned regarding a specific area to achieve the learning objective.

Collaborative Learning Strategy – the design of the learning experience so that learning is achieved and the learning objectives are met.

When these two concepts intersect, powerful learning can occur.  However, for there to even be an intersection, the Instructor must accept a few basic premises:

  1. That student learning is different than teaching.  I have heard it said that “teaching is an art.”  I can believe that, but what makes it an art is whether or not learning occurs.  Teaching experiences designed without consideration of how or even if it impacts student learning are empty experiences, which can be equally frustrating for Instructor and student.
  2. That adults learn differently than traditional age college students.  Because of their life experiences the studies show they are better at synthesizing material, particularly if it is presented in a way that allows them to grasp relevance.
  3. That there is more than one way to “skin a cat” as my Mom used to say, i.e. there are other ways to teach besides lecture.
  4. Finally, that there are some things about any subject which are more important than others and which are crucial to mastery of the whole (this is the irreducible minimum c.f. The Seven Laws of the Learner by Bruce Wilkinson).

When these premises are accepted, the Instructor can look at the material to be covered for the class session and, because of experience and education, determine which topics are crucial.  With that knowledge, it is easy to arrange the class session to focus on the crucial topics first, before moving on to the other topics, which are still important but don’t qualify as crucial.

Once the irreducible minimum has been identified, now comes the choice of how to present the material, i.e. what learning strategies will you employ to insure these crucial topics are not just taught but learned.  While those activities include lecture, it is probably the most over used  and least effective technique employed by Instructors.  There are other articles in this blog which talk about collaborative learning activities and any search engine will turn up hundreds if not thousands of ideas, so I won’t include those in this blog post.    Suffice it to say, to contemplate what it will take to achieve student learning will require more time and energy as well as some creativity.  It will mean becoming comfortable with a certain amount of creative chaos in the classroom, something may Instructors find uncomfortable.  On the plus side, this intersection of Irreducible Minimum and Collaborative Learning Strategy will dramatically improve the learning of the students in your class and may have an unexpected consequence of re-invigorating you love for the “art” of teaching.

The GOAL is to design the learning experience so that at least the irreducible minimum learning is achieved, NOT that the content is covered.

This is a re-post from November 2014.