I chose the quote that states “…tests and grades are anathema to andragogy, which assumes adults are capable of self-evaluating their own learning.” (Merriam & Bierema p. 57/58)
The emotions that have come up for me are “responsibility and non-acceptance”. I believe that although most learners loathe the test; we all want the “A”. In order for adult learners to be capable of self -evaluating their own learning they must then assume the responsibility of being self-directed and self-motivated. There must be an inherent pursuit of excellence and self-honesty in order to validate the process and authenticate the result.
Teachers/instructors must still assume the role of facilitator and evaluator whereby they provide the appropriate learning environment, necessary tools, guidance, and feedback. The statement made me want to argue the case that one cannot make a blanket statement about andragogy such as this, in light of the reality that many of the assumptions about it are still being argued, tested and applied in a range of settings such as nursing (Riggs 2010) and engineering (Winter, McAuliffe, Hargreaves and Chadwick, 2009). It made me feel that the sociocultural context of learning, which has been examined through readings about constructivism and social cognitive theory, was not taken into account in putting this statement forward. Tests and grades may be anathema to some adult learners, depending upon their background, but test and grades are still the general standard and are accepted as appropriate assessment; also many individuals remain motivated by the extrinsic validation central to this form of assessment.
A key insight that I have had as a result of reading this quote is that, I, as an educator, am able to recognize the assumptions of andragogy today and see how they fit with my understanding of my own learning. This in turn, lays the path that moves me forward towards planning my own meaningful and effective instructional practices. I connect more to the recent work by Tough and others. “The last 20 years have produced some important new additions to the content of adult learning projects. Through group and individual methods, many adults now set out to increase their self-insight, their awareness and sensitivity with other persons and their interpersonal competence. They learn to “listen to themselves,” too free their bodies and their conversations from certain restrictions and tensions, to take a risk, to be open and congruent. Attempting to learn this sort of knowledge and skill seemed incredible to most people 20 years ago.” (Tough 1979) He came out of his study “with a challenging vision regarding future possibilities in adult learning.” (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 2005) The quote, in this case, is more clearly explained by what Tough has discovered for our time; changes have certainly taken place that characterize adult learners as being deeply immersed in many facets of the learning experience; the process has become more significant than the resulting grade or “product.
Student to student and instructor to student relationships have changed significantly in both pedagogical and andragogical models since Knowles completed his initial article on the subject in 1968. Being involved in vocational education, the tendency is to focus on specific skills and knowledge and to teach learners in a hierarchical manner from simplest to most complex, as is typical in a behaviorist model, without necessarily taking on the role of a facilitator. The direction I would take in this regard is to provide the learner with the opportunity to engage with other learners in a setting that values discovery as well as authentic questioning of each other as well as involving the instructor at the appropriate time. Is the experience meeting the individual learner’s needs? Are they experiencing a growing understanding of what the intention of the classroom focus is, and do they have opportunities to share this with other learners in way the fosters the growth of skills, as well as the interpersonal relationships that characterize a positive learning environment? I anticipate a change in the way classroom contact time is managed, and would therefore set up a communication network that would take the conversation beyond the classroom setting because vocational studies often involve an examination which is ultimately a summative assessment of acquired knowledge. I would include a focus on the study skills that would support success such as creating flash cards and note taking. I would have students work in pairs or small groups as they prepare for the examination experience.
Merriam, S. & Bierema, L. (2004) Adult Learning Linking Theory and Practice, (p.57 -58)
Knowles, M, Holton, E and Swanson, R (2005) The Adult Learner The Definitive Classic in Adult Education and Human Resource Development
AJ Winter, MB McAuliffe, G Chadwick, D Hargreaves. 7, 2009 Australasian Journal of Engineering Education 15 (1), 13-18, 2009.