Best Practices for Adult Learners When Designing Professional Development

In order to determine what best practices are for designing Professional Development (PD) for adult learners, I first had to learn about and understand what adult learning principles are.  Looking at Androgyny, defined as the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education, there are six basic principles and eight design elements of Andragogy (Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016)).  The tables below explain in detail the six principle and eight design elements based off of Knowles research and findings: 

(Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016)) 
(Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016)) 

From here, it becomes clear that one of the most important principles of adult learning is that new learning has direct meaning and relevance to the learner.  Adults come to educational PD with background knowledge, experiences and their own ideas for how to move forward.  When designing PD for adult learners, giving them the opportunity to interact with the learning outcomes beforehand gives them ownership over their learning and helps it to become a collaborative experience – learner led – versus a top down experience.  This leads me to my question – What are best practices for incorporating adult learning principles into PD? 

Patricia Lawler shares 6 adult learning principles to guide professional developers and each one seems to hit on the idea of best practices when designing, implementing and deciding on PD for adult learners and incorporating adult learning principles.   

  • Create a Climate of Respect –  “…start where the learner is by taking into consideration the characteristics, values, and educational goals the teacher of adults brings to the professional development activity.” 
  • Encourage Active Participation – “Being respectful of their professional expertise by inviting their participation and collaboration encourages learning.” 
  • Build On Experience – “Professional developers working with teachers of adults can take advantage of these factors and build on the experience for positive transfer of learning.” 
  • Employ Collaborative Inquiry  “…collaborative inquiry can be an effective tool for enhancing their motivation for professional development.”  
  • Learn for Action – “To learn for action means to be guided for application, to understand the connections between content and application, and to have opportunities in the professional development setting and afterward to take action on learning.” 
  • Empower the Participants – “If the goals of adult education and professional development are change and growth, then opportunities and strategies that empower the learner are essential.” 

Adult Learning Model for Faculty Development 

“This model incorporates both the principles of adult learning and well-grounded adult education program-planning concepts. The four stages of the model—preplanning, planning, delivery, and follow-up—are interrelated and dynamic. At each stage, we ask how the activities and proposed learning objectives are compatible with the adult learning principles. (Lawler, Patricia A. 2003) 

It is important to note how the Adult Learning Model takes into account that at each stage – preplanning, planning, delivery and follow up – the person creating the adult learning program makes sure the learning will be meaningful and relevant to the participant. 

The image below touches on educational strategies for adult learners.  I see this as a checklist to evaluate if educational strategies are being incorporated in the PD being designed.   

Dustin, Emily (2017, July 12)

Overall, the answer to my question of what best practices are for creating adult learner PD would be practices that take into account information obtained about what participants are wanting and how what is being taught will directly and positively provide growth and change in real time for desired outcomes.  That is a tall order and the very first best practice would be direct communication with the participants to find out more.  Sheryl Chard says it beautifully in the video below as she reiterates how important it is that PD focuses heavily on what the audience is wanting and needing as well as PD being a professional learning community having discussions and learning from each other.  “Let’s make Professional Development the home ground of collective inquiry, shared expertise and inspired conversation among professionals.” ~ Sheryl Chard

Chard, Sheryl (2014)

Resources: 

Chard, Sheryl (2014). No More Bad Coffee: Professional Development That Honors Teachers.  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiW0s6_83dw 

Dustin, Emily (2017, July 12) Challenges, Opportunities, and Growth: Understanding Adult Learners. Retrieved from https://motivislearning.com/insights/supporting-adult-learners-through-challenges-and-opportunities/ 

Lawler, Patricia A (2003). EBSCO. Teachers as Adult Learners: A New Perspective. 

Park, Sunyoung; Robinson, Petra; and Bates, Reid (2016). “Adult Learning Principles and Processes and Their Relationships with Learner Satisfaction: Validation of the Andragogy in Practice Inventory (API) in the Jordanian Context,” Adult Education Research Conference. https://newprairiepress.org/aerc/2016/ papers/28 

ISTE Standards 1 & 2 – Learn and Lead: Twitter, Wakelet, Goal Setting and How Trees Talk to Each Other Through the ‘Wood Wide Web’

During the first quarter of the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) Program, we were asked to have a Twitter account. I was not looking forward to this. I resisted this. I replayed in my mind all the negative Twitter experiences I had heard about from the news and from friends. I had decided long ago, I would never be involved with Twitter. I continued to resist it throughout the first quarter.  Then, after engaging with it more during the second quarter of the DEL program, I realized that I had it all wrong. What you experience with Twitter depends on how you choose to use it. I found that because I am using it to connect in a professional way around digital education and technology, I am learning a lot from the folks I am connected with on Twitter. I am being inspired by other educators. I am exposed to and learning about Ed Tech on a regular basis. I am sharing my own thinking. I am learning from others thinking and experiences. I am more ready and willing to be open and available to new tech. I am converted and I will continue to be.  The librarian at my school invited me to a Ed Tech PD through our school district a few weeks ago and presented about Twitter. I feel like I finally understand how Twitter can be solid support for ISTE Standard 1 – Learner: Educators continually improve their practice by learning from and with others and exploring proven and promising practices that leverage technology to improve student learning and ISTE Standard 2 – Leader: Educators seek out opportunities for leadership to support student empowerment and success and to improve teaching and learning.

Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools
Created by Abby Levin – Librarian – Seattle Public Schools

What I really admire about the perspective she shared is that if used purposefully, you can be both a learner and a leader through Twitter – you will bounce between these roles regularly, as it should be. To lead well, you should be in the learning phase often. This seems especially true with educational technology since there is so much out there to be keep up with and be aware of.

After learning through a resource like Twitter, having a place to curate the many resources we learn about is an important way to maintain all the learning.  I have started to use Wakelet to keep track of the ideas and tools that I am compiling throughout the DEL program, from fellow cohort members, from PD trainings and conversations with colleagues and friends. I have heard about other curation tools but for me, this one has been the most user friendly, so far. Also, you can follow other users and learn from the resources they have collected and begin creating a network of connections. This provides an opportunity to teach others about the resources that are working well for you while simultaneously giving you the ability to learn from others about what they feel are worthwhile enough to be saving in their Wakelet. I could see this tool being a way to have far reaching collaboration locally and globally.  It makes me think of the ‘Wood Wide Web’ and network of mycorrhizal fungi. I always take comfort in the idea of connecting how we mimic our natural world. If done so thoughtfully, it could result in something almost as magical as mentioned in the video below…and how we could be more aware of what is hurting the positive way that digital education could be used within our education system.

BBC

Here is an article on the same topic, Plants Talk to Each Other Using the Internet of Fungus.

All of this has led me to thinking more about the Triple E Framework and staying on top of pushing myself as a Learner and a Leader within digital education and having a tool to monitor what I am finding and what I am seeking to find.  Having a checklist or template to review regularly to make sure I am not getting so comfortable with what I know that I lose out on staying up-to-date on new digital tools, methods, and ideas while maintaining an innovative mindset versus what is safe and familiar.  I would like to eventually combine a rubric like the Triple E Framework…

…to an accountability tool/app such as Wunderlist or Goals On Track.  I like the idea of setting a goal of seeking out X number of new digital education tools, readings or connections per month combined with a way of tracking what is discovered and determining through the Triple Framework E what is worth saving for possible implementation (you could add it to your Wakelet!) or scrap it if it is not worthwhile – which is an important part of learning when it comes to how much is out there to wade through…knowing how to best sift through the bad to get to the good.

Ultimately, to best achieve ISTE Standards 1 and 2, there needs to be a desire to both wonder about and know about what is out there. To be ready ask questions while being open to answering questions.  For myself, using Twitter as an educational and professional learning and sharing tool, Wakelet as a way to track findings while connecting with other educators/professionals and a goal setting/accountability app to track personal commitment to engaging regularly seems like a solid way to start engaging as a learner and leader consistently.  

Resources: